Jesus heals a centurion’s servant. Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead. Messengers come from John the Baptist and ask about Jesus’s Messiahship. Jesus forgives a sinful woman.
As I write in every chapter:
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The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are provided for further study.
A Centurion with Great Faith (Luke 7:1-10)
1 And when he finished speaking his words in the hearing of the people, he went to Capernaum. 2 A servant of a centurion, having an illness, was about to die, and he was important to him. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And the ones who approached Jesus urgently pleaded with him and said, “He is worthy for you to do this, 5 for he loves our nation and he himself built the synagogue for us.” 6 So Jesus went with them. While he was already not far from approaching the house, the centurion sent friends who said to him, “Lord, don’t bother, for I am unqualified that you would come in under my roof. 7 Therefore I considered myself unworthy even to come to you. Instead, speak the word and my servant will be healed, 8 for I myself am also a man placed under authority and have soldiers under me. And I say to this one ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another one, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does.
9 When Jesus heard this, he marveled at him, turned to the crowd following him, and said, “I tell you that not even in Israel have I found such faith!” 10 The ones who were sent turned back to the house and found the servant healthy.
Bock says that this is the third example of great faith: Mary in 1:45; the four men lowering the paralytic (5:20), and the centurion here (p. 630).
Morris says that this story would encourage the Gentiles coming into the Christian communities (p. 155).
This passage contains a great lesson of faith for Renewalists. Jesus can command a word from a distance. He does not need to be in the room. It is the structure of the human world that orders and commands can be given, and the underlings have to obey. Disease is under Jesus, and he commands it to go. The centurion’s basic insight is the lesser-to-greater. If a centurion (lesser) can command soldiers, then Jesus (greater) can command diseases, even at a distance, with one word.
“spoken words”: The noun here is rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context). Jesus had just finished speaking the Sermon on the Plain / Plateau.
“servant”: The word servant here is doulos (pronounced doo-loss) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Luke’s Greek audience would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
In v. 7 Luke uses a different word for servant, pais, which speaks of youth, though in that verse it is probably just a synonym for servant. In any case, the Greek says that the servant was honored by the centurion.
“illness”: Matthew’s Gospel says it was paralysis, which caused him great distress (Matt. 8:5).
“about to die”: the paralysis and distress were about to “finish him off,” one could say from the Greek.
“sent”: see v. 20 for deeper comments.
“elders”: These are not the high-level elders of Jerusalem, but local ones. They still hade high local status. For the elders of Jerusalem, please see this post for more information about them:
“heal”: this comes from the verb diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh), and it literally means “save through,” to bring someone through to the other side, safely and soundly (see the verb in the context of Paul’s journey to Rome in Acts 23:24; 27:43, 44; 28:1, 4). Its related verb sōzō is standard for “save,” as in people being saved and healed through Christ. The verb (and noun) is very versatile. See v. 50 for more comments.
“servant”: see v. 2 for more comments.
Evidently the Roman occupiers were not always on bad terms with the Jews of Israel. I wonder where the centurion got the money. It says, “he himself” built the synagogue. Does that mean he paid for it out of his own money? Probably not. Too expensive. He must have asked Rome or a local Roman official higher up in the hierarchy. The Romans wanted peace and order above all else. When peace and order prevailed, business and farming went on as usual, and then no destruction happened during riots and protests. Peace and order meant maximum taxes could be collected. And building a synagogue was good for peace and order, for public relations.
“elders”: they are much ignored nowadays, even in the church, less though than in the world. I don’t consider myself old, but I have several decades of experience walking with the Lord, and I hear his voice by his grace and know his Word (and I am learning), by his grace. I have some things to say.
Reports about Jesus’s healing ministry went on ahead of the Lord. The centurion summoning Jesus was an act of faith. It seems the centurion was desperate, because the disease was about to finish off the servant. Desperation breaks down social barriers and personal hesitation. Too proud to go to a meeting held by a flashy, white-suit-wearing healing evangelist? Just ask Naaman the Syrian ruler who had a skin disease (2 Kings 5). He had to humble himself and dip in the Jordan, an insignificant river. You may have to humble yourself, if you are a Christian doubter. Or just go to a subdued, updated charismatic church and ask around for anyone who seems to flow often in the gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:7-11).
The leaders call the centurion worthy for Jesus to come, because he had performed a mighty good work for the nation of Israel. In a sense, the elders were right. Doing good deeds gets God’s attention (Acts 10:4). But in another sense, the centurion, who professed his unworthiness, was also right (v. 6). Jesus was a healing teacher and holy. The centurion was probably not Jewish, though he may have been interested in Judaism, as a God fearer, if this term is defined as a God-fearing, monotheistic Gentile.
“loves our nation”: Gen. 12:2-3 says God will make Abraham a great nation, and God will bless those who bless Abraham (and his descendants). Honoring Israel with a synagogue or refurbishing a synagogue is a good thing for this centurion to do.
The centurion was not a Jew, and probably not a Roman; he as a Gentile drawn from the larger area of Syria Palestine.
“And Jesus went with him”: it is amazing to me that he does not second-guess himself. In the parallel passage Jesus said, “I will come and heal him” (Matt. 8:7), (which can be turned into a question, “Shall I come and heal him?”). He seems so calm. If I were called to a house to pray for a sick man, I would continually ask myself, “Am I sure? How did I get roped into this? I’m about to make a fool of myself! How can I back out of this?”
The Gentile centurion may have felt unworthy for a holy man, a “holy Teacher” to come in under his roof. He was not worried about his unclean Gentile status. Rather, Jesus was sacred; he was not. Remember Peter, who had said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).
“don’t bother”: implied is “don’t bother (coming to my house)” or “don’t troubled yourself (to come to my house).”
“unqualified”: it is the adjective hikanos (pronounced hee-kah-noss), and it can mean, depending on the context, “sufficient, adequate, large enough … fit, appropriate, competent, able, worthy.” With the negative “not,” I translated it as “unqualified.”
The centurion did not consider himself worthy (the verb axioō, pronounced ahx-ee-o-oh) to come to Jesus, so he sent emissaries. Matt. 8:5-13 says the centurion approached Jesus himself. How do we reconcile the two versions? When Jesus got close to the house (Luke’s version), the centurion may have approached him then (Matthew’s version). Or Matthew has the direct approach, while in Luke’s version emissaries in the ancient world spoke for the sender, as if the sender was there in person.
Luke has the centurion not come in person. Let’s look into this issue. Luke already introduced Naaman in 4:27. And here is another parallel.
2 Kings 5
|The centurion: a well-respected Gentile officer (vv. 2, 4-5)||Naaman: a well-respected Gentile officer (v. 1)|
|Intercession of Jewish elders in the healing (vv. 3-5)||Intercession of Jewish girls in the healing (vv. 2-3)|
|A centurion does not meet Jesus (vv. 6-9)||Naaman does not meet Elisha (vv. 5-10)|
|The healing takes place at a distance (v. 10)||The healing takes place at a distance (v. 14)|
|Green, p. 284|
Green’s purpose is not apologetic, necessarily. But I see that in the third and fourth rows, neither Naaman nor the centurion meet Jesus, and the healing takes place at a distance. (Jesus, however, heals with a word, while Elisha told him to dip in a river.) Many scholars give the Gospel writers license to “tweak” their texts, as long as the main point of the story is maintained. The main point is the healing.
