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Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Luke 7

 

 

Verse 1

Luke brought the love of Christ into sharp focus in this chapter, along with the ethic derived from it, namely, that it is in the love of God and the love of man that a soul may hope to commend itself to the Lord. First, there is the centurion who loved his servant (Luke 7:1-10); then, Jesus showed his love for the bereaved by raising the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17); next, Jesus offered his love of the afflicted and the poor as proof of his Messiahship to John the Baptist, laying stress on the publicans and harlots who accepted John's message (Luke 7:24-25); and then, he gave the explanation of how publicans and harlots were saved and the Pharisees were not, this explanation growing out of a dinner in the house of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50).

THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S SERVANT

In my Commentary on Matthew this miracle was referred to as being identical with the one in Matthew 8:5-13, this view being that of Lamar, Boles, McGarvey, and many others; and it is reaffirmed here that it may be so interpreted, all of the variations in the two accounts yielding easily to harmonizing suggested by many commentators. It should be noted, however, that it is by no means CERTAIN that Matthew and Luke have recorded the same incident.

More mature study has convinced this writer that the two episodes COULD be different miracles, and that the higher probability is that they WERE separate wonders. The Greek words translated "my servant" (Matthew 8:6) are from terms which are literally "the boy of me,"[1] an expression which MacKnight affirms would have been translated "my son" except "for the supposition that the miracles are the same."[2] About the only objection to viewing the miracles as separate wonders springs from the alleged unlikelihood that there would have been two centurions, one with a sick son, another with a sick slave, who would have approached Jesus with approximately the same words, manifesting exactly the same attitude.

MacKnight, however, suggested that:

There might have been two centurions. Both made the same speech to Jesus, one through his friends, and the other in person; but this circumstance may be accounted for. As the faith of the first centurion, who was a heathen, took its rise from the extraordinary cure wrought on the nobleman's son (John 4:46-54), the faith of the second centurion might have taken its rise from the success of the first, which could not fail to be well known both in the town and in the country.[3]

MacKnight elaborated the above argument in his harmony of the Gospels in such a manner as to foreclose any logical objections to it. He concluded thus:

To conclude that two centurions should have had, the one his son, the other his slave, cured in Capernaum with like circumstances, is no more improbable than that the temple should have been twice purged, the multitude twice fed, and the fishes twice caught by miracle, and with the same circumstances.[4]

This consideration has been introduced here, not because of any bearing the question has with reference to interpreting the miracles themselves, but because of the implications bearing on the two great sermons, the one on the mount, the other on the plain. The big argument for making those sermons the same depends upon making these two miracles the same; but it is clear enough that the uncertainty of their being indeed but one wonder totally removes the principal argument for viewing Luke's record of the Sermon on the Plain as merely an abbreviated account of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Significantly, some of the commentators who treat these two miracles as one refuse to view the sermons as one (Boles, for example). It appears that it is more logical to view the miracles also as separate wonders.

[1] The Nestle Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), en loco.

[2] James MacKnight, Harmony of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1950), p. 468.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., p. 469.

After he had ended all his sayings in the ears of the people, he entered into Capernaum. (Luke 7:1)

The first clause here, according to Boles,

Shows that the discourse which had just been narrated was delivered at one time, and was not a mere collection of sayings or detached parts of different discourses.[5]

A great deal of Jesus' teaching was done in Capernaum, which was his residence for a long while; and the event of our Lord's finishing a discourse at some place near the city and then returning to the place where he stayed must have recurred often. Nothing is plainer in the sacred Gospels than the fact that the sum total recorded by all of them put together was merely the tip of the iceberg, compared to all that Jesus said and did. The last word that has come down to us across the long centuries since Jesus walked on the earth is that "the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25), if men had recorded all that Jesus did and taught! This monumental truth destroys the conceit which would explain similar teachings or miracles of Jesus as inaccurate, garbled accounts of but one event or sermon.

ENDNOTE:

[5] H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Luke (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1972), p. 145.

Verse 2
And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and at the point of death.

