Luke 7 contains stories that show intuitive understanding at work in the world and show where it is not, and what happens as a result. As the Master, Jesus Himself was capable of a great deal of intuitive love. His empathy, which is the driving force of intuition, picks up on the devastated state of the Widow and compels Him to bring her son back to life.
Consider the stories of the Centurion and the Woman who washes Jesus’ feet. How did they get the insight that Jesus could help them? Luke doesn’t tell us. Theologians would probably say it was the gift given in time of need. This defines intuition exactly—a gift of understanding and awareness given when needed, either for one’s own self or to help another. This gift comes from a source beyond the capabilities of the waking mind and rational thought and it comes when the heart is in the right place: open, caring and loving.
Empathy Sees Into the Heart of the Matter
The Centurion and Woman who washed Jesus’ feet were remarkable but very different people sharing two things in common: somehow they knew that Jesus had miraculous power to help them and their hearts were in the right place.
In the case of the Centurion, from his line of work he understood the nature of authority and command. When an order was given by one authorized to give it, the order was done. But that doesn’t explain how he knew that Jesus had authority like no other, so much so that he didn’t feel qualified to see him anymore than he would feel qualified to stand before the emperor of Rome. However, he was a good man who helped build the synagogue. He had a sick slave he cared a deal about and wanted to help. It may have been the open goodness of own his heart that empathized with Jesus, recognizing in Jesus a commanding goodness that was able to help in a way that he himself would help if he had the power and authority to act in such a way.
In the case of the Woman who washes Jesus’ feet, again we are not told how she knew Jesus was someone in whom she could trust her whole being. We only knew she sensed her sins were forgiven by Jesus’ love and understanding and responded accordingly with great love and gratitude. Her actions show her uninhibited expressions of love, unlike the closed, tight actions of the Pharisee that hosted Jesus. Hers was a heart that was utterly open to love. Perhaps the Woman empathized with the power of Jesus, seeing in Jesus someone who loved and forgave as she was capable of doing.
The Superficiality of Judgment Replacing Empathy
Where empathy is absent, casting judgment based on superficial input rules the day as in the case of the Pharisee who only saw the Woman washing Jesus’ feet as a sinner. It is not surprising then that this Pharisee also did not open his heart warmly to Jesus as his guest. By his own heart not being open, he could not see into the heart of the Woman or the heart of Jesus and acted much like the Pharisees who refused to accept John because this prophet was not dressed in silks and living in a palace.