(Luke 7: 36-50)
Jesus’ encounter with the sinner in the Gospel of Luke calls us to look beyond the words we read and hear. As one gazes upon this image it is easy to get lost, forgetting facts that give this story its richness. Biblical scholar Joseph Fitzmyer points out that:
“This scene is one of great episodes in the Lucan Gospel, for it depicts Jesus not merely defending a sinful woman against the criticism of a Pharisee, but drives home in a special way the relationship between the forgiveness of sins (by God) and the place of human love and the giving of oneself in that whole process.”
When we look upon this image it is easy to see that the image is divided into two. On one side, we have the woman as the “sinner.” This side is chaotic, unorganized, and unfocused. On the other, we see tidiness and clearly rendered objects. Some argue that this image is a depiction of an encounter with the unholy and the holy. The words of Christ appear in the middle and mediates between the two sides. One could argue that Christ in this event radically changes the status of women in this society. Instead of preaching forgiveness, some scholars argue Christ comes to preach restoration. Rather than rejection of sinners, Jesus shows inclusive hospitality. He restores the woman back to community, as he releases her from rejection and oppression. As Jennifer English writes:
“Once again our failure to understand Jesus’ words results in our inability to see. Jesus does not call his disciples only to an attitude of service or the ideal of humility; he calls them to service that actually stoops down to help another and humility that is embodied and expressed relationally.”
 Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981), 686.
 Jennifer A. English, “Which Woman? Reimagining the Woman Who Anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36-50,” Currents in Theology and Mission 39, no. 6 (2012): 435-441.
This commentary was contributed by James Gumataotao, a senior Theology major and a member of the Library’s Research Desk team.