Centurion ... Even counting the two centurions of these miracles (the one here, and the other in Matthew) as but one man, there are no less than eight centurions mentioned in the New Testament; and it is significant that all of them appear in a favorable light. As Ryle expressed it, "It is worthy of remark that in no case is there the slightest hint that the profession of a soldier is unlawful in the sight of God."[6] The list of centurions listed in the New Testament is:

1. The one whose servant was healed (in this passage).

2. The one who confessed Christ at the cross (Matthew 27:54).

3. The ones who rescued Paul from the mob (Acts 21:32).

4. The one who bore Paul's message to the chiliarch (Acts 22:25).

5. Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:1)

6. Julius, who saved Paul's life on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:3,43)

7. The centurion who brought Paul's nephew to the chiliarch (Acts 23:17,18).

8. The centurions who escorted Paul to Caesarea (Acts 23:23).SIZE>

Servant ... The word here is "bondservant" or slave; and it is evident that Luke recorded this for the purpose of showing the centurion's love for such a person. "He did not despise slaves as other Gentiles commonly did."[7] The character of this noble soldier was evident, not merely in the love lavished upon a slave, but in his love for Israel, (Luke 7:5), and in his support of the worship of God (Luke 7:5). Some sought the aid of Jesus for a son, or daughter, or for themselves; but this man came to Jesus on behalf of a slave.

[6] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 205.

[7] Ibid., p. 200.

Verse 3
And when he heard concerning Jesus, he sent unto him elders of the Jews, asking him that he would come and save his servant.

And when he heard ... What is more likely than the supposition that this centurion had heard from his fellow officer in the same city of the healing of a son; and that both were familiar with the healing of the nobleman's son in the same city? A vast number of Jesus' deeds were wrought in Capernaum (Matthew 11:23). The "hearing" would also have included the very words and attitude by which the first centurion had approached the Lord; and the second would have adopted the approach which was so successful with the first.

The elders ... In this appears one of the differences in the two similar miracles. The first centurion was a heathen; this one was evidently some kind of proselyte to Judaism; for it is hard to believe that he would have built the Jews a synagogue unless he was a follower of Judaism. This officer enlisted the elders of the people to convey his request to the Lord; in the case in Matthew, the centurion himself went to Jesus and made the request.

Verse 4
And they, when they came to Jesus, besought him earnestly, saying, He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him; for he loveth our nation, and himself built our synagogue.

Clearly, the centurion had remained at home (Luke 7:6), and the Jewish elders actually bore the request to Jesus.

Our synagogue ... McGarvey wrote that:

The ruins of Capernaum show the ruins of a synagogue. It was a beautiful structure, built of white limestone, shows by its architecture that it was built in the time of the Herods, and there is little doubt that it is the one which this pious Gentile erected, and in which Jesus taught and healed.[8]

Thus, God raised up a devout Gentile to provide a platform from which many of the marvelous teachings of the Lord would be announced (see John 6:59).

How strange it is that this Roman centurion, a Gentile, and an officer in the hated army of the oppressors, should have received such a commendation as the Jewish elders in Capernaum delivered to Jesus on his behalf. He was one of a class of persons who rose above the base morals of the ancient empire and who rejected the vanity and falsehood of the pagan religions.

He was one among the proselytes, whom the providence of God had so wonderfully prepared in all the great cities of the Greek and Roman world as a link of communication between Gentile and Jew, in contact with both - holding to the first by their race, and to the latter by their religion; and who must have materially helped in the early spread of the faith.[9]

[8] J. W. McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1914), p. 271.

[9] Richard Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p. 241.

Verse 6
And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.

This is clearly a different circumstance from that of the miracle in Matthew, as the next verses emphasize.

Verse 7
Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

Such faith as that shown by the centurion is remarkable indeed.

Say the word ... It is an attribute of God that his word alone is sufficient unto all things. "He spake, and they were made; he commanded, and they were created" (Psalms 148:5). Read the book of Genesis. God said, "Let there be light. And there was light"! It is amazing that this centurion understood this as being true of Jesus. The next verse shows how he arrived at such a conclusion.

Verse 8
For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Having in his possession the knowledge of how Jesus' word had wrought many cures, this centurion, like his fellow officer, had come to recognize God come in the flesh. As Ryle observed:

A greater miracle of healing than this is nowhere recorded in the Gospels. Without even seeing the sufferer, without touch of hand, or look of eye, our Lord restored health to a dying man. He spoke and the sick was cured. He commanded, and the disease departed. No apostle or prophet did a miracle like this. We see here the finger of God.[10]

ENDNOTE:

[10] J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 200.

Verse 9
And when Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole.

