Monday, October 24, 2016

A sinner like me


Our studies this week are fraught with peril. (Cue the dramatic music.)

Oh, yes, we tackle some difficult subjects here on the study blog.

But this one is surrounded by controversy. The peril is that we will allow ourselves to be pulled into some chases down rabbit trails. You know what I mean. Sometimes we can get distracted by a side issue, instead of focusing on the "main thing."

This week we will study an incident that is recorded in all four gospels. That in itself makes it a little extraordinary . . . some stories are only mentioned in one or even two of the gospel accounts in our New Testament. For this to appear in all four is remarkable.
Scholars tell us that the gospels were written by four different people. Their choice of words, their focus audience, and even the happenings that they chose to include were all very different. That makes sense, no? Matthew was a Jewish man, and he wrote his gospel to "persuade" his people -- Luke was a Greek, and a physician, so his gospel of Christ's life is different in many ways from Matthew's account.

Well, as someone dear to me always encourages me to do, I'm going to "cut to the chase" here and we'll peruse the four accounts . . . (hang in there, I know this is going to be lengthy, but we are studying God's Word, and our investment in time and attention will be good for us, don't ya know?)

Here it is in Matthew 26:
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Here is Mark's telling of the story:
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Luke's gospel (chapter 7) includes a parable from Jesus:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said.41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
And finally, John's account of an incident:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him,objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Alrighty. We can see there are some differences here, and some similarities. The woman is named; the woman isn't named. The response is from all the disciples, or it's from Judas, or it's not even voiced - just the thoughts of a Pharisee. This happened in Bethany, or it happened elsewhere. Even the timing of the event along the span of Christ's ministry has been debated.
No rabbit trails for us, though. You with me, here? I think that we can learn much from this story, even without pinning down the who, what, where, when, and why . . .

Join me next time, won't you?

(And yes, I will divulge my humble opinion. I find myself agreeing with the commentators who use the clues to say perhaps this was two separate but similar incidents. But I think the important things to learn here have little to do with my opinion!)

1 comment:

Ramblingon said...

Now this is interesting. I would not have thought that it was perhaps two separate women. I will keep thinking about it..and I want to hear or read rather, what you say.