By Barbara Klugh
1 Kings 21:1-21a; Psalm 5:1-8; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Elijah proclaims God’s judgment against Ahab, Paul affirms that our right relationship with God comes through Jesus Christ, and Jesus forgave the sins of a woman who anointed him with her tears.
Kings 21:1-21a: Our passage from Kings is a story about the corruption of power that, unfortunately, is all too familiar in our own day as well. Here we have Naboth, a common man who honors God, contrasted with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel–a powerful couple who will stop at nothing to get what they want–and the prophet Elijah who confronts Ahab with his sin. King Ahab wants to buy Naboth’s vineyard. Naboth refuses because the property was his “ancestral inheritance.” This is significant because according to Levitical law, the land could not be permanently transferred because it actually belongs to the Lord. Ahab is sulking about it, and the wicked Jezebel takes over. She devises a plan that causes Naboth’s death based on false accusations and false witnesses. God sends Elijah to confront Ahab, “Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you.” Although not in the lectionary, Ahab does repent, and God postpones the promised disaster for a while.
Psalm 5:1-8: Psalm 5 is an individual lament, in which the psalmist pleads his case to “my king and my God” for deliverance from his enemies. He trusts in God to protect and defend the faithful. The concluding verse affirms “For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.”
Galatians 2:15-21: Here is some background for our reading from Galatians. There was a dispute going on in the early church. Some Jewish-Christian preachers had come into Galatia, asserting that Gentiles must be circumcised and follow Jewish dietary laws—Paul did not teach this. Later, at Antioch, Peter retreated from his former approval of a law-free gospel for the Gentiles. Peter and others, under pressure from the Jerusalem leadership, stopped eating with Gentile Christians. Paul confronted Peter publicly with this backpedaling of his convictions.
Paul’s comments continue in our reading. It’s brief, but incredibly rich. Paul states his bottom-line gospel: we are justified (in right relationship with God) through faith in Jesus Christ, not by the works of the law. Period. Paul understands his new identity, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me….and gave himself for me.” Paul argues that once freedom is granted through faith in Christ, how could they want to rebuild the law that is no longer necessary? That would mean that Christ died for nothing and so would “nullify the grace of God.”
Luke 7:36-8:3: The story of a woman bathing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing Jesus with precious ointment appears in all four gospels, with some variations. In Luke, the story takes place early in Jesus’ ministry, rather than in Jesus’ last days.
I this week’s reading, a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to dinner. An uninvited “woman of the city” sinful woman entered Simon’s home with an alabaster jar of ointment. She anointed the feet the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair. Then she kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment. Simon was outraged that Jesus accepted the lavish attention from this sinful woman. Jesus read Simon’s judging mind and used the incident as a teachable moment about forgiveness—the larger the debt that is canceled, the greater the gratitude. Simon, the host, had not shown common hospitality, but the woman had shown great love. Jesus recognized the woman’s faith, and said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The guests at the table talked among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Then Jesus is again on the move with his followers proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Luke shows us that Jesus’ followers included female disciples as well—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Chuza, Susanna, and many others, who helped finance Jesus’ ministry.