Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dining with harlots

The title is as provocative as the incident where the Lucan Jesus dines with Simon the Pharisee. Unexpectedly an unknown woman enters the dining area to wash the feet of the famous guest. Simon considers the uninvited intruder to be a sinner, but more importantly, that the woman threaten the purity of the household. Simon does not have the woman evicted which would be the expected response if the intruder was a harlot. Instead Simon waits and sees what the reaction of his guest will be to the presence of the woman. The silence of Simon is puzzling. Did Simon not react because he realized that he too was a sinner? In fact, it is also puzzling that at the end of the story we do not know the outcome.

Jesus administered shock therapy to Simon the Pharisee as well to the lawyer who was forced to recognize that the Good Samaritan was his neighbor. There are a number of stories where Jesus forced his interrogator to acknowledge a troubling truth but left us hanging as to the outcome. Did either Simon or the lawyer become a follower of Jesus? I assume that this “hanging outcome” technique is a rhetorical device employed by Luke.

There is a notable exception. Jesus ate meals with sinners throughout his ministry. The Good Thief was not of those who had the opportunity to dine with Jesus in his lifetime. He was however given entry to paradise where he would join Jesus at the messianic banquet.

Shock therapy has also been administered by those writers who have demonstrated that we have no basis for assuming that the woman was a harlot. Luke tells us that she shed tears as she began her task. This detail which only Luke includes is important. Her tears said more than words. Her sins were forgiven. We do not need to know what her sins were. Tradition does tell us that she became one of the many women who served Jesus.

The title is now inappropriate.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008


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