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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 8: September 20, 2009, Luke 7.1-50

Day 8: September 20, 2009, Luke 7.1-50


My commentary follows the text.

Luke 7.1-50

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

7After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain

11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Messengers from John the Baptist

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples 19and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 20When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ 21Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. 22And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 25What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. 26What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”

28I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ 29(And all the people who heard this, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)

31 ‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.”

33For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; 34the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 35Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’

A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ 41‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ 44Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ 48Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 50And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Commentary: Jesus brings life to the dead and the almost dead! Thanks be to God! Jesus is about life, his words and his presence are about brining life—not just to a few, but to the world. Jesus heals the centurions slave and also brings back to life the widow’s son. Death is the common enemy and Jesus has come to deny death its ability to separate us from one another and from the love of God.

But wait! Is this really the kind of Messiah we wanted? Is this what we were expecting? John from prison seems to have some doubts. Where is the separating wheat from chaff, where is the winnowing fork, the fire, the damnation? Alas, the problem to be eradicated is not the Romans, or the sinners, or the unclean. God has not come to rid us of those whom we don’t like or offend us. No the problem is sin, death and the devil. The problem is that this good world of God’s has been hijacked by bad news and fear.

The woman who comes in to meal is us. She is a sinner, she knows it, the host knows it, and Jesus knows it. She certainly comes with great boldness—barging into the party—and with the possibility of being kicked out and shamed even more than she already is. But Jesus by his response lets her—and all of us—know that her faith in him is well placed. He is the one who can forgive sins, he is the one who can make us new and whole. When Jesus says the one who has been forgiven little, loves little, he’s not suggesting that we all go out and sin purposely so that we can find even more forgiveness. That is absurd. What he is saying is that we all need to rid ourselves of any presumption of righteousness or of understanding ourselves to be better than others. It is when we realize that we are most in need, that we understand the depths of God’s love.

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