It does not appear that the centurion ever came into the presence of the Lord, physically; but, disclaiming for himself any worthiness that Jesus might come under his roof, he nevertheless received him in his heart, which was a far more glorious reception.

No, not in Israel ... That Jesus placed this centurion's faith above ALL that he had seen in Israel is significant. As Taylor said:

This centurion placed Jesus on the throne of the universe, regarding him as the ruler of the world, and as having all things under his command. He saw him, not merely as Messiah, but as God Incarnate, and therein lay the superiority of his faith to that of any of the Israelites. Not even any of the apostles, at that time, had reached the lofty altitude on which this Gentile soldier stood.[11]

He marvelled ... For an article on the "Marvel of Unbelief," see my Commentary on John, index. It is not recorded very often that Jesus marveled; but his marveling here contrasts with his marveling at unbelief (Mark 6:6). It was an inherent condition of the incarnation that Jesus should have experienced amazement and wonder. How would the Lord, to whom all things were known, have wondered, or marveled? Trench called this question "One of the hardest in the whole domain of theology."[12] Every student of the Holy Scriptures must confess the awareness of the mystery in this which is beyond all human comprehension; but by faith we receive the answer supplied by the apostle who wrote that "He emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:6-8).

Accepting this account as a second miracle wrought for the benefit of a centurion would also fit the evident purpose in Luke of giving TWO instances of Jesus' mightiest deeds, rather than merely one. Thus he recorded TWO instances of Jesus' raising the dead (no other Gospel did this), the OTHER genealogy (that of Mary), a SECOND anointing, ANOTHER sermon similar to the one on the mount, a SECOND version of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the cure of a second woman who had long been afflicted (Luke 13:10); a SECOND lament over Jerusalem, a SECOND parable of the slighted invitation, and even recorded very significant utterances of Jesus from the cross which were not even hinted in the other Gospels. This is clearly a characteristic of this Gospel.

[11] William M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour (New York: Richard R. Smith, 1930), p. 167.

[12] Richard Trench, op. cit., p. 246.

Verse 11
And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went to a city called Nain; and his disciples went with him, and a great multitude.

THE RAISING OF THE WIDOW'S SON AT NAIN

"There are many ancient remains of Nain, proving that the place was once of considerable size."[13] It is located "on the northwestern edge of `Little Hermon,' where the ground falls into the plain of Esdraelon."[14] Just east of the city are the remains of rock sepulchres; and the extensive ruins disprove the notion that the place was merely "a humble village of mud-built houses near Nazareth."[15] Luke was altogether correct in calling the place a "city." Today the village is a rather insignificant place called Nein.

Soon afterwards ... may mean "the very next day," as this place reads in some ancient authorities (English Revised Version (1885), margin). Amazingly, only Luke recorded this wonder, the sacred authors having been most certainly restrained by the Spirit of God in what they included or left out.

[13]; ISBE, p. 2111.

[14] F. N. Peloubet, A Dictionary of the Bible (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1912), p. 433.

[15] Roland de Vaux, The World of Jesus (Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1967), p. 304.

Verse 12
Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold there was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

The gate of the city ... does not indicate that the city had a wall, referring rather to "the opening between the houses, by which the road entered the town."[16]

ENDNOTE:

[16]; ISBE, p. 2111.

Verse 13
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

Weep not ... It was not possible, at the moment, for this bereaved widow to respond to such a command; but the Lord never gave a command without supplying the power to obey it. This is still an imperative, with qualification, to Christians of all ages: "Sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Someone has remarked that Jesus broke up every funeral he ever attended!

Verse 14
And he came nigh and touched the bier; and the bearers stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

Touched the bier ... Thus, Jesus defied the ceremonial defilement forbidding such a thing; because the dead could not defile him, but conversely he raised the dead!

Young man, I say unto thee, Arise ... This corresponds exactly, except for the salutation, with what Jesus said to the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:41); and the spiritual application is the same. See under that reference in my Commentary on Mark.

Verse 15
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.

The power of the Son of God is truly infinite. Not even the charlatans of earth have ever attempted to fake such a thing as this. That a dead body should respond to the command of Jesus is a wonder of such magnitude as to numb the senses of all who contemplate it. Following the pattern of all his miracles of raising the dead, Jesus here obviously restored the young man to his former condition in life; and, in this, these miracles of Jesus were different from the resurrection of the Lord. He rose to an eternal existence which he already possessed; those whom he raised rose to the life they had previously possessed, but still subject to mortality.

