Actions of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke: Costly Love
Part Two: January 2023
Love is willing the good of the other. Love is costly when the lover takes great risks for the beloved. Jesus models this “costly love” over and over in the gospels. He invites us as married couples to risk all for him and for each other. This month we offer meditations on four examples of costly love: the woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee, the blind man, Zacchaeus in Jericho, and Jesus on the cross. We will conclude these meditations with the surprise encounter of the disciples with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
First, just as in traditional cultures a bride on her wedding night lets her hair down and allows it to be seen by her husband for the first time, the sinful woman touches Jesus with her hair and tears, causing great scandal at the dinner at Simon’s house. How does Jesus respond to such an outpouring of love and affection? How does he turn the anger of the host onto himself? We can imagine her thoughts: “He is going to get hurt—for me—and he doesn’t even know my name!”
Next we will encounter a series of actions culminating in the costliest act of love of all: Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus is traveling from Galilee on his way to Jerusalem. It was normal to travel thorough the town of Jericho; it would also not be unusual to stop there for the night before passing on to Jerusalem. On either side of Jericho, Jesus encounters two individuals in very different states of life. One is a blind man who lives not only on the outskirts of town, but on the outskirts of society. He is the nameless oppressed who is personally loved and healed by Jesus. The other is the oppressor, the hated chief tax collector. Of all the people in that town, Zacchaeus is the only one whose name we know. He too is encountered by Jesus. He is loved and healed as well. Both oppressed and oppressor experience a love that costs Jesus dearly. In both cases he takes the anger of the crowd upon himself and transforms the lives of these two individuals. Next, we see Jesus on the cross: the ultimate gift of love. There are two thieves crucified with him, and we see his compassion and love for them even now, at the moment of his greatest suffering.
Finally, we see two dispirited disciples on the road to Emmaus. It has been suggested that they are a married couple, returning home after the tumultuous events of that Passover weekend. Their hopes for a messiah seem to have been dashed, but they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread as they eat the first meal on the first day of the New Creation. They will later recount as well how their hearts were burning when Jesus opened the Scripture for them.
1 I am indebted to Kenneth E. Bailey for his insights. Fuller treatment of the woman at Simon’s house, the blind man, and Zacchaeus can be found in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2008.