But truthfully, this discrepancy just does not matter to me. No one should have such a brittle faith that he throws out Scripture based on these discrepancies. One may, however, have to dial down “total inerrancy” and just conclude Scripture is infallible and inerrant in faith and morals and practice, and on historical and geographical matters it is highly reliable and accurate.
My view of Scripture: It’s very high, but I don’t believe in “total inerrancy” or “hyper-inerrancy”; I allow for the inspired authors to rearrange the material.
Begin a series on the reliability of the Gospels. Start with the Conclusion which has quick summaries and links back to the other parts:
The Gospels have a massive number of agreements in their storylines:
Let’s celebrate the similarities and not obsess over the differences in the tiny details.
See this part in the series that puts differences in perspective (a difference ≠ a contradiction):
It’s a sure thing that now there is a youtube video answering the differences between the two accounts here and in Matt. 8:5-13. Your faith does not need to be so brittle that it snaps in two when such trivial things crop up. We understand the gist or essence of the story, regardless of the differences: the centurion’s great faith and the healing.
“Instead”: this is strong contrast to Jesus coming under the centurion’s roof. It could be translated as “But speak the word.”
“speak the word”: the word is logos (pronounced loh-goss), and here we see another nuance of this rich noun. It is the word of command.
It is possible to detect, by the Spirit, faith surging in someone. Paul saw faith in a man crippled from birth, and the crippled man was healed (Acts 14:9). I believe Jesus saw extraordinary faith in the centurion.
Now do we believers today have authority to command diseases? Jesus gave authority to his disciples. Mark 16:17-18 says, “And these signs shall accompany them who believe: in my name they shall expel demons and speak in new tongues. 18 With their hands they shall pick up snakes and may drink anything deadly, and it shall in no way harm them. They shall place their hands on the sick, and they shall be well.” Even if some do not believe this section of Scripture is reliable or based on the best manuscripts, it still reflects the beliefs and practice of the early church. In fact, Luke 10:19 says of the seventy-two who were sent out: “I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing will in no way harm you.” In this verse serpents and scorpions are clearly symbols of demons. (Don’t take them literally as the snake handlers do!) Mark 11:23 says we are supposed to say to the mountain blocking our way. “Say” in Mark 11:23 is the same verb as “speak” in v. 7 here. So a strong case can be made for speaking to diseases and commanding them to go. Don’t command God! But command the disease.
“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” The noun, incidentally, is iasis (pronounced ee-ah-seess), and it means “healing, cure.” The noun is used three times: Luke 13:22; Acts 4:22, 30. In other words, only Luke uses the noun.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
Here is how Jesus used his authority:
24 Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:24-28, ESV)
Jesus gladly submits himself to the authority of his Father, after the Father enabled him to conquer death by the resurrection. He will have destroyed every rule and every authority and power at the very end. The last enemy is death, which he conquered, but it has yet to end its effect. When the new kingdom comes, which vanquishes the final enemy, he will hand over everything to the Father and submit to him. You have to submit first, go out and conquer in the Father’s name, second, and resubmit to him, third. This process is ongoing throughout your life.
Here is Jesus humbling himself and then given all authority:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11, ESV)
Jesus took on the form of a servant, lived life in ministry and authority, and then went through death. Since he submitted to the Father’s authority, he was exalted and given the name that is above every name. All of us will bow our knees and confess with our tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord. Submit to Jesus’s authority first, and then he will give you authority under him. (Phil. 2:5-11).
That’s the principle that the centurion learned and now teaches us.
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on:
Here is the principle of authority. As noted, it is the lesser-to-greater argument. If the centurion (lesser) can command his soldiers and servants, then Jesus (greater) can command diseases with a word. The centurion is under command, and he commands those under him. The centurion recognized that Jesus had authority over a disease, even paralysis. But then the centurion went a step further with his insight. All Jesus had to do was command the disease from a distance. Something would then happen in another realm. The word gets communicated to the disease. Here is an imperfect illustration. The spoken word is like an invisible sound wave from an explosion hits everything around it and blows out windows, and possibly knocks down houses. We cannot see the sound wave, but we can feel its effect. The analogy is weak because we can hear it. But imagine a wave that we cannot see or hear. If such a thing exists, that would be a better comparison. So it is in the other realm. It is as if Jesus’s word of command blows out the disease. The paralyzed servant couldn’t see or hear it reach his body, but he can feel its effect. He is about to get up and walk. This is amazing.
“servant”: see v. 2 for more comments.
Jesus marveled at people in two instances: Here he marveled at the centurion for his faith, and the Nazarenes because of their unbelief (Mark 6:6) (Morris, comments on v. 9).
It is no wonder Jesus turned to the crowd following him and announced that he had never seen such faith even in Israel, whose people were supposed to be taught in the Scriptures to know God. But the Pharisees and teachers of the law did not know the living and loving God. Their version of God was only and merely a law-giver. Yes, he was that, but he wanted to restore his people—and this Gentile centurion’s servant here.
“faith”: Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the noun, faith, more deeply. It is the noun pistis (pronounced peace-teace or piss-tiss). These comments apply to the verb, as well: pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh). It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
The unique faith recognizes Jesus’ authority and the power of his word, not only over illness but also in the face of his physical absence and distance. Magical presence or touch is not required for healing, only the power of Jesus’ command and will. The centurion recognizes that God’s power works through Jesus without spatial limitations. Jesus is entrusted with great authority. It is clear that entrusted power is in view, because of the illustration of 7:8, where Jesus, like the centurion, is a man under authority. In addition, there is the resultant recognition of personal unworthiness. Humility mixed with deep faith describes what Jesus praises. The soldier approached the man of God on the proper terms (pp. 642-43).
This is the right and expected result. They found the servant healed or healthy.
“healthy”: it is the verb hugiainō (pronounced hoo-gee-y-noh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and our word hygiene is related to it). Used in the NT twelve times, it means “healthy,” as here, but the NIV mostly translates it as “sound.” In 3 John 2, it is translated as “enjoy good health.” It speaks of soundness in body and mind (Luke 5:32; 7:10; 15:27), but also sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10, 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2). It is interesting that Dr. Luke sees it exclusively as healthy in body and mind, while Paul transforms the verb into sound doctrine (though the adjective is translated as “healthy” in body throughout the NT).
“servant”: see v. 2 for more comments.
Garland: “First the elders say that the centurion is worthy. Then, the centurion says he is not worthy” (p. 297). Consider the prodigal son who said that he was not worthy (15:19, 21). Both are beggars in search of grace.
Above all, what is clear from this account is that Jesus has authority from God that extends over space, distance, and diseases. He is gifted by God to a high degree. The healing he gives reveals the authority that he has to reverse the condition of those in need. He need not be physically present to respond. And anyone can share in the benefits that Jesus offers, if faith is exercised. The centurion’s faith is an example that should not stand alone. Luke asks his reader to have the faith of the centurion. (p. 644).
GrowApp for Luke 7:1-10
A.. How has the principle of authority worked in your life?
B.. The centurion had great faith, greater than anyone else in Israel. How do you build up your faith in Christ?
