THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we briefly looked at the 10 lepers, and then we spent the rest of our time examining Luke 17:22-37 in which Jesus told His disciples about His second coming. In this teaching, He gave them the idea that His second coming will be delayed. He told them that they would long to see one of the days of the Son of man. In Mt. 25:5,19, we also see the idea that Jesusí return will be delayed. †Of course, that day of Jesusí return still has not happened, but it will. In the meantime, every Christian will have to endure whatever hardships this old world throws at us.
So, this gives us the background to the parable that Jesus teaches next, which will show us how we can keep our faith in God intact. So, letís read the parable and then take a closer look at it.
Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,† 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.† 3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'† 4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,† 5 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "† 6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.† 7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?† 8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
Jesus was very concerned about His disciples, and He wanted them to learn to be persistent in their prayer lives and to use the power of prayer to overcome discouragement. Of course, the same is true for us today. The more we pray, the more we realize how much we rely upon God. The more we pray, the closer we will become with God. The more we pray, the more we will appreciate the fact the God hears our prayers continually no matter what time of day we pray.
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,† 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
The word Ďcareí also means anxiety. So, in other words, whatever is causing you to hurt or worry, turn it over to God and put in His hands knowing that He loves you, hears you, and will answer your prayer.
Now, letís take a close look at this parable.
Luke 18:2 †"There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
The apostles were certainly familiar with judges because there were judges under the Law of Moses. These judges were appointed to every city and they were supposed to be just judges as can be seen in:
Deuteronomy 16:18 " You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.† 19 "You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.† 20 "You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
They were also familiar with judges who worked for Rome, which is most likely who are judge is in the parable because he did not fear God nor regard man.
Luke 18:3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'† 4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,† 5 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "
Here we have a widow who wants justice. We are not told specifics, but we do know that her adversary had done something wrong and she wanted this judge to take care of the matter†††††††††† . She did not come to him once and then give up. No, she continued to come to him often asking for justice.
At first, the judge just blew her off, but
because of her persistence, he was ready to give in. Not because he feared God
or man, and not even because he wanted to do the right thing, it was because he
wanted to get this woman off his back. Here is where a word study will help us
out even more. I want you to notice what the word weary means:
1. to blacken an eye, give a black eye, strike in the face†
2. to bring someone to submission by constant annoyance, wear down
While our word weary can mean to literally give one a black eye, it also carries the idea of brow beating someone until they give in. So, this is what this judge was feeling like due to this widow's persistence. Next, Jesus tells us the whole point of this parable.
Luke 18:6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.† 7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?† 8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
So, Jesus wants us to learn from this by noticing what the unjust judge said because of his situation. Even though he was not a good judge and he did respect man, this widow lady was able to move him to action through persistence.
So, the point is this, if an unjust judged would listen and be moved to action by a persistent widow, how much more will God listen and be moved by His people whom He loves? This is an argument from the lesser to the greater. It contrasts an unjust judge who really wanted nothing to do with this widow, to a just judge, which is God who loves and wants to hear from us and is involved in our lives.
Now I can certainly see how some can look at this parable and think if they persistently pray enough, they can bend God to their will as the widow bent the judge to her will, but this is not what this parable is about. Yes, it teaches that we should be persistent in our prayer life, but the main point is that God loves to hear from us, He answers our prayers, and He is involved in our lives every day. However, no amount of praying is going to change Godís will. For example, if you pray everyday that you will win the lottery and millions of dollars, I do not believe that will happen. If we pray that God will put a curse on someone you do not like, this is not going to happen. Again, if you pray that all gnats, mosquitoes, and snakes will disappear, it is not going to happen. †We need to listen to what James says:
1 John 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.† 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Whatever we pray for will only happen if it is in accordance with Godís will. While there is nothing wrong with praying a similar prayer every day or even praying for the same thing, we must make sure that we do not pray with vain repetition where we just chant the same words over again with no thought, thinking that if we chant them enough, God will make it happen. Jesus warns against this:
Matthew 6:7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.† 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
When we pray, we are to pray with faith knowing the God is listening to us and that He will answer our prayers in a way that is best for us. As James says:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.† 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.† 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;† 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
When it comes to God taking vengeance on those who treat Christians poorly, we need to realize this going to be on Godís timeline. Ultimately, we know that all enemies of God will be punished when Jesus return at the final judgment as can be seen in:
2 Thessalonians 1:7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,† 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.† 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,† 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.
