The Story of a Sinful Woman

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1 The Story of a Sinful Woman in Luke 7:36-50 Day One Anticipate: to look forward to or expect When you read the story of the sinful woman, you can almost imagine it taking place in the modern-day Muslim world many of the details are strikingly similar. One thing that makes this story so radical is the woman s public response to Jesus message of grace and forgiveness; for a woman to touch a man in public and wash his feet with her hair was shocking. Two centuries later, the act still would be surprising, if not scandalous, in the modern Muslim world. During the time of Jesus earthly ministry, a Hebrew wouldn t touch anything or anyone who was unclean; today, a practicing Muslim also won t touch people or objects considered unclean. In Bible times, respectable Jewish women kept their hair hidden from all men except those in the immediate family; the same is true of many Muslim women today. Hospitality was a treasured tradition in the ancient Middle East; if you visit that part of the world today, you ll still find amazing hospitality. Key verse: Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47 At the time this story from Luke 7 took place, Pharisees were religious leaders who strictly observed the law. They also made it their job to be sure other people obeyed both the law and cultural regulations. In this story, Jesus host, Simon, is a Pharisee. He, like the other people in his culture, values hospitality. The rules of hospitality were strict and designed to honor the guest; to ignore the rules would show disrespect and a lack of honor. A host in Simon s day would honor his guests by providing three things to welcome them: He would greet them with a kiss, wash their feet and anoint their feet with oil to refresh them after their walk on dusty roads. Feasts like the one in our story were held in open courtyards where people from the village could come and watch the lifestyle of the rich and famous of their day. It was customary to dine while lying on couches with the head toward the table and the feet away. Guests removed their sandals before reclining. Jesus would have been in this position, allowing the woman in the story to approach Him without difficulty. 1

2 1. With that cultural background in mind, read the story silently: Luke 7:36-50 Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee s house. She brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil. When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him she s a sinner! Jesus replied to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. Teacher, he said, say it. A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more? Simon answered, I suppose the one he forgave more. You have judged correctly, He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn t anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little. Then He said to her, Your sins are forgiven. Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, Who is this man who even forgives sins? And He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you. Go in peace. 2

3 2. Read the story again, slowly and out loud. As you read, imagine the scene. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to Jesus inter- action with this woman. 3. What was the woman risking to come to Jesus? 4. Why do you think she was weeping? 5. How did Jesus response to her set her free to serve Him? Day Two Participate: things done to make ready He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 As you think and meditate on the story, you participate in the Spirit s work of teaching and applying the Word. 1. Read the story, paying careful attention to the three characters Simon, Jesus and the woman. 2. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you truth about the three characters in the story. 3. Write your reflections. What did the three characters do? What emotions did they express? What do you think of their actions? Simon 3

4 Jesus The woman Day Three Participate: things done to make ready As you think and meditate on the story, you participate in the Spirit s work of teaching and applying the Word. Storytelling is an art, and in our visual, literate culture it s almost become a lost art. Jesus was a master storyteller. He used a story to get Simon s attention and to make a point about love and forgiveness. In today s world, too, a story can be a very powerful tool in sharing truth with our families, friends and the lost. Even if you ve never considered yourself a storyteller, you can learn the art of storytelling. Here are some simple ways to remember and tell a story. Break the story into scenes or short bits of action or conversation. Look for key verbs that you can put into motion as you tell the story things like, Jesus reclines at the table or The woman stands at His feet. You can move your body to express these actions. Use facial expressions. For example, how would you show the woman weeping and washing Jesus feet? How could your face display Simon s disapproval of Jesus receiving the woman s attention? Use vocal inflection and tonal qualities to represent each person in the story. How can you make their voices sound different to emphasize the meaning of the story? 4

5 1. Read the story aloud, remembering the suggestions above. You might want to read it out loud several times and experiment with different movements and vocal tones to make the story come alive. 2. Write the story in your own words. Jesus encounters the sinful woman Simon thinks to himself Jesus tells Simon a story Jesus compares Simon s lack of hospitality to the woman s generous service Jesus forgives the woman 5

6 Day Four Participate: things done to make ready As you think and meditate on the story, you participate in the Spirit s work of teaching and applying the Word. 1. Read the story silently or aloud. 2. Oil was used to anoint kings in the Old Testament. Read 1 Samuel 10:1 and 1 Samuel 16:1,13. What was the significance of the woman anointing Jesus with oil? 3. How can your actions and offerings honor Jesus as King of kings in your life? 4. Tell this story in your own words to a friend or family member. 5. Did God give you new insights about the story as you told it to someone else? Record those insights here. 6

