Shameless: Sinful Woman
Luke 7 includes the story of the sinful woman. We don’t know her name, her age, or her history. We know only that she was bad for a season. To be specific, she sold her body for money. Because her sinful lifestyle was common knowledge, people whispered about her, eyed her with disdain, and avoided her company. Except Jesus. He welcomed her touch. He met her gaze. He called her forgiven.
Bottom line: Words mean little, actions mean everything.
Something To Talk About:
- She was a woman and sinful: This requires a little imagination. Imagine a woman who lives in the Middle East, in a small town, in a very religious, highly conservative, cultural context. Imagine that she is notoriously known as a sinful woman. Maybe she’s a prostitute, or at least just living an immoral life. Regardless, the fact is she is well known as a notorious sinner. Imagine that she is surrounded with religious men who condemn her, and shame her, and despise her. If you think it would be difficult for her today, move it back two thousand years ago when a woman couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, couldn’t testify in open court, was herself sometimes considered property of her father or husband. Imagine what her life was like—how damaged, and broken, and brutal it was. That’s the woman that we meet in Luke 7.
- The self-righteous pharisee: The sinful woman, in a sense, is only an element of the story. In many ways, this is the story of Jesus evangelizing a Pharisee. He came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus was accused of being only interested in tax collectors and being the friend of sinners. And He was, but He wasn’t just a friend of sinners. He was even the friend of religious sinners like the Pharisee. In fact, on a number of occasions in the book of Luke He has a meal with a Pharisee. Jesus was committed to evangelizing and presenting the gospel offer to all sinners, whether they were the low-life sinners, or whether they were the high-life sinners, whether they were the outcasts, and irreligious, or the very religious. And on this occasion, in an act of irony, He reaches out to demonstrate His power to forgive sins to a hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisee by using the very person that the Pharisee looked down the most.
- Words mean little, actions mean everything: Without saying a word, the sinful woman was practicing wordless worship. Her actions were her worship. Imagine the party’s attention shifting from the woman to Jesus as everyone guessed what His reaction would be. The woman saw Jesus and held nothing back. Overcome with awe, she offered Him her wealth with the perfume in the alabaster jar. She poured out her tears of repentance on His feet. She honored Jesus by using her hair to wipe His feet. She gave Him her heart. Like the woman in the story, when we recognize the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us, our natural reaction is an outpouring of love and affection. The difference between the sinful woman and the Pharisee is action.
- What is Jesus trying to teach us in this story? What might we learn from this story about approaching Jesus?
- The more we grow in Christ, the more we will see our own sinfulness. Agree or disagree and why?
- Does it mean that those who have a more sinful life have an advantage? Why or why not?
- Do you judge others around you, especially those ‘sinful’ people? Why is it important to realize we are broken? How aware are you of your own brokenness?
- What needs to happen for you to feel the kind of forgiveness this woman felt? How difficult is it for you to express your love in a relationship with Jesus?
- How can we apply this story to ourselves in how we approach God in prayer this week?
Take One Thing Home with You
Everyone who knows anything about the gospels—and even those who don’t—knows that Jesus was a friend of sinners. Jesus is a friend to sinners like us. We also find ourselves challenged by Jesus’ example to make sure we do not turn away outsiders in a way that Jesus never would.
The sinful woman and others are proof of the statement. So what lessons can we draw from these episodes? In what way was Jesus a friend of sinners? Did He have a grand strategy for reaching tax collectors? Did He indiscriminately “hang out” with the sinful? What we see from the composite of these passages is that sinners were drawn to Jesus, that Jesus gladly spent time with sinners who were open to His teaching, that Jesus forgave repentant sinners, and that Jesus embraced sinners who believed in Him.
Jesus was a friend of sinners not because He ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted moments with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners because He came to save sinners and welcomed sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on the road to putting their faith in Him.