Chapter seven continues Jesus’ ministry in Galilee during the early part of his ministry (approximately the first year). This selection includes four incidents, each of which demonstrates Jesus’ compassion on those around him. First, like Matthew, Luke recorded Jesus’ healing of a centurion’s servant. The healing at a distance would especially interest Doctor Luke, but the focus on Gentiles is also important. Based on the Roman commander’s statement, Jesus marveled at the man’s simple faith, a faith that was noticeably missing among the Jewish people.
The second event is unique to Luke, the touching story of a widow’s only son who died, leaving her alone. Luke never mentioned the cause of death, only that Jesus “saw her [and] he had compassion for her” (7:13). He brought the young man back to life, bringing joy to the widow and the community.
The third event was a conversation between John the Baptizer and Jesus. Although Luke did not mention it, Matthew records that this happened after John had been imprisoned (Matthew 11:2). Given the circumstances, he asked if Jesus was really who John thought he was. Jesus’ response was not to scold John for his disbelief or condescendingly teach him; he simply said, “What have you seen that would prove I’m not? Go with what you know to be true.” Jesus, then, used the opportunity to explain to the crowd who John really was – the prophet who would announce the Messiah (Malachi 3:1) – and scolded them for demonizing John and not believing him.
Finally, Luke gave the account of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. All four gospels give a similar account with varying details. In Luke, the woman was called “a sinner” (7:37), the owner of the home was a Pharisee named Simon (7:36, 44), and it happened while Jesus was ministering in Galilee (northern Israel). Jesus’ response was to forgive the woman’s sins. The other three gospels (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:1) place the event in Bethany (southern Israel), a week before his crucifixion. Simon (a common name) was a leper, not a Pharisee. The woman is not called a sinner, and her sins were not forgiven. Instead, Jesus considered this a preview of preparing his body for burial. As we have noted before, similar details should cause us to read carefully, not assume the events are the same and that the differences are contradictions in the text.