“Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me…’” (Matthew 18:21)
The “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant,” which is the subtitle used in my old New Revised Standard Version, is easily understood.
(And maybe unsettling.)
The disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive another.
Not surprisingly, Jesus told Peter a parable. In the parable, Person A forgave Person B. Did it matter that Person A was the “master” and Person B was the “servant?” While it added detail and tension, I’m not sure it’s important. One forgave another. The story continued, becoming more complicated. Person B, having felt the joy of forgiveness, was next seen confronting Person C.
Person C owed Person B.
B didn’t forgive C. Indeed, B did bad things to C.
A, clearly in the loop of information, learned what B did to C.
As quick as you can say a-b-c, Person B, once forgiven, once the recipient of compassion, was tossed into the slammer by A.
(Whew. Bad things do happen to bad people!)
Christianity, from the earliest Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions through today’s rise of non-denominational churches, has emphasized the healing power of forgiveness. But what about other religions? The Qur’an, in Surah 7:199, implored: Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant. The Buddha invited: To understand everything is to forgive everything.
Isn’t forgiveness central to every faith tradition?
Luke 7:36 – 8:3 – The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 16, 2013
“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him…” (Luke 7:36)
The Gospel of Luke and its affiliates proudly present:
THE PHARISEE AND THE WHORE*
These are the players . . .
Simon, the Pharisee.
An unnamed whore**.
And those at the table.
This is what happened . . .
Simon asked Jesus to his home for a meal.
The whore arrived uninvited and bathed Jesus’ feet with ointment from an alabaster jar, her tears and kisses.
The Pharisee was ________*** by the woman’s actions. Simon wondered if Jesus knew a sinner’s hands had touched him.
Jesus regaled his dinner companions with a tale about forgiving sins. And to cap the evening off, Jesus noted Simon had treated him like dirt, while the whore honored him.
Jesus, after the story within the story, forgave the whore’s sins.
Those at the table grumbled and Luke’s chapter ended.
So what came next for Simon the Pharisee, Jesus, the whore and those at the table?
* I’m not happy with the title. It needs more oomph.
** Luke’s Gospel refers to her as “a sinner.” Maybe she stole bread from the farmer’s market or cheated her boss out of money or worked on the Sabbath. Then or now, there are many ways to sin. But, if only to enhance the story’s drama, to add a whiff of titillating sex like in a bad Hollywood movie, I’ll call her a whore. It’s fine with me if you prefer her as a thief or cheater.
*** Luke doesn’t toss in a nice juicy word or two to reveal how the Pharisee felt. What do you think? Was the Pharisee . . . amused, disappointed, offended, irked, flabbergasted, angry or aroused?
* * *
The Pharisee in Luke 7’s verses troubles me.
I’m troubled by the Pharisee’s actions, and by what may come next for the person who invited Jesus to his table, because I’m a “religious authority,” a modern day version of a Pharisee. Long, long ago, when a United Methodist bishop gingerly rested his palm on my head, and declared me ordained, I began to read the Bible with different eyes.