Sacred Imagination

Luke 7

I want you to imagine with me. 


You are a powerful man in ancient Israel. You hear about a miracle worker and rabbi. This guy, in just the last couple days reportedly saved a slave of some centurion without even being near him. More than that, he brought the dead back to life! Could such a thing be? Nothing like it has happened in your lifetime. This man reminds you of Moses, Elijah, and the prophets that you have grown up hearing about and spent your life studying. You know that such a man must be holy, must be from God. You invite this man to eat with you, so you can see for yourself how this holy, miraculous man interacts with people.

So you see him. And he’s shorter than you expected. Actually, he’s quite unremarkable in appearance. He is not wealthy, he does not come from money or make much when out teaching. He is lean from walking and fasting. He has an entourage of men with thick accents, no training, and a certain lack of decorum. They look and act like fishermen. To your surprise, you learn they ARE fishermen. One is even a tax collector. It’s only natural to begin to doubt. But when he opens his mouth to teach, it intrigues you. The passion with which he speaks. The intensity in his eyes. The compassion in his touch, to all people, draws you in, and you invite him over for dinner. Doubts gnaw at your mind, but surely in a personal setting those will fall away.

However, at dinner, things get really out of hand. As per usual, you have your home open to use by the people of the city, because God has blessed you for your devote life and upright character. Everyone, all thirteen (and more) of this teacher’s usual crew start to relax, kick back their feet, and eat. But, in the middle of dinner, she comes in. The years of hard life, of acting in such impolite, anti-social, uncouth, wicked and sinful ways, of trying and failing to do better, showed in every movement in the presence of this teacher. But instead of running like she should have, she bends down, weeping, and cries on his feet, wipes his feet clean with her tears. She takes his barely washed feet and anoints them with the sweetest perfume, the smell wafting over you all. She is making a scene, at YOUR dinner. And you know what kind of person she is. She doesn’t deserve this attention, she only wants to ruin your hospitality, because that’s the kind of person she is. 

No, no this man must be a phony. How could a man who raises the dead not know what this woman does every day? How could such a “holy man” allow so much uncleanness to caress his feet? Why let someone like her defile someone like him?


Then he says your name and breaks you out of your reverie. He calls your name. He tells you about two debtors, both forgiven – one much and one little. He asks “Who will love the forgiver more?”

“The one who was forgiven much,” you answer wisely. 


He turns to the woman and takes her worried, nervous, anxious trembling hands in his own. He turns his soft but piercing eyes to her own, red from weeping. He says to you, “Do you see this woman?” He lets the words hang in silence for a moment. She rubs her nose. For the first time you notice that some of her hair is starting to turn gray. You notice that she is not old, but the lines come from stress. You notice that she must have washed to come, as she looks cleaner than you have seen her in a long time… You see yourself seeing this woman, who you see everyday, in a new way. She is a whole person. She is more than the sum of her mistakes. She is loving this teacher. She is showing him honors “She has done for me what you have not,” he says. “She has much to be forgiven for, and so she loves, knowing now that she is forgiven. In your own eyes, your sins are so much smaller, and so your love is so much less.”


The rest of the table murmurs about the teacher forgiving sins, but as they talk he says to the woman “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” She smiles at him with gratitude and joy…

Do you see this woman?

Or do you see the sins? The immorality? The wickedness? The hardness of life? The addictions? The abuse?


Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, and more importantly, causes the spiritually blind to see the world. May this imaging open your eyes. This man who raised up the dead, more importantly, raised up the living to new life. May this story cause you to raise the living to new life. 


And may this question reverberate in your head all day :

Do you see this woman?

(Optional note for those confused about the devotion : spiritual imagining, putting ourselves in the story, is an ancient spiritual tradition. One great example that is often used is in Luke 15, the parable of the “Lost/Prodigal Son”, or better “The Lost Sons” or best “The Searching/Prodigal Father”. You may see yourself as the son who runs off, the servants rejoicing, the son who is angry for forgiveness, or the father looking for his boys. It says much about ourselves and our relationship with God and others to see who we identify with, and to put ourselves in strange places in the story. Today we looked through Simon’s eyes in Luke 7, not because it is the best, but because of course he would doubt Jesus. Of course he would question him. Of course he would be offended at the woman. And of course, all of that is undue, because Jesus overcomes our doubts through miracles, our questions through answers and better questions, and our offense by unending grace. May this story take a new meaning to you as you ask yourself: Do you see this woman?)

-Jacob Ballard

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway – Numbers 33-34 and Luke 7

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