7 Day Five Participate: things done to make ready As you think and meditate on the story, you participate in the Spirit s work of teaching and applying the Word. 1. Pray through the text. As you pray, ask the Lord to give you spiritual eyes. 2. Talk through the questions below with God. Take time to listen for His response. Write down what God reveals to you. How are you like the woman? How great is your sin? Read Romans 3:23. What does it say about sin? Have you brought your offering to Jesus? How are you like Simon? Do you see those around you with the eyes of a Pharisee? Are you self-righteous in your view of sinners like this woman? 7

8 Contrast Jesus response to the woman to Simon s attitude toward her. Why did Jesus ask Simon, Do you see this woman? What did Jesus see that Simon did not? Day Six Celebrate: to commemorate an event, to publish abroad, to make famous My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. Psalm 63:3 Let the story live through you. Instructions for groups: If you re working through Glorify with other women, do DAY SIX together with your group. Ask for a volunteer to tell the story of the woman in Luke 7. After hearing the story, discuss the questions below with your group. Ask volunteers to look up and read the Scriptures for discussion. Instructions for individuals: If you re working through Glorify alone, complete DAY SIX on your own. Instead of discussing questions with a group, just write down your responses. 1. In Luke 7, Jesus showed the woman hospitality by showing her respect and accepting her love. Think about different people in your life, including in your home, your work, your community and your church. How can you demonstrate to others the kind of hospitality Jesus offered? 8

9 2. The woman in Luke 7 showed hospitality to Jesus by washing His feet and anointing them with oil. Though Jesus is not with us physi- cally, how can we show hospitality to Jesus like this woman did? 3. How did the woman s actions glorify Jesus? Why did she risk the disapproval of people around her to offer Jesus such honor and respect? 4. Why did Jesus forgive the woman s many sins? What did Jesus see in her that Simon missed? To help you answer the questions, read the following verses: Jeremiah 17: Samuel 16:7 John 2: What do you think Jesus meant when He told the woman, Your faith has saved you? To help you answer the question, read the following verses and see what they teach you about faith. Romans 1:

10 Romans 4:20-21 Romans 10:17 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God s gift not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 2:8-9 Hebrews 11:6 6. Watch Prostitute in Rio (included on the DVD in the Glorify resource kit). Then use the bullet points below to discuss the video with your group or to think through it on your own. God s grace and forgiveness changed Marcia s life dramatically. Share how your own life has been changed by God s grace or, in other words, by the hospitality that He has shown you. 10

11 Marcia now regularly returns to the dangerous areas where she used to work as a prostitute. Instead of selling her body, she now tells others about how God has changed her life. What are you doing now to tell other people about the grace you have experienced? If you re not sharing about God s grace regularly, think about what God has done in your life; talk with other people in your group about where you might find opportunities to share God s grace. People today are looking for a safe and accepting community in which to work out their identity. Richardson, Rick. Evangelism Outside the Box: New Ways to Help People Experience the Good News. (IVP, Downers Grove, IL; 2000), pg 46. How is God using Eric Reese and his family to make Himself known? Did anything else from the video stand out to you? 11

12 7. Before you close your group/individual time in prayer, take five minutes or so to reflect alone on the week s study. Ask God what truths He wants you always to remember from the story, and ask Him what practical changes He wants you to make in your own life. Write down what God reveals to you. 8. Pray and celebrate God s great and mighty deeds in your life and the world! Use sentence prayer and celebrate in a concert of prayer and praise. You might want to speak to the Lord silently or publicly. The woman in our story made her offering of praise very publicly. Here are some suggestions for prayer, but allow the Spirit to lead as you offer a sacrifice of praise from your lips: Praise Jesus for His mercy and forgiveness. Ask the Spirit to show you any spiritual pride or sin. Confess your sin, and Jesus will graciously forgive you, just like He did the woman. Ask the Father to give you wisdom and discernment as you encounter people this week. Ask for God s eyes to see the spiritual needs of people in your sphere of influence. Ask the Father to send laborers to help Eric, his family and their national partners make Christ known. Celebrate God s work of grace to set women like Marcia free from a life of prostitution. Pray for women and children trapped in the darkness of sexual exploitation to experience freedom in Christ. 12

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