A Widow’s Son Is Raised from the Dead (Luke 7:11-17)
11 And it happened soon afterwards that he went into a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. 12 As he got near the gate of the town, look! The only son, deceased, of his mother was being carried out, and she was a widow! A large crowd from the town was with her! 13 When the Lord saw her, he was moved with compassion for her and said to her, “Don’t weep!” 14 He approached and touched the open plank, and the ones carrying it stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, ‘Get up!’” 15 And the dead person sat up and began to talk, and he gave him to his mother. 16 Fear gripped everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us,” and “God has visited his people.” 17 This report about him spread around all of Judea and the entire region.
Green (p. 290) points out the differences between the parallel narrative in 1 Kings 17 and this pericope in Luke. Jesus has compassion not evidenced in 1 Kings 17. Elijah pleads with God and then uses up a lot of energy for the restoration. Jesus speaks directly to the corpse. The young man is brought back to life. Luke refers to Jesus as Lord (v. 13). Jesus’s Lordship fulfills the role performed by the Lord God (1 Kgs 17:21-22). Jesus is more than a prophet. He is the Lord.
Nain: was a little town and is probably located at the modern town called Nain, with about two hundred residents: located in Galilee three miles (4.8kms) west of Endor, twenty miles (32km) southwest of Capernaum, and six miles (9.6km) southeast of Nazareth (Bock, p. 649).
Soon after the healing of the centurion’s servant, something remarkable is about to happen. Luke sets up the scene. It is in the town of Nain (you can google where that is), and his disciples and a large crowd are with him.
“disciples”: Luke distinguishes between a large crowd and his disciples. Let’s explore the noun disciples. The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
The Greek reads the “town’s gate,” but I picture a decorated entrance to the town. So it could be translated as “the town’s entrance,” but I went literal. More scene setting.
“look!” it is an update of “Behold!” I like it when Luke steps out from behind his fourth wall and commands the reader. “Look!” It is Luke’s way of calling attention to an important scene. Something significant is about to happen, whether good or bad, in this case good. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follows. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! A funeral procession interrupts the flow of Jesus’s progress to his next stop!” Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section. (That’s the case here.) Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21).
“only son”: Luke likes to mention this fact, because it adds drama and it was true (see 8:42; 9:48). The listener to his story would feel the suspense rising. “Can Jesus raise the dead? He has to, because she’s the ruler’s only daughter! What will happen next?” The only son of his mother indicates that she lost her only child. She could have had daughters, however, but her son would have been about the only means of financial support, as he learned a trade or how to farm. This fact, not lost on the people of Nain and Luke’s readers, would have been obvious, once they learned of this family.
Luke described the scene even more. Men were carrying an open plank out of the town in conformity to Jewish law that says those who touch a dead body are unclean (Num 5:2; 9:6-11; 19:10-22), so they were to take the body away from the people, to a cemetery.
“open plank”: it is how things were done back then. It seems the body was not wrapped up, but it was anointed with oil (the boy got up instantly without being unwrapped). So the widow was poor.
“deceased”: Jewish custom of the time did not have a burial until the authorities knew the person really was dead. That seems strange to us, but they did not have fancy equipment back then, like beeping monitors. The boy was dead.
“Lord”: This is Luke’s first mention of the title, outside of characters in the Gospel saying the term. Luke himself calls him Lord. “Luke … also uses it in narrative to refer to Jesus: 7:13, 19; 10:1, 39, 41; 11:39; 12:42; 13:15; 16:8; 17:5, 6; 18:6; 19:8a; 22:61a, b; 24:3, 34; cf. 19:31, 34 par. Mk. 11:3; Lk. 20:42b, 44 par. Mk. 12:36f.” (Marshall, comment on v. 13).
When Jesus saw her, he was “moved with compassion”: The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splankh-nee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.”
Let’s explore the concept more closely.
BDAG further says the noun splanchnon (pronounced splankh-non) is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” So the verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. It could be translated as “Jesus felt compassion in the depths of his heart.”
As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.
Due to the dead body, the carriers of the open plank would be unclean for seven days, but must wash themselves on the third day. Even touching a grave would make someone unclean (Num. 19:16). When Jesus touched the open plank, he would be unclean, but what happened when the human is no longer dead? No doubt people ignored such a quibble and were gripped by fear (v. 16). In any case, he was not worried about clean and unclean laws when a widow woman was weeping over her only child (or more specifically her only son). He was about to perform a resuscitation miracle.
“Don’t weep” could be translated as “don’t cry.”
I liked how the bearers of the open plank stood (still), as the verb could be translated, with “still” being implied. Jesus touched it possibly to get them to stop. They did not shield the body, for they sensed something significant was about to happen, something miraculous. Remember that Jesus was well known as a healer. And something significant and miraculous did happen.
Jesus issued a command. He did not pray a flowery prayer: “O thou God of the universe, I beg and plead with thee, if it be thy will, to raise up this child. But if it be not thy will, then keep him dead.” No. He said, “Get up!” It could be translated old school, “Arise!” Or “I tell you, “Be raised up!” But I like the abrupt command. “Get up!” It sounds more authoritative and commanding.
What else could the kid do than sit up? Jesus commanded even death to loosen its grip on the young man and commanded life to go back into the dead body. It is an amazing scene for us Renewalists who believe that the dead are raised even today. Reports like this circulate around the web and in people’s lives. I wonder what the kid said. “Where am I? What am I doing on this open plank?”
Then Jesus gave him to his mother. No doubt Jesus held his hand and presented him alive. The open plank may have still been carried by the bearers, up in the air. Jesus may have helped him down and walked him over to his mother. Mother and son must have held on to each other tightly.
Other accounts of resuscitations are recorded in the OT. In contrast to Jesus, who moved with more authority, Elijah stretched himself over a boy and raised him from the dead (1 Kings 17:21), and Elisha touched a child with his staff and then later lay over him (2 Kings 4:31, 34-35). Jesus issued a command.
Then through the Spirit of Jesus, Peter raised Tabitha-Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). Peter also commanded the girl to get up, and she did, using the same verb for sitting up (v. 40). Result in Acts: many believed on the Lord, which is the right direction for their faith, not Peter. Jesus got all the glory.
This boy’s resuscitation is not the same as Jesus’s resurrection, for Jesus’s body was transformed and glorified. The boy’s body simply recovered from the dead and when he was older he died, like everyone else of her generation. So we should call it a resuscitation from the dead.
This is the right reaction.
“gripped”: it is the frequent verb lambanō (pronounced lahm-bah-noh, and used 258 times) which means “to take, take hold of, grasp … seize … receive” (among other things).
“Fear”: it is the standard noun phobos (pronounced foh-boss). It did the gripping of their minds, hearts, spirits, souls. In Luke 5:26 amazement gripped them. It can also mean “awe.” Here it is fear. Luke often expresses the emotional reaction to God’s work in terms of awe and respect (Luke 1:65; 5:26; 8:25, 37; Acts 2:43; 5:5, 11; 19:17) (Bock, p. 653).
There is nothing wrong, and everything right, with the fear of God settling over your minds. Don’t let the Happy Highlight Preachers on TV tell you otherwise.
When Jesus revealed himself with more power and glory, the people said that God was visiting his people. This relates to his birth and his name Emmanuel (Matt. 1:22-23). Jesus was God in the flesh, and people caught a glimpse of it, but they were not able to see it fully. So they called him a “great prophet.” That’s about right for where the people were in their limited worldview after such a wonderful miracle. Further, Jesus was anointed by the Spirit; he was the Anointed One. So now we see the Father, his Son, and the Spirit working together to usher in the kingdom, including miracles of recovery (Luke 4:18-19). We will never be able to figure out completely and in detail how the three interact within the person of Jesus of Nazareth, until we get glimpses like this.
