2. Outcast Women Identified By Lifestyle: An Immoral WomanRelated Media
Time: Jesus’ Second Year of Ministry, ~28 AD
Hospitality in Jesus’ Time
After Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, he continued teaching and performing many miracles and gained many followers. Consequently, his second year of ministry is known as the “Year of Popularity.” During this period, Jesus chose His 12 disciples and preached the Sermon on the Mount. He spent time traveling throughout Galilee and in the area of Capernaum. Located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum was a sizable town in Jesus' day. Peter's house there became Jesus' base of operations during His extended ministry in Galilee. The inhabitants of Capernaum had many opportunities to see and hear Jesus.
Hospitality to guests was one of the most important social functions of the ancient East. A guest was highly honored even if he was a stranger passing by. Though there were inns in Jesus' day, most travelers looked for a home where they could spend the night. When a stranger appeared at or near someone's door close to evening, the head of the household almost always let him in and asked him to spend the night. If the homeowner refused to be hospitable, friends and neighbors could snub him. A host always kept in mind that someday he, too, might be a weary traveler looking for shelter and company.
Once inside, the wife or a servant brought water to wash the guest's feet, though the host might do it for a special guest. Since the roads were always dusty and most people walked, washing was an important step in making one's guest feel at home.
When a guest was in the house, a large meal was prepared. Often the guest would be served first, and the host waited until he was finished. Other customs included anointing the guest with oil, which they used as soap, or even providing clothing for the mealtime.
According to custom, a guest should stay no longer than three days in his host's home. While there, the host protected his guest. On leaving, the host was to escort his guest a short distance, sending him on his way.
Day One Study
1. Read Luke 7:18-35. Differentiate between how the general public viewed Jesus' ministry from how the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (lawyers) viewed it.
- General Public—
- Pharisees and Lawyers—
2. Jesus gives an illustration in vv. 31-35. What principle did he give in v. 35?
3. How did Jesus view the Pharisees and lawyers? See also Matthew 6:2,5; Matthew15:1-9,12-14 and Luke 11:42.
Historical Insight: The Pharisees were a religious society of ~6,000 men who strictly obeyed the law of God as interpreted by the scribes. This law consisted of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the tradition of the elders (the oral law), containing hundreds of rules and prohibitions. The Pharisees thought that the oral law, the rules made up by the religious leaders, was equally inspired and was thus to be followed as much as God's Law. They were especially particular about keeping the laws of tithing and ritual purity. Since the Pharisees found that other Jews were not careful enough about keeping these laws, they placed limits on their contact with other Jews as well as with Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew). Though originally standing against evil in society and in personal lives, by Jesus' day many had become narrow and petty, more concerned with rules than with God. They looked on sinful people as tainted and, therefore, to be avoided. They did not approve of a rabbi or any other important religious person mingling or eating with sinful people.
4. Living Out His Love: The New Testament teaches us as believers that we need to discern between good religious teachers/leaders who really care about “shepherding their flock” and the false ones who tear apart a flock of Christians as savage wolves do to sheep—usually through false teaching and selfish behavior. Who empowers us to discern? See 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 and Philippians 1:9-11. What does the Spirit give us as a basis of truth to be able to discern good influences from bad influences? Have you previously asked Jesus to help you discern influences in your life? What happened? If you need that discernment now, ask Jesus for it. This would be a great time to pray for your church leadership as well.
Day Two Study
5. Read Luke 7:36-50. Remember that the Pharisees considered themselves to be Israel’s spiritual leaders (Nicodemus in Lesson One), the ones staying faithful to God’s law but also the ones to whom Jesus referred in the previous verses (Day One Study). For what reason(s) might the Pharisee have invited Jesus to have dinner with him?
Think About It: We should not overlook the fact that Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner from a Pharisee. He did not cut all the religious leaders off simply because most of them rejected Him. He dealt with people as individuals. He still does!
6. Describe the scene, including the woman and her actions.
Historical Insight: [The woman’s] presence was not unusual for “social custom allowed needy people to visit such meals and to partake of some of the leftovers. Moreover, it was not unusual for people to drop in when a rabbi was visiting. Luke gallantly omitted describing why the woman "was a sinner," though…she was a member of the social class called sinners, whom the Pharisees regarded as treating the law loosely.” (Dr. Constable’s Notes on Luke, p. 120)
7. Why do you think she was weeping, using her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet?
8. Deeper Discoveries (optional): What is the significance of the alabaster jar of perfume? Find out everything you can about the jar and its contents during Jesus’ time. Jewish women frequently wore such vials suspended from a cord around their necks. What might this jar of perfume have represented to the woman? What was she giving to Jesus?
Day Three Study
9. Read Luke 7:36-50 concentrating on Jesus' teachable moment with the Pharisee who invited Him (as well as others present). How did the Pharisee, in specific, view the woman?
10. How did Jesus view the woman?
11. Discuss the irony in vs. 39-40 about the Pharisee's thought and Jesus' response. Review John 2:25.
12. Summarize the actual parable told by Jesus to the Pharisee.
13. What is Jesus teaching through the parable?
Think About It: Your capacity to love is directly tied to your capacity to get how deeply you have been forgiven. Agree or disagree?
14. How does Jesus rebuke the Pharisee’s harsh attitude through the parable? What is He implying the Pharisee thinks about himself?
15. Living Out His Love: Christians who have been filling their time with church activities and surrounding themselves with church friends for years may develop a critical “stay away from me” attitude towards the nonbelievers around them. We may forget how much we have been forgiven, also. And, we tend to stay comfortable by insulating ourselves from worldly influences through staying away from worldly people, the same people who need to know Jesus’ love in their lives. Read John 17:15-20. Jesus sent us into the world, not to insulate ourselves from it but to impact it for Him. In what ways do you feel this tension in your life?
