Much Forgiveness, Much Love (France)

I love the story in Luke 7:36ff where Jesus is eating a meal at a Pharisee’s house. A notoriously sinful woman intrudes on the meal and in an over-the-top way shows much love to Jesus. Jesus then tells the Pharisee (Simon) a story about a loan shark who forgave a huge financial debt. After the story, Jesus says to Simon: I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love (NLT). Here are some helpful comments by R.T. France on this story:

Women had a subordinate place in Jewish society. All of the guests at a dinner such as this likely were males. Rabbis typically took care to avoid being in female company (cf. John 4:27), let alone the company of a woman known to be “a sinner.” Jesus’ contrasting attitude was bound to raise eyebrows. To include female followers not only in his wider circle of supporters but even in the traveling group together with the twelve male disciples (8:1-3) was potentially scandalous. Here, as always, Jesus seems unconcerned by what conventional society might think.

7:47 – “Her many sins have been forgiven -as her great love has shown.” A literal translation is “her many sins have been forgiven because she loved much.” Taken alone these words could mean that her love was the basis of her forgiveness, but that would be to turn on its head the message of the preceding parable in 7:41-43 and end of the following clause, in which little love is the result a little forgiveness. Thus, most versions, like the NIV, find ways of indicating that her love is the evidence of her (antecedent) forgiveness rather than the basis for it.

7:48 – “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus speaks directly to the woman for the first time. As in 5:20, his declaration provokes theological questions (7:49), but this time the issue is not pursued. Following the logic of the parable in 7:41-43, we must suppose that the woman’s loving actions show that she is already aware of being forgiven, and that Jesus here simply makes it explicit. (The verb is in the perfect tense, lit., “have been forgiven.”) Perhaps we should assume that she has met Jesus, or at least listened to his preaching, before coming to make this gesture of appreciation.

R.T. France, Luke in Teaching the Text Commentary Series, page 136.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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