Of course, this report circulated around everywhere, and well it should. It is humbling and stunning to think that God would show so much love to a widow woman. The people of Nain must have been stunned.
GrowApp for Luke 7:11-17
A.. Study Heb. 13:8. Do you believe that Jesus works miracles today?
B.. How did you react when God worked a miracle in your life, or when you heard about one?
John Sends Disciples to Jesus (Luke 7:18-23)
18 When his disciples reported to John all these things, he summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the Coming One or should we wait for another?” 20 After the men approached him, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you saying. ‘Are you the Coming One, or should we wait for another?’” 21 At that period of time he healed many from their diseases and afflictions and evil spirits and granted many blind people to see. 22 In reply, he said to them, “Go, and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, those with skin disease are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. 23 Blessed is he who does not stumble because of me.”
Apparently some of John’s disciples were following Jesus and reported back to their master everything they had seen, all the signs and wonders. John acted. He sent two of his disciples to inquire further into the question about the Messiah.
John was in prison in Machaerus is far to the south of Galilee on the eastern side of the Jordan River, midway down the east shore of the Dead Sea (Bock, p. 654).
“disciples”: see v. 11 for deeper comments.
Luke again calls Jesus Lord. Apparently the characters in the story have not discovered this title in its fullness; it just meant “master,” or “sir” in their minds.
Liefeld and Pao offer one important reason as to why John doubted. Jesus had said he came to set the prisoners free (Luke 4:18), and John was in prison. So did not Jesus not free John (comments on v. 19)? I add: Maybe John had expected a military Messiah who would have formed a militia to rescue him.
“sent”: this verb is apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and it is related to the noun apostle, but let’s not overstate things. It means “to send” and is used 132 times in the NT. BDAG says it means (1) “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away / out” (the disciples are sent out: Matt. 10:5; Mark 3:14; 6:17; Luke 9:2; John 4:38; 17:18). (2) “to dispatch a message, send, have something done.”
“Coming One”: this is the Messiah. Will Jesus answer him directly? “Yes!” Not directly, but clearly enough (vv. 21-22). “John simply wants to know if Jess is the expected end-time Messiah. Is he more than the populace thinks (7:16)?” (Bock, p. 666).
It is interesting that Luke repeats the exact words from John through the emissaries. When you speak for the sender, the words must be right. Ambassadors are servants who must not tweak the message to suit their own views. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). Let’s not adjust the message to suit our own earth-bound agendas.
“healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” Here the healings are instant. No therapy, as we see the word today. Grammarians suggest that the verb tense (aorist) means that “Jesus’s actions are not background information. Instead, the choice of the verbal aspect suggests that Jesus’s actions represent the next development in the storyline and are themselves the first part of his response to the questions coming from John” (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 229). In other words, the miracles are an answer to John’s question and are what the Messiah would do. Does John have the vision to see it?
John had said the one coming after him will baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). John had baptized Jesus and saw the Spirit in bodily form of a dove, descending on Jesus. He heard the voice from heaven (3:15-22). Why would John now send the emissaries to ask if Jesus was the Coming One? Luke already reported that John had been locked up in prison (3:20). It is likely that John was discouraged in prison. He was not doing his ministry. It is like a welder who is laid off (made redundant). He feels empty and discouraged. Let’s not see John as a super-saint. He lost track of his ministry and who Jesus was. His clear perspective dimmed a little, while he sat in the literal dark. I am glad his disciples never abandoned him. But some of them followed Jesus around and reported back to him. Jesus did not stand on a rooftop and announce, “I am the Messiah! I am the Lord!” He slowly unveiled his identity, and most did not catch on.
“afflictions”: the word whip is related to it. People were tormented and afflicted and beaten down. This includes mental torment. God will set you free from all of it.
“granted”: it is the verb form of charis (pronounced khah-reese) or “grace.” It could be translated as “graciously granted.”
Jesus answered John’s question. Here’s how: At that period of time healings and miracles happened, beyond the healing from a distance of the centurion’s servant and the resuscitation of the widow’s son.
One sign of the Messianic Age was the healing of diseases and broken bodies. Is. 35 describes this age. After God comes with a vengeance to rescue his people, these things will happen:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is. 35:5-6).
Is. 26:19 says of the Messianic Age: “But your dead will live, LORD, their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout with joy” (Is. 26:19, NIV).
The phrase “in that day” refers to the age that the Messiah ushers in: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll and out of gloom and darkness the eyes will see” (Is. 29:18, NIV).
The Lord’s Chosen Servant will do many things. Here are some: “I am the LORD: I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for my people, a light for the nations, to open they eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Is. 42:6-7, ESV). Is. 42:18 connects hearing and seeing with walking in God’s ways, and deafness and blindness with national judgment. As for leprosy, Jesus referred to the time when Elijah the prophet healed Namaan the Syrian of his skin disease, and the return of Elijah was a sign that the Messiah was here (Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 9:28-36).
“diseases”: it is the noun nosos (pronounced naw-soss), and BDAG says it means (1) “physical malady, disease, illness”; (2) “moral malady, disease.” In the Greek written long before the NT (and during NT times), it means (1) “sickness, disease, malady” (2) “distress, misery, suffering, sorrow, evil, disease of mind” (Liddell and Scott). Don’t be afraid to pray against diseases of the mind or moral diseases. Pray, and watch God work in your mind or your child’s mind! Here it just means physical diseases.
“afflictions”: it is the Greek noun mastix (pronounced ma-stix), and it literally means “whip, lash” (Acts 22:24; Heb. 11:36); figuratively it means “torment, suffering, illness” (Mark 3:10; 5:29, 34; Luke 7:21). And in those verses, that’s all the times it appears in the NT.
We may as well cover the two verbs related to the noun.
One verb is mastigoō (pronounced ma-stee-go-oh), and it literally means “whip, flog, scourge” (Matt 10:17; 20:19; 23:34; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:33; John 19:1); figuratively it means “punish” or “chastise” (Heb 12:6). Those are all the times this verb appears in the NT.
Still another verb is mastizō (pronounced ma-stee-zoh), and it means “scourge” or whip or flog (Acts 22:25, and it appears only once).
Source for those definitions: Shorter Lexicon.
In the context of diseases, the noun mastix means to be afflicted and tormented with diseases and bodily ailments. Anyone who has suffered from a disease, as common as a strong flu, feels afflicted or tormented in body. Jesus healed many of them. It is interesting that the verse does not say “all,” but the word “many” in my commentary on Mark 1:34, I point out, as I quoted high-level commentators, that “many” should be seen in an inclusive sense to mean all. It is a Semitism for “all.” But if you don’t like that explanation because it literally reads many. Then read Mark 6:5-6 to find out why Jesus did not heal them all.
