A soldier impresses Jesus
- 7:1 When Jesus finished his sermon, he went back to Capernaum.
- 7:2 There, a Roman centurion’s1 slave—one who was most important to him—had gotten sick and was about to die.
- 7:3 When the soldier heard about Jesus, he recruited some of the Jewish leaders in town to take a message to Jesus, asking him to come and heal the slave.
- 7:4 The Jews met with Jesus and pled with all the emotion they had in them. “This man deserves the help he’s asking for,” they said.
- 7:5 “He loves the Jewish people so much that he built the synagogue2 for us.”
- 7:6 Jesus started walking with them to the centurion’s house. Shortly before they would have gotten there, friends of the centurion delivered a second message to Jesus. “Please sir, you don’t need to trouble yourself by coming any further. I don’t deserve to have you step foot inside my house.
- 7:7 That’s why I didn’t come to you in person. I don’t feel worthy to meet you face-to-face. All you have to do is say the word and my servant will be healed.
- 7:8 I’m a man who serves in a chain of command. I take orders from officers above me. And soldiers under my command take their orders from me. If I tell a soldier to go, he goes. If I tell another soldier to come, he comes. And if I tell someone under my command to do something, he does it.”
- 7:9 When Jesus heard this, he admired the man. He turned to the crowd of people following him and he said, “Let me tell you something. Nowhere in all of Israel have I come across such remarkable faith.”
- 7:10 By the time the soldier’s friends who delivered this message got back to his house, the slave had gotten well.
Raising a widow’s dead son
- 7:11 Not long after that Jesus traveled to the town of Nain,3 accompanied by his entourage of disciples and a large crowd.
- 7:12 As Jesus walked toward the gated entrance into the town, people were carrying out the body of a man who had died. He was the only son of his widowed mother. A large crowd from the town walked with this grieving mother.
- 7:13 The scene deeply moved Jesus with compassion. He told the woman, “Don’t cry.”
- 7:14 He walked over to the man’s coffin and touched it. The people who were carrying it stopped walking. Jesus said, “Young man, I’m talking to you. Get up!”
- 7:15 The dead man sat up and started talking. Once again the mother had her son. It’s because Jesus gave him back to her.
- 7:16 This resurrection put the fear of God in the people. It scared them. Yet they saw God’s glory in the miracle, too, and they said, “We have a great prophet here among us. God has come to help his people.”
- 7:17 A news bulletin about what Jesus did spread all over the area and into Judea.4
Jesus gets a message from John the Baptist
- 7:18 Disciples of John the Baptist told him about everything Jesus was doing.
- 7:19 John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus an important question: “Are you the one we have been waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”
- 7:20 As instructed, the men went to Jesus. They told him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask you a question. Are you the one we have been waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”
- 7:21 The timing couldn’t have been better because Jesus had just healed many people of sickness and disease. He had exorcised evil spirits. And he gave the blind back their sight.
- 7:22 He told John’s disciples, “Go and tell John exactly what you’ve seen and heard. The blind can see. The crippled can walk. Lepers5 are cleansed of the disease. The deaf can hear. The dead come back to life. The poor have finally heard the good news they’ve been waiting for.
- 7:23 One more thing. Some people are fortunate enough to get God’s approval. They are the ones who don’t shy away from me because they disapprove of what I’m doing.”
- 7:24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus talked to the crowd about John. “What exactly did you go out into the badlands to look for? A frail blade of grass trembling in the wind?
- 7:25 Come on now, tell me what did you expect to find? Really. A man dressed in the finest, softest, most expensive linen? You do know that people who wear expensive clothes tend to live in the luxury of large homes and royal palaces. Right?
- 7:26 Now what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, exactly. But I want you to know that he is more than just a prophet.
- 7:27 He’s the one described in our sacred writings.
'Listen to me. I’m sending my messenger ahead of you.
He’ll get everything ready for you. He’s going to pave the road ahead of you.'6
- 7:28 Let me tell you something, of all the humans ever born, there is no one any greater than John the Baptist. But in God’s kingdom, even the least important person is greater than John.”
- 7:29 Most of the people listening replied by saying God treated people fairly, with justice. These people included tax collectors John had baptized.
- 7:30 Pharisees7 and scholars who were experts in Jewish law disagreed. John had not baptized any of them. They wanted nothing to do with the plans God had for them.
- 7:31 Jesus asked, "How can I describe the people in this generation? What are they like?
- 7:32 They’re like kids playing in the park, complaining to each other,
'We played our music for you
but you didn’t dance.
We sang our sad songs,
but you didn’t cry.'
- 7:33 You complain about John the Baptist who abstains from drinking wine and doesn’t even indulge in eating bread. You say it’s because, 'He’s demon possessed!'
- 7:34 And you complain about me, the Son of Humans,8 because I eat and I drink. You say, 'Look at him! That guy is a glutton and a drunk who hangs out with the likes of tax collectors and other no-good sinners!'
- 7:35 If you’re looking for proof that wisdom is right, look to her children who obey her."9
Meal with a Pharisee and a fallen woman
- 7:36 One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with them. So Jesus went in to the Pharisees house and sat down at the table.
- 7:37 There was a woman in town who had a bad reputation; everyone knew she was a sinner. She heard that Jesus was in town, relaxing at a table in the home of this Pharisee. She went there, taking an alabaster jar of perfume.