When befriending those who haven’t experienced the love of Jesus yet, ask Jesus to help you not act shocked or offended by their language or behavior. Expect them to behave like nonbelievers—salty language, immoral lifestyle, or bad relationships. Feel compassion for where they are. Remember, it’s not our job to “fix” them but to give them hope by pointing them to Jesus who can give them new life. With your group, talk through how to be unshockable. Think through gracious and inviting language of your own.
- What not to do or say: What would not be considered gracious? What words, facial expressions, or body reactions would not be welcoming or inviting?
- What to do or say: What would be gracious? What words, facial expressions, or body reactions would likely be welcoming or inviting?
Day Four Study
16. Reread Luke 7:36-50 concentrating on the results. Discuss Jesus' response to the woman in vs. 47-50. What does Jesus grant to her and why?
17. What was her greatest need before knowing Jesus? What did Jesus give her to meet that need?
Focus on the Meaning: The Greek word translated “forgiveness” means literally, “to send off or send away.” The result is “to separate the sin from the sinner” as described in Psalm 103:12 and Leviticus 16:20-22). Translated to what Jesus has done for us, forgiveness means, “Man's guilt has been transferred to a substitute (Jesus Christ) and taken away." Our problem before Christ came: Mankind is guilty before a holy God. God’s answer is to take away the guilt. What a gracious gift!
18. Did Jesus give her everything she needed to begin to make a life change? Explain your answer. See also 2 Peter 1:3.
Think About It: Jesus took notice of this “worthless” woman of the town, recognized her faith in Him, cleansed her of sin, and gave her new hope.
19. Living Out His Love: No matter what you've done and who on earth does not forgive you, Jesus does—through faith in Him! Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. You can simply tell God,
"Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me, thank You for redeeming my sin and turning something evil into something good. Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus' help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do." (Sue Bohlin, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)
Now, choose to believe you are forgiven and allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for his amazing gift!
20. Living Out His Love: The best test of whether you have really learned anything or not is by explaining what you have learned to someone else. Review the definition of forgiveness. Then, write how you would explain forgiveness to someone who may not understand it but needs to know the complete forgiveness she has in Christ. Think in terms of someone from a particular age group or stage of life. For example, how would you explain “forgiveness” to a woman who has had an abortion in her past and is feeling awful about it? Or, consider someone you know who is wrestling with guilt over her part in a broken relationship. Explain forgiveness to her.
As you reflect on this study, remember how much Jesus has forgiven you. We don’t just need a teacher but a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves. All of our debt before God is enormous, being incapable of ever being paid back. Look at people with a sense of equality in our need for God’s mercy. Have compassion on non-Christians. Get ideas from Tammy as she reached out to her immoral neighbor…
Tammy’s Story: Intentional Loving
This past fall I sat by my neighbor Michelle at all the high school football games. She lives with her boyfriend in my neighborhood and is a self-professing agnostic. We laughed and enjoyed each other’s company all fall, and our relationship developed. Many of the neighborhood women, including those who identify themselves as Christians, don't even want to be seen talking with her let alone going anywhere with her because of her living arrangements. My husband Tom and I have chosen a different relationship, enjoyed their company and growing friendship along the way. From the beginning, we began praying for them as a couple asking the Lord to reveal himself to them, not because of their living arrangements, but because neither knows Jesus. Rather than holding them at arms length, we have entered into the long slow pull of intentional, grace-filled friendship that seeks to do nothing more than extend the love of Christ to them, and where opportunity presents itself, speak the truth in love.
By spending time together, I have learned a lot about her life that has helped me understand our relationship better. She grew up in a non-religious family that rarely attended worship services. She had many faith questions as a youth that in her view went unanswered and were avoided by her Catechism teachers at a time in her life when she was open to spiritual things. As the years passed she landed on agnosticism, a belief in something, but not knowing what that something is, or whether that something can even be known. With no understanding of God, the revelation of himself and his precepts found in Scripture, she lacked an understanding that it was against God's standards of holiness to live with someone who is not her husband.
By the end of the football season, I was able to naturally extend an invitation to our Women's Ministry outreach event, a ladies tea where she sat with some of those same neighbors, and she and her boyfriend joined us for the Christmas Eve service and dinner afterwards. We had an amazing night together and it is clear God is moving in her life. As we hike together we talk about all kinds of things, including spiritual things.
We have had four other ladies who have started attending Hope Bible Fellowship Church with stories similar to Michelle’s story. In response, my husband Todd offered a class during the school day where they can safely explore the truth claims of the Christian faith. All but one of the ladies decided to attend, and one more lady from our neighborhood and an older, more spiritually mature woman in our church who is very loving and willing to also come along the ladies exploring a relationship to Christ.
After the first class Michelle, and went hiking together. I learned from her that my husband had asked her what drew her to the class privately. Although I know it is the Holy Spirit that is drawing her, she said, “Your wife's persistence.”
I contacted Michelle 7 different ways: 1) sitting by her at football games, 2) inviting her via Facebook, 3) texting her, 4) leaving a message on her phone, 5) dropping the book they would study by her house, 6) calling and reminding her the night before and 7) being available for hikes.
Sounds persistent, but she respected my perseverance and my excitement I had for her faith growing. Believe in breakthroughs for unbelievers! Pray creatively and courageously for unbelieving friends and neighbors. You never know who has an opportunity to speak truth as they begin to discover Jesus and His healing. Follow through with a willingness to listen and share the freedom Christ has given you.