Also see my post:
The list of miracles is people-centered. Jesus did not perform miracles in the sky. He was interested in helping people. The list is scattered in Isaiah 35:5-6; 26:19; 29:18-19; 61:1. Healing points to the Messianic Age, ushered in by the Messiah himself. Jesus was not going to reform Judaism, like the Reformers intended to reform Christianity, though they did. No, Jesus was going higher and farther. He was ushering a New Age, but this New Age was going to take time and expand gradually. It was going to be as small as the mustard seed at first, but grow big enough for birds to light in its branches (Luke 13:18-19). He was no Messiah riding on a white horse with a sword in his hand, shouting “I defeat the Romans with the sword of God!” as he stormed Jerusalem with a large army behind him. He intended, instead, to restore people’s minds and bodies and deliver them from evil spirits and teach them what life in the kingdom looked like.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
And see this post about signs and wonders:
“are preached the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
“blessed” The more common adjective, which appears here in vv. 20-22, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Let’s look more deeply at “blessed.”
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.
The Greek word for stumble gives us our word scandal. But the meaning of the word back then meant “stumble” or “trip.” If he did not meet their expectations, then they tripped over him.
Don’t be scandalized by him. Don’t abandon Jesus. He was unassuming and meek and mild, except in some situations, when he took authority over bad ideas and oppressive people and death and disease.
GrowApp for Luke 7:18-23
A.. John the Baptist was discouraged and disappointed. Have you ever had your expectations built up, and then they were dashed? How did you handle that? Trust in God or in people?
B.. Jesus clarified John’s questions, but not how John may have expected. Has God ever surprised you in how he answered your request? What happened?
Jesus, John, and the People (Luke 7:24-35)
24 After the messengers of John left, he began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Look! The ones who are in splendid clothes and luxury are in palaces! 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and greater than a prophet! 27 This is the one of whom it was written,
‘Look! I send my messenger before you,
Who shall prepare your path ahead of you!’ [Mal. 3:1]
28 I tell you that no one among those born of women is greater than John. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he!” 29 And all the people who heard, even the tax collectors, declared that God is just, since they had been baptized by the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the legal experts rejected the purpose of God for themselves, since they were not baptized by him.
31 “To what will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children in the marketplace sitting and calling to one another, who say,
‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance!
We sang a funeral dirge, and you did not weep!’
33 For John the Baptist had come neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking wine, and you say, ‘Look! a man who is a glutton and wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 And wisdom is vindicated by all of her children.”
The commentators for Matthew’s Gospel have similar interpretations of who the children are, in Matt. 11:2-19, and may even do a better job of explaining it:
But see vv. 31-34, below, for the comments on who they are.
Jesus asks a series of question to the crowds. Did you go out to the Jordan River to look at reed plants swaying in the wind? In other words, did you just go on a nature walk, just to see reeds in the wind? No, of course you didn’t. That would have been ridiculous, and I know you did not.
Alternatively, the question could mean that John was more than a reed shaken by the wind. He had firm convictions. But that moves us from plant life to humanity in the next verses. The leap may be too far, so it is best to interpret this question as his asking about an absurd nature tour (Bock, p. 670).
But you decide which interpretation is better.
Then Jesus asked a related question. Did you go all the way out to the Jordan River to find a man looking aristocratic, dressed in fine clothes? If you did, then you were being absurd. No, you did not go out there expecting a rich man, because they live in king’s palaces. I know you did not go out there for that reason. It was a rhetorical question.
“look!” (in vv. 25 and 27): see my comments at v. 12.
“send”: see v. 20 for deeper comments.
But why did you go out there, then? To see a prophet? Now we’re getting warmer. Yes, but he was more than a prophet. Then Jesus quoted a verse from Malachi, which foretold the spirit of Elijah would come and prepare the way.
(No, this is not reincarnation, because in no way would a spirit wait that long to be reborn into the world. The Bible says that when a man dies, he faces judgment; he is not reborn (Heb. 9:27). So please don’t use the Bible to justify a belief in reincarnation that the Bible does not support.
Please see my post on Hinduism:
But this is a digression. Let’s move on.
In any case, John fulfilled biblical prophecy, along the same pattern that Jesus was in the process of fulfilling his Messianic prophecies. John pointed to Jesus, and so did his ministry.
“Luke links John and Jesus in Luke 1-2. There are only two periods for Luke: promise and fulfillment. John simply serves as the bridge from one era to the another. Thus, Jesus describes John as great” (Bock p. 672).
“kingdom of God”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing it to the world. The powerful and people of high status are to be brought low, while the humble and those of low status are to be raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
Jesus is the transition from John, who is the greatest man born of women to his new kingdom. John was part of the old order, the old covenant. In contrast, the least one—literally “the smallest”—in the new kingdom is greater than he. People who are reborn, spiritually, into the kingdom and greater than John, who was the greatest born of women. This movement from one dispensation to the next does not exclude John from the kingdom, because all the prophets will be in the kingdom (Luke 13:28).
In v. 29, “even the tax collectors”: you can learn more about them at this link
.In v. 29, all the people acknowledged or declared that God is just. This is the verb dikaioō, (pronounced dee-ky-o-oh), and BDAG offers these definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to take up a legal cause, show justice, do justice, take up a cause”; (2) to render a favorable verdict, vindicate or treat as just, justify (3) “to cause someone to be released from personal or institutional claims that are no longer to be considered pertinent or valid, make free / pure”; “to demonstrate to be morally right, prove to be right, e.g. God is proved to be right (e.g. Rom. 3:4; 1 Tim. 3:16). In some contexts, it can mean to practice righteousness (Rom. 6:7; 1 Cor. 4:4; Luke 18:14). The verb is used when God justifies the sinner when he repents and puts his faith in Christ. That direction goes from God (subject) to man (object). Here, however, the verb goes from man (subject) to God (object). People proclaim or acknowledge or declare that God is just. We describe who he really is. He calls us what we grow into.
Why did the people proclaim him to be just or righteous? Because the people, even tax collectors, were baptized by John. They were insightful enough to see what God was doing. They were humble enough to go out to the Jordan and surrender to God and John’s baptism.
In contrast, the Pharisees and experts in the law were too good for John. They could not see what God was doing through him.
Something about them, follows:
Both groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.
It is a sad fact that people—even extra-spiritual ones—can miss God’s purpose or will for them. They are too smart for their own good.
“purpose”: it is the noun boulē (pronounced boo-lay), and BDAG defines the term thus: (1) “that which one thinks about as possibility for action, plan, purpose, intention”; (2) “that which one decides, resolution, decision”; (3) it can even be a council that takes up proposals and deliberates, council meeting. Here it is the first definition.
This pericope or section uses the old-fashioned simile. This is similar to or like that. (Note that the word simile is related to similar.) To who or what will Jesus compare the people of his generation?
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only men. However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context. In Luke 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male. So “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say.
“generation”: it has a pejorative sense, as seen in Deut. 1:35; 32:5, 20). Like the generation of ancient Israelites, this generation is faithless and crooked (Luke 9:41 and evil (11:29-32; see Acts 2:40); but worse “it is destined to be damned for all the innocent blood that has been shed (11:50-51) and to reject the Son of Man (17:25)” (Garland, comment on 7:31).
These people are like children who try out two styles of music, the celebration and the dirge (a slow, solemn, mournful piece of music). In no case does anyone respond in the way the children expected and even demanded.
“look!”: see my comments at v. 12.
Now who are the children who play and who are the unresponsive?
