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Bible: What Does Luke 7 Teach Us About the Widow of Nain, John the Baptist, and Simon the Pharisee?

Updated on November 29, 2016

The Raising of the Widow's Son


Entering Capernaum, Jesus encounters certain Jewish elders sent from a centurion whose dear servant was about to die (vv. 1-2).

They entreat Him to heal this worthy Roman’s slave, because the soldier loved Israel and respected the Jewish religion so much that he built a synagogue for them (vv. 3-5).

[Who is worthy of grace and mercy?]

[Verses six through eight introduce a difficult problem. Luke records that the centurion sent Jewish friends to Jesus, putting his words into their mouths.

Matthew, however, writes that the officer himself actually came to Jesus for help (cf. 8:5-13).]

As one would expect, Luke (a Gentile) does not include Jesus’ reference to the patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven after His remarks about the centurion’s great faith (v. 9; cf. Matt. 8:11-12).

Regarding the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, only Luke (of all the evangelists) records this episode (vv. 11-17).

Accompanied by many disciples and a large contingent, Jesus encounters a well-attended funeral procession coming out of the village of Nain (vv. 11-12).

Seeing the bereaved widow, whose only son “pallbearers” now carry to the burial ground, He consoles her and stops the somber journey with a touch on the open coffin (vv. 13-14a).

After briefly addressing the dead one, Christ raises him with a word, and then gives him back to his mother—obviously to the great astonishment of the watching multitude (v. 14b-16a).

The people recognize Jesus as a “great prophet”; their additional comment— “God has visited His people”—probably does not signify that they acknowledged Christ’s deity (v. 16b). Nevertheless, His fame continues to spread (v. 17).

John the Baptizer


OT Signs of the Messiah

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After Jesus delivers a lengthy set of instructions to His disciples to prepare them for their first attempt at ministry and then send them out (cf. Matt. 10:5-42), He receives word through John the Baptizer’s followers that the preacher is seeking confirmation of His identity (vv. 18-20).

[Strangely, Luke includes both John’s original query and his disciples’ iteration.]

Luke prefaces the Lord’s response with prophetic evidence proving both Christ’s Messiahship and the presence of the earthly kingdom—His extensive physical and spiritual healing ministry (v. 21)—something Matthew does not do.

Jesus alludes to OT kingdom passages in His reply (v. 22).

Except for its more flowery diction, Luke’s record of Jesus’ description of John is essentially the same as Matthew’s (vv. 24-28; see v. 25 for his change in word choice).

Matthew, however, includes several more verses about the kingdom that Luke omits (11:12-15).

In addition, Luke inserts and comments upon the various reactions to Jesus’ assessment of John.

Those whom the elite (that is, the Pharisees and legal experts) deemed unworthy (namely, the tax collectors) declared the righteousness of God, having undergone John’s baptism (v. 29), whereas the unbaptized Jewish leaders repudiated God’s Lordship over their lives (v. 30).

Luke records the remainder of Jesus’ words—words that are nearly verbatim with what we find in Matthew (vv. 31-35).

Jesus, Simon, and the "Sinful Woman"


Simon the Leper and Simon the Pharisee: The Same Person?

Were Simon the Pharisee and Simon the leper the same person?

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The final incident of chapter seven concerns Jesus’ forgiveness of a “sinful” woman (vv. 36-50).

[Ryrie asserts, “This is not the same as a similar incident which occurred in Bethany of Judea during the last week of Christ’s life (Matt. 26:6-31; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8)” [New Testament Study Bible, 121.]

The accounts in Matthew and Mark refer to a woman who poured oil on Jesus’ head, but not on his feet, while visiting the house of Simon the leper, not Simon the Pharisee.

John’s gospel refers to an instance in which Mary, the sister of Martha, wiped His feet with her hair

[11:2, a reference which seems to point to the incident occurring in 12:1-8 in the house of Simon the leper.]

Having sat down to dinner in Simon the Pharisee’s house (vv. 36, 40), Jesus finds Himself dealing with a “woman in the city,” “a sinner” (v. 37), who provides a service for Him, but in a highly unusual and humbling way.

She does not approach Him to His face, but stands “at His feet behind Him weeping” (v. 38a).

With her tears she wets His feet, wipes them with her hair, kisses them, and anoints them with fragrant oil from the alabaster flask she brought into the house with her (v. 38b).

Either through interviewing Simon later or by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Luke knows what the Pharisee spoke to himself about Jesus and the woman (v. 39).

[Could Jesus have known that the woman was a “sinner” without being a prophet?]

Christ, aware of the woman’s lifestyle, graciously confronts Simon, diplomatically using a parable to teach him about the forgiveness of debts and the love of those forgiven (a love expressed through gratitude) [vv. 40-43].

Once He succeeds in convincing the Pharisee to admit that debtors –those who truly sense their utter unworthiness to receive forgiveness— will show greater love toward the “creditor” when they learn that they can actually receive forgiveness from him, Jesus draws Simon’s attention to the woman, and contrasts her overflowing love with his inexpressive “love” (vv. 44-46).

In a shocking announcement (to those dining with Him, at least), Christ forgives the woman of her many sins—a prerogative of Deity alone—eliciting whisperings from the unforgiven (vv. 47-49).

After granting forgiveness, Jesus informs her about what saved her (viz., her personal faith in Him), and then sends her away reconciled to God (v. 50).

© 2013 glynch1


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