The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
 "Which of  them will love him more?"

Scripture:  Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house, and took his place at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment 39 Now 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 sort of  woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." 40 And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" 41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44 Then turning toward 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 wet  my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48 And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Meditation:   Is your love extravagant or miserly?  No one who met Jesus could do so with indifference.  They were either attracted to him or repeled by him.  Why did a rabbi invite him to a nice dinner and then treat him discourteously by neglecting to give him the customary signs of respect and honor?  Simon was very likely a collector of celebrities.  He patronized Jesus because of his popularity with the crowds. Why did he criticize Jesus' compassionate treatment of a "bad woman" -- most likely a prostitute?  The Pharisees shunned the company of "public sinners" and in so doing they neglected to give them the help they needed to find healing and wholeness.  Why did Mary approach Jesus and anoint him at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others?  Mary's action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for forgiveness.  She did something, however, a Jewish woman would never do in public.  She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bound her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty.  Mary was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus.  She also did something which only love can do.  She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus.  Her love was not calculated but extravagant.  In a spirit of humility and heart-felt repentance, she lavishly served the one who showed her the mercy and kindness of God.   Jesus, in his customary fashion, never lost the opportunity to draw a lesson from such an incident.  Why did he put the parable of the two debtors before his "learned host", a rabbi and teacher of the people?  This parable is similar to the parable of the unforgiving official (see Matthew 18:23-35) in which the man who was forgiven much showed himself merciless and unforgiving. This man was completely callous because he could neither believe in love,accept it or give it. Who is to be pitied most? Those who cannot receive love or those who cannot give love?  Jesus makes clear that great love springs from a heart forgiven and cleansed.  "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8), "for love is of God" (1 John 4:7). The woman's lavish expression of love was proof that she had found favor with God.  The stark contrast of attitudes between Simon and the woman of ill-repute, demonstrate how we can either accept or reject God's mercy.  Simon, who regarded himself as an upright Pharisee, felt no need for love or mercy. His self-sufficiency kept him for acknowledging his need for God's grace.  Are you grateful for God's mercy and grace?

"Lord, your grace is sufficient for me.  Fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me and give me freedom and joy to love and serve others as you have taught."

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 (c)1999 Don Schwager