Verse 16
And fear took hold on all; and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet is arisen among us: and, God hath visited his people.

Fear took hold ... This was the natural result of such a miracle. The souls of men tremble when conscious of the presence of God; and such a presence had clearly demonstrated itself at the gate of Nain. The incarnation was affirmed by the conviction of the people who said, "God hath visited his people."

Verse 17
And this report went forth concerning him in the whole of Judaea, and all the region round about.

The whole of Judaea ... is inclusive of the entire domain of the Herods (Antipas and Agrippa I) with "all the region round about," thus having reference to the whole of what is today called Palestine. There is no way for men to stretch their minds to fully comprehend the impact of such a miracle as Jesus performed, shocking the entire eastern half of the Roman empire.

Nor should it be left unnoticed that this miracle was wrought within a very few miles of Nazareth, whose citizens refused to believe in Jesus. This miracle was close enough that they could not have avoided knowing it happened; and thus Jesus gave his home village another chance to believe on him whom they had despised.

There is a progression in the New Testament resurrections. The daughter of Jairus had been dead but a little while; this son of the widow was dead a longer period, the body being carried to the tomb; and Lazarus was dead and buried four days! All of the resurrections Jesus wrought (except his own) have this in common, that no word has come down to posterity of what any of them said concerning the state of death from which they were rescued. As Taylor said, "They uttered no word concerning the state from which they had been recalled. It was not theirs to bring light and immortality to light."[17]; THAT was reserved for Christ.

ENDNOTE:

[17] William M. Taylor, op. cit., p. 182.

Verse 18
And the disciples of John told him all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to the Lord, saying, Art thou he who cometh, or look we for another?

THE DEPUTATION FROM JOHN THE BAPTIST

John's uncertainty is understandable. He had publicly identified Jesus as the Christ; but the Saviour's Messiahship was not being proclaimed with the dogmatic certainty which John might have expected; therefore, he did with his doubts what every true believer in Christ should always do, that is, he brought them to Jesus who answered and relieved them. When God's children are in doubt, let them search the word of the Lord. If John, instead, had taken his doubts to the Pharisees, he would have been confirmed in his doubt, not in his faith; and the same is true today of many religious leaders. For more on this, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 11:1-3.

Art thou he that should come ...? Humanity must have a Saviour; God promised one; and, if Jesus is not the Saviour, then who is? John did not say, "Art thou he that should come, or shall we cease looking?" but "shall we look for another?" Such is the state of Adam's fallen race that only a Saviour can avail anything. This desperate need of all mankind surfaces in John's question. This was the text chosen by this writer as his "trial sermon" at Walnut Street Church of Christ, Sherman, Texas Oct. 6,1935; but the speaker was not aware of the reason for the murmur of laughter that swept over the audience when his text was announced.

Verse 20
And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues, and evil spirits; and on many that were blind he bestowed sight.

Jesus' answer to John was twofold, including: (1) a demonstration of his messianic power (as here), and (2) a verbal reiteration of it in the next two verses. John the Baptist performed no miracles (John 10:41); and this outflashing of Jesus' miraculous power must have been very impressive to John's disciples; but Jesus went beyond this and quoted the prophecy of Isaiah, who described the times of the Messiah in the terms that Jesus used of his own ministry. See next two verses.

Verse 22
And he answered, and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.

One passage which Jesus clearly had in mind was Isaiah 35:5, in which the prophet foretold the messianic age. Thus Jesus answered John plainly, but not too plainly, that he was indeed the Christ. The reason for Jesus' avoidance of a more dogmatic declaration concerning himself at that time was to deny on his own behalf the malignant, carnal notions of Messiah's true character which had perverted the popular mind of that day. For more on this, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 11:1-3.

The dead are raised up ... has reference to a plurality of resurrections; and here is proof that not all such wonders have been recorded by the sacred authors. Long after the synoptic Gospels were written, John recorded the raising of Lazarus; and there may have been many others whom the Lord raised to life from the dead.

Blessed is he ... The clause introduced by these words shows that Jesus expected John to continue in faith; and the passage immediately afterward indicates that Jesus knew he would continue.

Verse 24
And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind?

