Updated: Mar 6
Who is Jesus? Many people during the life and ministry of Jesus were trying to answer this question. Today, many still seek an answer to this very question. Who is this Rabbi from a small town whose mother was Mary and the father who raised him a carpenter? Accused of being a "glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Lk. 7:34), who is Jesus?
Continuing in our series Interactions, today we turn to (Luke 7) where Jesus is invited to a dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. The dinner at Simon's house stands in contrast to the banquet held in Jesus' honor in the home of Levi. There, crowds of tax collectors and sinners gathered to see and hear Jesus (Lk. 5:29-31). Here, a different group of people would be reclined around the table. Who is Jesus? Is he a prophet or the leader of some new sect? As Luke continues to unfold the identity of Jesus, what do we learn around the table in Simon's home?
FRAMING THE CONTEXT
Let's build in the scene as we frame the context around the dinner at Simon's house.
The Ministry of John the Baptist
Jesus has just concluded speaking about John the Baptizer (Lk. 7:24-34). Some had rejected God's messenger, John. John neither ate bread nor drank wine, yet some claimed he had a demon (Lk. 7:33). Jesus, the Son of Man, came eating and drinking, as in the home of Levi, and he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, some would claim. It's as if Jesus is saying well, which is it? How long will you reject God's message? Jesus' answer comes in the form of a proverb, "But wisdom is proved right by all her children" (Lk. 7:35). It's as if Jesus is saying, keep watching, keep listening, and the message and the Messenger will become apparent by the fruit it produces.
One of the Pharisees invites Jesus to his home for dinner. Reclined around the table, a woman known for her sin slips in the door.
Luke 7:36–38 (NIV)
"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
Simon's suspicions, at least in his mind, are confirmed. "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner" (Lk. 7:39). Jesus, at least in Simon's mind, is no prophet of God. How could he let such an unclean and impure person touch him if he were a prophet?
We have noticed several contrasting scenes Luke sets up in his account. For example, the banquet at Levi's house contrasts with the background at Simon's home. John, who neither ate bread nor drank wine, contrasts with Jesus, who was accused of eating and drinking with sinners. There is one more contrasting scene we need to notice in the account, that of a sinful woman who freely receives salvation and a Pharisee struggling to see God's Messiah.
Luke 7:44–46 (NIV)
"Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet."
For whatever reason, Simon failed to show customary honor to his guest. It would have been customary to offer water for your guests' feet. Traveling on dirt pathways and roads with sandals on your feet, clean water to wash away the grime would have been refreshing. A kiss was a welcoming greeting. Oil for your face and dry skin was a thoughtful act. For some reason, these customary greetings of gratitude were not extended to Jesus at Simon's house. In contrast, is a sinful woman who cannot stop displaying her gratitude for God's Anointed Messiah.
Luke 7:48–50 (NIV)
"Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
BRIDGING THE CONTEXT
Who Is Jesus?
Luke reveals Jesus as he shares the message of God's kingdom. "Who is this who even forgives sins" (Lk. 7:49)? Earlier, in Luke's gospel, the scribes and Pharisees reasoned among themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone" (Lk. 5:21b)? The religious leaders rightly associate the forgiveness of sins with God. Luke 5 is an important passage. Here a paralyzed man is lowered down in front of Jesus. First, Jesus forgives his sin. Then, to demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, Jesus said, "arise, take up your bed, and go to your house" (Lk. 5:24b). Luke reveals Jesus. Who has the authority to forgive sins? God alone. Luke shows Jesus, who has the power and authority to forgive sins, as he shares this message of good news.
Who Are We?
In the gospel accounts, as well as in the Scriptures, we are often given these portraits or glimpses into various scenes. They are portraits designed to help us understand the Lord. To help us see how we may serve and honor him through our lives. As we read and explore these accounts, how do we see ourselves, or who do we see ourselves as?
Sometimes we identify with the woman in our lesson today. We
We know our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. Yet, other times, we may position ourselves with the disciples looking over Jesus' shoulder as we listen and seek to understand.
At times, these accounts should work somewhat like mirrors—meaning, as we look into them, what is reflected back to us? So, for example, how often would we picture ourselves in the seat of Simon?
Without painting an overly dark picture of Simon, we see someone skeptical and sitting in judgment. "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner" (Lk. 7:39b). He is skeptical of Jesus and judges the woman as unworthy to touch Jesus.
How often do we sit at the table skeptical and in the seat of judgment? What makes this person worthy of the generosity and forgiveness of Jesus? Surely Jesus is for someone like me. Often, we limit the Lord's generosity, love, and forgiveness to those like ourselves. Not so often do we picture ourselves sitting in Simon's seat.
The radical message of Jesus and the kingdom of God is a radical message of love.
Luke 7:41–42 (NIV)
"Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
We cannot limit the generosity, love, and forgiveness of God. We all owe a debt. The Lord's love and forgiveness, Jesus, is more than enough for every need. The key is understanding our need. Recognizing our need and experiencing his forgiveness overflows in love like streams of tears flowing down our faces.
Luke 7:49–50 (NIV)
"The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Who is Jesus? He is the One who forgives, heals, and brings peace. As the gospel of John describes, he is God dwelling among us (Jn. 1:1-14).
Downloads & Resources
study guide: Forgiveness of Sins
slides (PDF): Forgiveness of Sins
Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.