Three interpretations (Bock, p. 681) :
First, when the Pharisees and legal experts play their two tunes, the people don’t respond. They don’t weep or dance, or they do so at the wrong times. The problem with this interpretation is that the next verses about Jesus’s celebratory lifestyle and John’s austere lifestyle seem out of place, too abrupt, as it jumps from one idea to the next.
Second, the unresponsive are Jesus and John. When the children (Pharisees and legal experts) played the sad song, Jesus did not mourn but partied with food and wine, with sinners and tax collectors, for the purpose calling them to repentance (Luke 5:32). The Pharisees and legal experts accused him of being a partier, too relaxed. When they played the happy song, John did not dance, but he maintained his ascetic life. They blindly claimed he had a demon, not knowing what they were talking about. Neither John nor Jesus listened to either tune, but the tune of the Spirit. The Pharisees and the legal experts just wanted control. John and Jesus slipped out of their grasp. The religious leaders never had them in the first place.
Third, Jesus played the joyful tune, but the people (this generation) did not respond. Then John played the sad song, but the people did not respond to him either. John lived the ascetic life, and people rejected him. Jesus lived a joyous life, eating and drinking, but the people rejected him, as well.
Bock is right (as usual):
Thus the speakers in 7:32 cannot be Jesus with his supporters and John with his supporters. Rather, the Jewish leadership is complaining that John and Jesus do not follow their desires. From the leaders’ perspective, God’s messengers [John and Jesus] are at fault for not listening to them. The leaders do not wish to enter the game unless it is played according to their rules. This generation is like children who will play only if they can make the rules. Thus, the third view is preferred to the second, because the complainers picture rejection (7:30), not just lack of cooperation. The irony is strong in the parable. It is the desire of the leaders to dictate and not listen to God’s messengers. (pp. 681-82)
Liefeld and Pao offer this interpretation, which makes sense (to me): “The obdurate opposition to each of God’s messengers is described as childish fickleness (v. 32, cf. their earlier attempt to play John against Jesus, 5:33). The children’s words are those annoyed leaders who want their friends to play ‘grownup’ and, when the leaders play cheerful or sad music, pretend that they are at a celebration, such as a wedding, or at a funeral. They became petulant when their friends refuse to play. Jesus and John, when in confrontation with the Jewish leaders, refused to ‘play their game’ and so are the object of their taunts” (comments on v. 32).
But you can decide.
Once again see the commentators in the parallel passage in Matt. 11:2-19:
“These people find John too sociable with the right people, and Jesus too sociable with the wrong people” (Garland, comment on 7:35, citing Alexander Findlay’s commentary on Luke). Alternative version: John is too austere and Jesus is not austere enough.
“wine drinker”: it can be translated as “drunkard.” Associating with sinners like them could get him stoned in certain circumstances (Deut. 21:20-21). Those verses in the old law speak of a rebellious son who hangs out with gluttons and drunkards. The remedy is to stone him to death.
Note: if you used to be a drug user or alcoholic before you were saved, then God will call you to be a John the Baptist. No more alcohol or other chemicals! Be austere. However, if you have been beat down by oppressive legalism as you grew up in a strict church, then God may call you to enjoy your life, though without intoxication. Either way, let your Spirit-filled, Bible-inspired conscience be your guide.
“tax collectors”: see v. 29 for more comments.
“sinners”: It is the adjective hamartōlos (pronounced hah-mahr-toh-loss and used 47 times and used 18 times in Luke), and it means as I translated it. It is someone who does not observe the law, in this context: “unobservant or irreligious person … of one who is especially sinful.” BDAG defines the adjective hamartōlos as follows: “pertaining to behavior or activity that does not measure up to standard moral or [religious] expectations (being considered an outsider because of failure to conform to certain standards is a frequent semantic component. Persons engaged in certain occupations, e.g. herding and tanning [and tax collecting] that jeopardized [religious] purity, would be considered by some as ‘sinners,’ a term tantamount to ‘outsider.’” Non-Israelites were especially considered out of bounds [see Acts 10:28].)” “Sinner, with a general focus on wrongdoing as such.” “Irreligious, unobservant people.” “Unobservant” means that he did not care about law keeping or observing the law.
Do you fail to conform to certain standards? Maybe you did break the demands of moral and religious law. Pray and repent, and God will accept you.
“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.
This refers back to vv. 29-30, and John’s baptism and the purpose of God. The people were baptized, but the religious leaders did not see the need for it, certainly not from the likes of John, the scruffy, nonconformist prophet. However, wisdom is justified by the results. What has God’s wisdom produced? The disciples and demands of Pharisees and legal experts, or the disciples and teaching of John and Jesus? The answer is obvious. The parallel verse in Matthew has “wisdom is proven right by her deeds” (NIV). Whether deeds or children, the results are what matter.
“wisdom”: Let’s define it broadly. BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it translates the noun sophia (pronounced soh-fee-ah and used 51 times) as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly—wisdom.”
So biblical wisdom is very practical. It is not like the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, which was very abstract. But let’s not make too much of the differences. In the classical Greek lexicon, sophia can also mean: “skill in handcraft and art … knowledge of, acquaintance with a thing … sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom.” In a bad sense it can mean “cunning, shrewdness, craft” (Liddell and Scott).
The adjective is sophos (pronounced soh-fohss and used 20 times) and according to BDAG it means (1) “pertaining to knowing how to do something in a skillful manner, clever, skillful, experienced”; (2) “pertaining to understanding that results in wise attitudes and conduct, wise.”
“vindicated”: it is the same verb as in v. 29. See my comments there. Here it could be translated as “proven right.” Either one is fine.
Liefeld and Pao: “The concluding saying probably means that those who respond to wisdom prove its correctness. These ‘children’ of wisdom may point to the common people and sinners who responded to Jesus’ message (cf. v. 29), and the irony noted as the sinners are now considered to be the wise ones. In light of its immediate context, however, ‘children’ points ultimately to Jesus and John the Baptist” (comment on v. 35).
GrowApp for Luke 7:24-35
A.. When have you missed God’s purpose for your life? How did God redeem you and set you on his new (and better) path?
A Sinful Woman Is Forgiven (Luke 7:36-50)
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to dine with him. He went into the house of the Pharisee and reclined (at table). 37 And look! there was a woman in the town—a sinner! When she learned that he reclined (at table) in the house of the Pharisee, she brought an alabaster jar of aromatic ointment 38 and stood behind his feet and wept! She began to moisten his feet and dried them with the hair on her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the aromatic ointment.
39 When the Pharisee who invited him watched, he said to himself, “This man, if he were a prophet, would perceive who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” 40 Then in reply, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he said, “Teacher, speak.” 41 “Two men were debtors to a particular lender. One owed five hundred denarii, but the other fifty. 42 Since they did not have anything to repay, he canceled both debts. Which one of them then shall love him more?” 43 In reply, Simon said, “I suppose the one whose larger debt was canceled.” And he told him, “You have judged correctly.”
44 When he turned to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house, and you gave me no water for my feet, but she moistened my feet with tears and dried them with her hair! 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the moment I came in she has not ceased kissing my feet! 46 You did not anoint my head with olive oil, but she anointed my feet with aromatic ointment! 47 Thanks to this, I say to you that her sins which are numerous are forgiven, because she loved much. The one forgiven little loves little.”