JESUS' EULOGY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Jesus meant by this that John was not a vacillating popularity seeker, preaching only those things that fitted the popular mood, a weather-vane type of preacher, pointing in all directions like a reed in the wind.

Verse 25
But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold they that are gorgeously appareled, and live delicately, are in the kings' courts.

The rugged nature of the mighty John was well known, as well as his garment of camel's hair, noted for its discomfort, John being the original man in a hair shirt; and Jesus was saying by this reference that John would stand by his identification of our Lord as "the Lamb of God," regardless of the hardships involved.

Verse 26
But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.

Significantly, these eulogistic remarks were spoken by Jesus after John's disciples had departed, and were therefore offered for the enlightenment of the multitude, and not for any purpose of flattering John. John was more than a prophet in that he was the herald of the Christ, a man of the most magnificent spiritual dimensions.

Verse 27
This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face. Who shall prepare thy way before thee. I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there is none greater than John: yet he that is little in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Thus Jesus identified John the Baptist as the "Elijah" who was to come (Malachi 3:1ff), and as the herald of King Jesus.

Greater than he ... This seemingly paradoxical statement is resolved by the considerations: (1) that John the Baptist was not in the kingdom of Christ, the same not being set up until after John's death, and (2) that the term "greater" has reference to privilege, rather than to character.

Verse 29
And all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him.

These are among the most significant words in the New Testament, showing categorically that the refusal to accept baptism at the hands of John was, in fact, a rejection of the counsel of God on the part of the Pharisees. In the preparatory phase of the kingdom of God, no less than in its reality after Pentecost, refusal to be baptized was here pointed out by Jesus as a "rejection" of God's counsel. Water baptism is one of the elements of the new birth, the being "born of water" to which Jesus referred in his interview with Nicodemus (see comments in my Commentary on John, third chapter). It is therefore true in the present era that failure to heed Christ's command that all men should be baptized is no less a rejection of God's will now than it was when those ancient Pharisees and lawyers rejected it. It is in fact a greater rejection, because John's baptism was only water baptism, the Holy Spirit not having at that time been given; whereas, the baptism of the great commission is followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit. Moreover the conceit that men may receive God's Spirit while rejecting his baptism is refuted by this passage. The new birth, without which none shall see the kingdom of God, includes being "born of water," although that is not the totality of it.

In this passage lies the reason why the publicans and harlots entered into God's kingdom, whereas the Pharisees did not enter it. Another significant reason also appears in the next episode where the sinful woman is presented as "loving" Jesus more than the proud Pharisee; and, as Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

Verse 31
Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like? They are like unto children that sit in the marketplace, and call one to another; who say, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not weep. For John the Baptist is come eating no bread, nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a demon. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified of all her children.

The simile spelled out by Jesus in this passage compares the rejection of both John and Jesus by the same generation to the perverse and unreasonable behavior of spoiled brats sitting in the marketplace, and who would not dance when the piper played, nor mourn when the wailer wailed. They would not play wedding, for that was too happy; and they would not play funeral, for that was too sad! The opposite personalities of John and Jesus were alike rejected by Israel. The last clause, that "wisdom is justified of all her children," shows that both John and Jesus were fulfilling the true mission God sent them to achieve.

The criticisms Jesus mentioned here as having been leveled against himself were only a few of the vicious and unprincipled remarks directed against the Saviour. For no less than ten different false charges made against Jesus by the evil men in that generation, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 11:18-19.

ANOTHER ANOINTING

This anointing which took place in the house of Simon the Pharisee should not be confused with that which took place in Bethany (see my Commentary on John 12:1-8).

Verse 36
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he entered into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.

This Pharisee was Simon (Luke 7:43); and he may not be identified as Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:1f). The circumstances here do not fit the anointing in Bethany at all. Luke's record of another anointing perfectly fits into the pattern he followed throughout the Gospel. See under Luke 7:10.

This Simon was doing what might be called "slumming." He had invited Jesus out for the purpose of studying him; but before the evening ended, Simon found himself the one studied, analyzed and found wanting.

Verse 37
And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment and standing behind at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

It is hyper-ridiculous to equate this with the anointing by the devout Mary, as recorded in the other Gospels. This person was a "sinner," and her knowledge of what was going on in this Pharisee's house speaks volumes about the Pharisee. Her free access to his house shows some affinity between them, although it did not extend so far as a common attitude toward Jesus, whom the Pharisee dishonored, and whom the woman honored. This unfortunate daughter of Israel had fallen into a life of sin, but she recognized in Jesus a holiness and love which opened up the fountain of her tears falling inadvertently upon his feet, a fault (as she viewed it) which was quickly corrected by her wiping them with her hair, and anointing them with the precious ointment. Her kisses, lavished upon his feet, were a further expression of her love for the Son of God.