- 7:38 She stood behind him, where he had positioned his feet as he rested beside the table.10 She started crying so much that she bathed his feet with her tears. She wiped his feet with her hair and then kissed them while she poured perfume on them.
- 7:39 When the Pharisee who was hosting Jesus saw this he said to himself, “If this man is really a prophet, he should know that the woman who is touching him right now is a sinner.”
- 7:40 Jesus had an answer for him. “Simon, I want to tell you something.” The Pharisee replied, “Teacher, I’m listening. Say what’s on your mind.”
- 7:41 Jesus said, “There were two people who owed money to a banker. One person owed 500 coins.11 The other person owed only 50.
- 7:42 Neither of them could afford to pay their debt. The banker realized this and simply canceled their debts. Which one of these people who owed money would think most highly of the banker?"
- 7:43 Simon said, “Well, I suppose it would be the man who had the biggest debt.” Jesus said, “You got that right.”
- 7:44 Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I want you to know something. I came into your house at your invitation. You didn’t give me any water for my feet, but she did. She washed my feet with her tears and then she wiped them with her hair.
- 7:45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss when I arrived. But in all the time I’ve been here, she has not stopped kissing my feet.
- 7:46 You didn’t show me the hospitality of anointing my head with oil. But she has poured perfume on my feet.
- 7:47 I can assure you of this, her sins—and there were plenty of them—have been forgiven. She is expressing great love. People who haven’t been forgiven of much don’t have as much love."
- 7:48 Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins have been forgiven.”
- 7:49 The people reclining at the table with Jesus started to whisper among themselves, “Who does this guy think he is, forgiving sins?”
- 7:50 Jesus told the woman, “Your faith saved you. Go in peace.”
Commander of a unit of roughly 100 soldiers, which is where they got the “century” for centurion.
Capernaum ruins of an ancient synagogue from the AD 300s or 400s are built on black foundation stones that some archaeologists say are from the first century – possibly the very synagogue the Roman centurion built in this small fishing village.
Nain is about a 30-mile (50-km) walk from Capernaum, walking south along the banks of the Sea of Galilee, and turning west toward the Jezreel Valley. That would take about a day and a half to walk. It’s also about a six-mile (10-km) walk from his hometown of Nazareth.
The southern part of what is now Israel and Palestinian Territories. This is where Jerusalem is located, and where the most influential Jewish leaders lived.
The Greek word for leprosy could refer to a lot of different skin disorders, most of which are far less critical than leprosy, known today as Hansen’s disease.
Luke 5:17 footnote.
Usually translated Son of Man. See note 5:24.
Compare to a similar saying in Matthew 11:19.
Tables were often low to the floor. To eat, people would lie on pillows around the table. That could help explain how Jesus might have been facing the table and perhaps leaning on it, while his feet extended behind him.
Each coin was a denarius, which was considered a day’s wage at the time, according to Matthew 20:2.
A Roman soldier is the first one on record to express a belief that Jesus had power beyond time and space. In other healings, Jesus is touching the people. But this soldier seems to believe that Jesus can heal from a distance at any time he wants. What do you think would compel him to believe that?
It’s probably fair to presume that people were dying fairly often during Jesus’s ministry. But only rarely are there reports of him raising people from the dead. Yet in the village of Nain, he decided to resurrect the only son of a “widowed mother” (7:12). We don’t know why he chose this man. Based on what Luke reports, what do you think may have motivated Jesus? Do you think there’s any chance he may have seen his mother in the widowed woman?
John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus if he was “the one we have been waiting for” (7:19). A more literal translation would be “Are you the one who was to come?” Either way, the question sounds vague or cryptic. What do you think John may have had in mind?
Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest human being ever born, but that he was not even as great as the least important person in “God’s kingdom” (7:28). What do you think was the point of that? Was Jesus mainly trying to say something about John or the kingdom of God?
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what Jesus is trying to say—at least as he’s quoted in the Bible stories about him. We hit one of those times when we come to Jesus describing his generation as “kids playing in the park, complaining to each other” (7:32). Given what Luke reports in that episode, from 7:29-7:35, how would you paraphrase what he’s trying to say? Could the dance in 7:32 represent the lifestyle of Jesus, while the sad songs represent the self-sacrificing lifestyle of John the Baptist? Or might the first group be an attempt to describe people who follow Jesus, but are complaining to people who still follow John the Baptist? Or is Jesus talking about the Jewish leaders who don’t care for Jesus or John?
It’s a common misconception that the sinful woman with “a bad reputation” (7:37) was Mary Magdalene. One reason many scholars doubt that is because this story would have been the perfect opportunity for Luke to introduce the character of Mary Magdalene. But Luke waits until chapter 8 to do that. Do you think that’s a strong enough argument?
All four of the Gospels have Jesus telling stories similar to this one in Luke 7:36-50. The other stories are in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8. Take a look at those. Do you think the writers are describing one event from different perspectives or different events?
Why do you think Jesus let the woman with the bad reputation continue kissing his feet at the dinner table? Doesn’t that seem a little much?
LIFE APPLICATION. Why do you think it’s often so hard to have faith that God will do what we want him to do?
LIFE APPLICATION. If someone is reading the story of that woman with a bad reputation and they find themselves teary-eyed about what she does and how Jesus responds, why do you think they got worked up and a bit emotional?
- They see themselves in the story as someone God has forgiven.
- The extravagant mercy of Jesus is moving.
- People love to see the little guy and the down-and-outers get help from someone who cares about them.
- They need their hormone medication adjusted.