48 He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The ones reclining (at table) began to say among themselves, “Who is this one who forgives sin?” 50 But he said to the woman. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
This invitation from a Pharisee is remarkable. Is it a trap? Not quite, but almost. Other meals were offered in 5:29; 10:38; and 19:58. At each one the host was rebuked. The scene will offer another rebuke and life lesson. This scene will reenact the Great Reversal. Recall that Mary prophesied that the lowly would rise, and the great would fall (Luke 1:46-55), and Simeon predicted that this child (Jesus) would be appointed for the falling and rising of many (2:34).
The picture is a low-lying table, and everyone reclined at it, with their feet angling out from the table. So please don’t picture a modern dinner scene of a high table and everyone sitting in chairs. Even Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is inaccurate.
“Pharisee”: for who they are, see my comments at vv. 28-30.
Luke uses the command form of the verb to look or see. In the old days, it was translated “Behold.” I like the updated version. “Look!” He intends for us to pay attention to what is about to happen.
“sinful”: see v. 34 for more comments.
Clearly the sinful woman was a town prostitute. In the Great Reversal, she was about to rise in the kingdom of God, while the Pharisee was about to be swept aside by the same kingdom.
She came in and identified Jesus. She stood behind his feet that were angling out. All she had to do is kneel down behind them. The logistics was easy. Her boldness was not. She was not invited, but she went anyway. Excellent. Sometimes you have to be bold to get to Jesus, just as the woman with the issue of blood was bold (Luke 8:42-48).
The aromatic ointment must have been costly, so she made some money from her trade. It was contained in a flask of stone or glass. Expensive, again.
Only a scholar, who shall go nameless, would see something sexual going on here. No, she was repenting of her sins and doing the only thing she knew. Her inner love and repentance, invisible to us, preceded her actions, visible to us. She was giving everything she had, including her dignity, which she had lost by her trade. She could only hope that she was about to recover it by the forgiveness of sins. In any case, Luke goes into great detail about her actions. Undoing her hair would have been considered immodest by many. Kissing his feet would have been scandalous to many (like the scholar). But she didn’t care. She felt compelled to show her repentance and love and appreciation for his ministry.
“learn”: it is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). Here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” “learned.”
“perceive”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). It is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. In this verse, the best translation is the first definition.
The Pharisee was being consistent with his training and character. He was concerned about purity laws, and she was an impure, sinful woman. A holy prophet would not allow this, Simon believed. In fact, a holy prophet would perceive who she was. No doubt she also had the “look” of a prostitute. The Greek reads with the “if” (if this man were a prophet) that Simon expected the answer that he was not a prophet.
We could ask how Simon knew she was a prostitute, implying that he was her customer! No, she was well known in the town. He was probably not her customer.
“sinner”: see v. 34 for more comments.
The irony is that Jesus was a prophet because he perceived Simon’s thoughts. This is a word of knowledge. This gift means that the gifted person has knowledge that he could not have learned by himself. Jesus was God in the flesh, but he was also fully man, and the Spirit anointed him to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. The interplay between his divine nature, his human nature, and the anointing of the Spirit, as the Father guided his Son’s life, is unknown to us, except for tiny peeks into his ministry; the inner life of Jesus is little known to us. You can see more about Jesus’s discernment in Luke 5:20, 22; 6:8; 9:47; 11:17; 20:23.
The short parable / illustration is clear enough. What is a parable?
Literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.
The punchline reveals of this illustration reveals the meaning. “You have judged correctly” (v. 43). The one whose large debt is forgiven will leave the moneylender’s presence celebrating and feeling relieved more than the man who had the smaller debt—in general terms.
The verb “love” in this entire pericope or section (vv. 36-50) is the verb agapaō (pronounced ah-gah-pah-oh). BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love”; (2) “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in; (3) “to practice / express love, prove one’s love.” In most instances this kind love in Scripture is not gooey feelings, though it can be a heart-felt virtue and emotion, as we see in the first definition. Rather, mostly love is expressed by action.
Both the noun agapē (pronounced ah-gah-pay) and the verb mean a total commitment. For example, God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to the dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē and agapaō are demonstrative. This love is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
“denarii”: one denarius was worth a day’s wage for a farm laborer (Matt. 20:2-13), but even this valuation can be misleading, because farm labor was seasonal, during the harvests. So one denarius was precious.
But Bock, citing another commentator, says the amount of five hundred is middle class. Cicero, a Roman orator, made 150,000 denarii per year. Officeholders under August, 2,500-10,000 denarii per year, and procurators like Pilate, 15,000, 75,000 denarii per year. But for a woman like the one who barged into the dinner party, five hundred was extravagant.
Simon answered correctly.
The word for canceling the debt is charizomai (pronounced kha-ree-zoh-my), and yes, it is related to the noun charis (pronounced khah-reese) or grace. It could be translated as “forgave.” The moneylender forgave their debts.
The two debtors were unable to pay back the loans, and the lender did something surprising. He forgave them. And all our debts of sin are unpayable before a thrice-holy God. But grace cancels our unpayable debts, although we do not deserve them to be canceled. God is love.
Jesus’s tone was friendly, not hostile, towards Simon. This takes true character. I probably would have fumed or shown displeasure in some way.
Now we have the big contrast. Do you see “this woman?” No doubt he pointed at her or gestured with his hand in some way directly at her. Even though Simon lived in a large house, he did not show those common acts of hospitality. No doubt Simon was richer than his fellow townsmen, but he treated Jesus disrespectfully by not doing the things expected of him, socially. But she did, with her tears and hair and expensive ointment. In contrast, olive oil, no doubt perfumed, was less expensive. And Simon was unwilling to provide even the cheaper oil.
A kiss of greeting was cultural. Today, we don’t do that, though in Mediterranean cultures they still do. It may have been two cheeks side to side, without even touching. But the host should have initiated the kiss, whatever it was, and Simon did not.
The statement that she has not stopped kissing his feet is hyperbole (pronounced hy-per-bo-lee), which is extravagant exaggeration with a purpose, designed to show that her action was constant.
After the big contrast in vv. 44-46, the other verses will apply it our lives (vv. 47-50).
Her “numerous sins” means that she had affairs with various men, whether locally or the ones passing through her town. She stood by the side of the road, as prostitutes do.
“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
“because she loved much”: does this clause mean that her love prompted or caused her forgiveness, or did his forgiveness cause her love? The Greek says her love caused his forgiveness. But the context says that her hospitality in a strange setting—not her house—were acts of repentance and love, and this prompts forgiveness from God. If a woman loves God, it is a sure sign that she repented from her old way of life, even though she may not have uttered the words, “I repent.” Her actions were motivated by her prior inner repentance and love, invisible to us who read her story. Only her actions are visible to us.
Stein has the right idea:
This statement about her forgiveness can be understood in one of two ways. (1) Because of what she had done, her sins were now forgiven. That is, because the woman loved much, her sins were as a result forgiven. (2) Because of what she had done, I can now conclude that her sins had in fact been forgiven. That is, the woman’s attitude (as revealed in her loving much) was evidence that she had experienced forgiveness. The second explanation fits better the last statement in this verse and the context provided by 7:29–30. Thus “therefore” is best understood as going with “I tell you” rather than the statement about her sins being forgiven. (comment on v. 47)
Let’s explore the issue a little more deeply in her case. Scholars debate how the woman knew Jesus was there and how she came to respond with such acts of contrition and humility. A few scholars speculate that Jesus ministered to her while he entered the town. He must have told her that she did not have to ply her trade (Bock, p. 704).
