The stories of Jesus’ grace and compassion are growing in Luke. This is one of the reasons I love Luke. Today is the dramatic story of the sinful woman who comes to anoint Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment and is forgiven of her sin.
You know the story: Jesus goes to eat with a Pharisee; word having spread, this woman brings her alabaster jar with expensive ointment and falls down to wash Jesus’ feet. She does this washing with her hair. The Pharisee, knowing his Scripture, knows that this is completely out of line, and that even if Jesus is a mere prophet, he has been made unclean by her touching.
Jesus does what he normally does – he tells a story. “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” The Pharisee answers rightly, with the one with the greater debt.
Then Jesus does something extraordinary. He declares her sins forgiven. “But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”
With words like “creditor” and “debt” it is easy to understand why this reading jumped out for me today. We are a country obsessed with money. Financial planning is big in this country and always come into play, because people love their money so much in this country they spend money they don’t have.
We offer Financial Peace University at the church and I know that despite some positive economic days recently, I know that people are still hurting. I know that many people have “negative wealth” and debt rages on in USAmerica. In the midst of all this speaks Jesus, who declares more than the power to fix debt – but the power to forgive sins.
This passage is a grand reminder to us that our God stands over the creation – over our tattered healthcare system and our empty pocketbooks. Our God is more focused on this woman with an alabaster jar, whose name we do not even know.
But I guarantee, our God knows her name. And God knows each of ours. And God cares for each of us deeply. We too can stand strong, believing the words of Jesus, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Do not fear, for God has provided a host of marvelous things, and will continue to provide for us. What we come to understand in Jesus’ ministry is that fear and worry are not central components, but togetherness and hope in a God who will see us through.