The Lost and Lonely Find Love

As we continue our series LOVE PRAY EAT, here is the excerpt from the study guide for this week’s message on Luke 7:36-50…

That Jesus regularly dines with Pharisees in Luke’s Gospel may come as somewhat of a surprise. They were powerful, wealthy, respected and certainly not marginalised or considered outcasts. At one such dinner party he is reclining with the religious and cultural elite men of the town at Simon the Pharisee’s house, when suddenly a “sinful woman” gatecrashes the party. She would not have been welcome to dine in such a setting on at least two fronts: being a sinner and a woman. In a culture where women were veiled, she shocks everyone by letting down her hair, weeping, anointing Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair.

Jesus tells a story about having debts forgiven which shows the woman is aware of her great debts but Simon is oblivious to his. Both need forgiveness from God to whom they are in debt—forgiveness that Jesus offers them. And Simon provided no water for Jesus’ feet; the woman wet them with her tears and wiped them with her hair; Simon did not give Jesus a greeting kiss; but the woman has repeatedly kissed Jesus’ feet; Simon did not provide oil for Jesus’ head; the woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.

Simon’s religion is one of pretence and façade and Jesus sharply criticises this upstanding and religiously devoted man. In Luke, how you share a meal with Jesus is a sign that either you accept him, or are judged by him.

The unnamed sinful woman finds peace at Simon’s dinner; we can only imagine peace was something that eluded Simon at the dinner table. What starts with a simple invitation to Jesus for a meal ends with Simon’s theological foundations and understandings strewn across the dinner table.

Luke shows in this story that anyone, regardless of reputation, is welcome at Jesus’ table and can offer service to Jesus’ mission. Even a “sinful” woman.

Biblical scholar, Reta Halteman Finger, says “food, meals, and eating together continue to convey strong symbolism”, and asks “if theology is communicated through meals, what kind of theology is the church communicating today?”

Who could you invite to your table this week to live this out?    

Nicholas Tuohy

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