But I had always interpreted the story that his reputation of being a holy man anointed with the Spirit drew her to him. He was, after all, quite famous at this time. Renewalists believe that God’s glory and holiness radiates outward from an anointed person, like the glory and fire of God descending down in Solomon’s temple, when it was dedicated, though on a much smaller, individual scale (1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chron. 7:1-3). Jesus was the perfect container of the glory and holiness of heaven. It is called the anointing. He was the Anointed One. That’s why she did those acts of humility and hospitality, without her fully knowing who he was or meeting him before the dinner.
But maybe the other opinion is right. He had ministered to her before the dinner party. Maybe both options are true at this time in her life, as he walked into town and then reclined at table.
“Forgiven” comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one. It means to forgive.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
In v. 48, the pronouncement is clear enough. Her sins were forgiven. See v. 47 (just above) for more comments on the word forgiven. This is not the divine passive, as if Jesus is speaking indirectly and is afraid to use the name of God. He himself forgives her sin. He himself has the authority to do this. That is Luke’s point (Stein, comment on v. 48).
“sins”: see v. 47 for more comments.
Of course the religious leaders reclining at table objected to his pronouncement of forgiveness of sins. Who is he to do such a thing? Jesus had already dealt with this question about the Son of man having authority to forgive sins, when he healed the paralytic who had been lowered down through the roof (5:22-26). He backed up his verbal claims—his words—that he could forgive sins by healing the man. Anyone can speak words about invisible things (sins being forgiven), but not just anyone can heal a paralytic, visible for all to see. Here, in these verses, the woman did not need physical healing, unless she had a sexually transmitted disease that we don’t know about, in which case “saved” includes healing. But that’s speculation.
She definitely needed her sins forgiven. The fact that the Pharisees and his friends were skeptical about Jesus’s authority to forgive sins indicates that only God can look down from heaven and forgive sins committed against him and his holy law. Here Jesus was the intermediary between his Father and her. He spoke for God. The people inside the story could not see that he was God in the flesh, though he spoke with divine authority. As noted, the Father and the Spirit—two persons of the Trinity—worked within Jesus in ways that we cannot fully understand in detail, though we can catch glimpses of it in verses like these.
“forgives”: see v. 47 for more comments about this verb.
Faith and forgiveness of sins go together in Luke-Acts: Acts 3:19, 26; 5:31; 10:4; 13:28; 22:16; 26:18.
The Greek verb tense “has saved” reveals that she is now accepted by God. She can walk out of the house free from her past. Let’s look at the word more closely, since it is so vital to everyone on the planet, including you the reader.
The verb is sōzō: Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Matt. 14:36; Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and saved.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or piss-tiss), and see v. 9 for more comments. In this verse she had saving faith, directed at Jesus.
It was her faith that saved her, not her actions. She had faith in him, which prompted her to show the acts of hospitality. Her faith was invisible, while her actions were visible. Let’s not get the sequence wrong. Have faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross. Then he will lead you to acts of repentance, or your faith will lead you to do works of repentance, as it happened to her.
“peace”: It speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and well-being. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.
Let’s explore more deeply the peace that God brings.
This word in Hebrew is shalom and means well being, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience well being and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits.
With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people.” (Mounce, p. 503).
BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29). In the entire Gospel of Luke, Jesus was ushering in the kingdom of God.
In summary, the old Law of Moses had ambiguous commands about prostitutes. Lev. 21:9 says the daughter of a priest who turned herself into a prostitute shall be burned with fire, because she has shamed her priestly father. And v. 7 says that a priest shall not marry a prostitute. It does not say that she shall be put to death for being one and unconnected to priests. And Deut. 23:17 says that no one shall bring the fee of a prostitute into the house of the Lord. It does not say she shall be hunted down and executed for adultery. It is almost as if the prostitute was tolerated or recognized as part of ancient Israelite society, and apparently here too.
However, Jesus came to overturn the whole system and tell her that her sins were forgiven. She was free to live a better life.
And so the woman left with her sins forgiven, while Simon was exposed for who he was—a disrespectful, unforgiven Pharisee who was unable to see his own need for forgiveness. The Great Reversal came to this dinner banquet by the kingdom of God. Simon did not invite her into his house, but God invited her into his. She was unacceptable to Simon, but acceptable to God.
Finally, let’s discuss Jesus confrontation with this Pharisee.
As I noted in other chapters, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus forgave this sinful woman and allowed her to touch him. He won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with this religious leader who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leader to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.
More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leader and defeated him and his inadequate theology.
Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus! Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to this oppressive religious leader.
GrowApp for Luke 7:36-50
A.. The moneylender canceled two debts when he did not have to. The sinful woman was told to go in peace because her faith had saved her. How has Jesus forgiven your past? Did you respond with love for him? Peace? Tell your story.
B.. The Pharisee objected to what the woman had been and done. Has any extra-religious church goer opposed you and the forgiveness of your sins? How did you respond to the skepticism?
Summary and Conclusion
This chapter opens up a variety of themes. These themes move us closer to the climax of his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension in Luke 24.
First, Jesus marveled at the faith of a centurion, who sent messengers to tell Jesus that he did not need to come under his roof. In the principle of authority, he was placed under authority, and he himself could give orders to those under him. Jesus was over disease, so all he had to do was speak the word, and his servant would be healed. This recognition of how powerful Jesus was unexpected from a Gentile centurion. He had more faith than anyone in Israel, God’s Chosen People. Also he was a member of the oppressive class, a Roman soldier. So the whole episode is a critique of first-century Jewish society. Go beyond the boundaries.
Second, Jesus resuscitated the only son of a widow. She was an expendable member of society, because she was a widow and her son was now dead. When Jesus restored him back to life, she did not cease being a widow, but her son could take care of her. So her social status was elevated or at least salvaged.
Third, poor John the Baptist! He was there at Jesus’s baptism, where the Father and the Spirit communicated to everyone there, with eyes to see the dove coming down and ears to hear the public pronouncement that God was well pleased with his Son. But after a time in prison, John sent messengers to find out whether Jesus was the Coming One. Jesus replied that he was working miracles, and they were signs of a New Messianic Age. But this age was coming in slowly, because it offered people a change of heart and restored bodies, not the destruction of the Roman empire.
Fourth, then Jesus revealed, indirectly through an illustration, that he and John did not dance to the Pharisees’ and legal experts’ children’s two tunes, one joyful, the other sad. Jesus did not weep during the sad music, and John did not dance a jig during the happy music. They did not listen at all, to either one. The Pharisees and legal experts wanted to control them and everyone else, but John and Jesus slipped through their grasps. God was moving way past Judaism.
Fifth, the sinful woman or prostitute was the best example of the Great Reversal. She started off as unclean and unforgiven, while Simon the Pharisee saw himself as clean and without the need to be forgiven. At the end of the story, the woman was cleansed and forgiven of her sins, which counts for everything in the kingdom of God that Jesus was ushering in, while Simon was left outside the kingdom. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator. She took the up elevator.
All together, these vignettes about different people reveal the impact of the kingdom. It changed their lives. People were healed, resuscitated and forgiven. Something new was happening.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).
Liefeld, Walter L and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).
Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).
Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).