Verse 39
Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner.

Spake within himself ... Only in the word of God may it be read what men said within themselves, and Luke has several such instances: the prodigal son (Luke 15:17), the unjust steward (Luke 16:3), etc. This Pharisee was correct in one of the premises of his conceited syllogism, namely, that a true prophet would have known who and what manner of person the woman was. However, he was wrong in his companion premise that Jesus did not know who and what manner of person the woman was. He not only knew that but also knew all about Simon, as the conversation at once revealed.

Verse 40
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Teacher, say on.

This was a dramatic moment. The proud, unloving Pharisee had already made up his mind. He had decided that Jesus was an impostor, and one cannot fail to sense the condescension in his icy "Teacher, say on?' But he was in for the shock of his life. The Master began by relating what Simon probably thought was an innocuous little parable; the point he would get later on.

Verse 41
A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty. When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them will love him most?

<LINES><MONO>

The lender = Jesus Christ our Lord The one who owed five hundred shillings = the sinful woman The one who owed fifty shillings = the Pharisee Their both being unable to pay = the fact that no mortal can atone for even the most insignificant of his sins. His freely forgiving both = the unmerited favor of God in providing a means of forgiveness for all.SIZE>MONO>LINES>

The question of who "loved" the most focuses upon the most important element in determining who shall be saved.

Significantly, the sins of the Pharisee, consisting of pride, conceit, and self-righteousness, were here set forth as only a tenth as weighty as the sins of the woman.

Verse 43
Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Simon, so he thought, was merely going along with the little game; his "I suppose" is in the same vein of condescension as the "say on" of Luke 7:40. There was not even anything in Jesus' address to Simon that revealed the blockbuster that Jesus was about to detonate in his face. Simon, no doubt, was still smiling a sophisticated sneer when Jesus said, "Thou hast rightly judged." Then turning to the woman, who in Jesus' sight was the principal audience, he spoke, as it were, over his shoulder to Simon.

Verse 44
And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair.

Simon had slighted and insulted Jesus by withholding the basin of water and the towel normally extended to a visitor, usually at the hands of a servant; and one may only wonder how Simon had made such a slip. Did he suppose that the humble Prophet of the poor would not recognize the omission of such a customary courtesy? Whatever his reason, it must be viewed as an intentional slight, a discourtesy that this Pharisee would not have allowed toward any of his priestly friends; yet he has snubbed the great High Priest.

But God had provided the honor which his only begotten Son required. What the proud Pharisee withheld the sinful woman gave. Her tears replace the basin of water and her hair the towel. How the heart of Simon the hypocrite must have quailed before such a denunciation. His sneering smile froze on his pallid face, as the Judge of all men pronounced sentence upon him in his own house and in the presence of one whom he despised and who was a witness to his humiliation.

Verse 45
Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment.

It was thus a triple insult that Simon had directed against the Lord of life; not merely the basin and the towel, but the customary greeting of a guest with a kiss, and the anointing of the head with oil had also been withheld. But the woman supplied, out of love, all three!

Verse 47
Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

Simon who thought he was judging the Lord suddenly found himself the judged, Jesus claiming in his presence the divine prerogative of judging all men, and announcing in the full majesty of his glorious person forgiveness of the woman whom Simon despised, and conspicuously omitting any reference at all to the forgiveness of Simon. There is not a more dramatic incident in the Scriptures than this. What did Simon say to such a thing? No response was recorded. One may well suppose that both his conversation and his appetite were overcome by what had occurred. The focus at once shifted to what the other guests were saying "within themselves," indicating that the judgment of silence had fallen upon them all.

Verse 49
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that even forgiveth sins?

While the dinner guests were thus concentrating upon their inner thoughts, Jesus reiterated what he had already said.

Verse 50
And he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Far more than forgiveness, salvation itself was thus extended to Simon's impromptu guest. What about her obedience? It was assured. "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments," Jesus said; and here was one who truly loved him. She was not saved by "faith only."

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 7:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=007". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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