The woman sees Jesus and sees her chance; she is the one who really sees. So many times in the telling of the parables, Jesus is saying that people don't see or they don't hear.

Yes. "You have eyes, but you don't see."

Finally in this story, what I never noticed before is how Jesus turns to the woman at the end and then asks Simon, "Do you see this woman?"

Yes. He's looking at the woman when he says to Simon, "Do you see?" Of course the truth is that he [Simon] has never seen her. He's just seeing these categories: sinner or prophet. And we do that. All we see are categories. You are a jazz musician. Well, I know what they're like. So I really don't have to deal with you. I categorize you. So, no more of that! No more Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, free—all gone.

It also reminds me of the story when the woman who is bleeding comes and touches Jesus' tassel and He wants to see her, too.

Yes.

That's a story that I've spent a lot of time imagining—the scene of Jesus looking at the woman and wondering what might have happened around that. I think it's beautiful.

I was part of an African-American church for about seven years, and that was everybody's favorite story. I heard more references to that story: "Jesus has more healing power in the hem of his garment than in a whole pharmacy." That was a formula that was quoted in our church all the time. I realized it was partly because here was a community of people who didn't have access to medical care. So that aspect of Jesus becomes very important.

I love that story because Jesus doesn't want her to think magically. She's thinking that it's magic: "If I touch his tassel, or if I say the incantation right, or I do the right thing, then I will get healed." I think He wants to give Himself to her. Jesus doesn't like people to think magically.

But it's also true—and you talk about this a few times—that so many times there was the issue of the ritual uncleanness. So if the woman touched him, Jesus would have been unclean . . .

Absolutely.

. . . but it's going the other way.

It's funny—there's a whole series of people who do stuff they're not supposed to do: she touches him, and shouldn't have done that; the lepers come up close to Jesus, and they're not supposed to do that; the blind man keeps calling out to Him, and the disciples tell him not to bother Him, but he keeps calling out.

I've never thought of this until now, but it would be interesting to ask ourselves, to what degree does our coming to Jesus involve us doing something we really shouldn't do? That interests me. Doing something that our culture says you should not do. We need to think about that more.

Luke is always talking about a journey. It's everywhere: "as they were going here, as they were moving there . . ." One thing I liked about looking at Luke chronologically is noticing how Jesus' tone changes; even his teachings get shorter, more distilled.

Yes. As they get closer to Jerusalem, Jesus' teaching gets shorter and shorter and more concentrated. Earlier in His teaching we have these long parables. I hope that's not just me reading into it, but as I listen to the text, I hear Him getting more emphatic. By the time He gets to Jerusalem, He tells maybe one short parable when Passion Week starts and that's it. It's over.

That's flow. That's listening to the flow of the text.

When I was in English classes in college, or when you read a book, you do think about things like flow; sometimes you also think about the author's background, or the other books that the author wrote.

Or rising action, and falling action.

Do you think that Christians tend to read so differently that we can't see certain things? Obviously, we read the Bible because we believe that this is God's word to us and there is truth there that we want to live our lives by, but we're trying to extract things.

I don't know, that's a good point. I think the Bible holds up the way Shakespeare would hold up, but what is different about the Bible is that it's alive. Part of the process of reading the Bible is the presence of the Holy Spirit helping us understand. I think that's why sometimes a passage that you know, that you have tattooed on you someplace, all of a sudden you understand it a whole different way. I think that's because the Spirit has spoken that into you in a whole different way. The meaning has been there all along. But Shakespeare's not like that!

Visit the Patheos Book Club to read an excerpt from Michael's new book, as well as additional reviews and reflections on "the holy imagination" by musicians, artists, and pastors.

Read the Patheos interview with Deanna Witkowski here.