In the meantime, we should pray for our enemies that they might change their† wicked ways and turn to God. We know that our God is long-suffering and wants all to repent. So, let us do our part to encourage the sinners of our world to turn from their sins and embrace the love of God.
Let us never forget that prayer is a wonderful gift we have been given that allows us to talk to God and that will help us remain strong in the Lord, and will help us overcome discouragement. If you find that you are struggling with worry, stress, discouragement, then take a close look at your prayer life because most likely your prayer life needs improvement or maybe you are struggling with having enough faith when you pray that God is listening and working in your life. Even if you do not get the answer you are looking for, let us never forget that God is going to do what is best for us even if we do not know what that is. Keep this verse in mind:
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.†
Now that Jesus has taught about the importance of prayer and how God listen and how we should be persistence in our prayer life, He is now going to teach us a parable about having the right attitude about prayer in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
Luke 18:9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: †10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.† 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.† 12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'† 13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'† 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Our parable is about 2 different men who went to the temple to pray. Again, this is something the disciples would be familiar with because the Jews were used to praying three times a day. We know Daniel did this in Daniel 6:10. We also read this in:
Psalm 55:17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice.
For the Jew, the 1st hour of prayer happened at 9 a.m. our time, but to them it is called the 3rd hour and it happened at the morning sacrifice as can be seen in Acts 2:15. The 2nd hour of prayer, which is noon our time, is called the 6th hour of the day. The 3rd hour of prayer was 3 p.m. our time and was called the 9th hour, which happened at the evening sacrifice, which can be seen in: Acts 3:1, 10:30.
The first man in our parable is a Pharisee. The word Pharisee means separated ones. This group of men started about 150 years before Christ was born. These men didnít want anything to do with the culture of Greece, and they opposed anything that had to do with Pagan rituals. They wanted to separate themselves from this, so they became very close followers of the law and their fatherís traditions.
During this time, those called scribes were those who copied the law and they were considered experts of the law. However, they would interpret the law and add to what it said and the Pharisees would adhere to and teach whatever scribes added as if it was from God. For example, †Moses had said not to work or carry a burden on the Sabbath, and the scribes interpreted this to mean that a man could not use his wooden leg on the Sabbath nor could a doctor render aid to a person on that day. By the time of Christ, we know that the law had been perverted in many ways, and Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the scribes for not keeping the law as they should and for making their traditions equal to and sometimes greater than the Word of God as can be seen in:
Matthew 15:3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?† 4 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'† 5 "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- ††6 'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.† 7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:† 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.† 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "
Jesus also spoke about †how these Pharisees were self-righteous, and how they did everything to show to get praise from man Mat. 23.
The 2nd man was a tax collector or we could say publican. These men were tax collectors for the Roman government. They were considered as traitors by most Jews. They put them in the same class as Gentiles, harlots, and sinners. These tax collectors were bad about taking more than they were suppose to, so they could line their own pockets with money.
Letís examine the Pharisees prayer again:
Luke 18:11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.† 12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
The first thing we notice is that this man stood and prayed. No doubt he wanted people to be able to see him pray. Now his prayer starts off pretty good and even seems like he is giving thanks to God. But, we quickly see that he doesnít give any thanks to God nor did he ask God for anything. Instead, †he just used his prayer as an opportunity to talk about how good he was. In fact, he uses the word I 5 times in this prayer because it was all about him. It's almost as if he just prayed to God to brag about his righteousness, and perhaps he wanted God to thank him for how good he had been. This man had no regard for others, and he thought he was far above them especially this tax collector. This man was just the opposite of what Paul taught us in the following verses:
Romans 12:3 †For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
This Pharisee had a lot to learn about being humble and realizing that he was not any better than anyone else. As Christians, we should never have the attitude that this Pharisee did.
Now, letís look at the tax collector's prayer again:
Luke 18:13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
What a humble prayer. His attitude was completely opposite of the Pharisees. Notice he didnít try to look around and find someone who was a worse sinner than he was, and he didnít try to offer any excuses for his sins. The man understood what sin was and that only God could forgive him of his sins. Notice that this man was standing afar off, and he was so ashamed of his sins that he couldnít even look up into heaven.
We have an example of this in the OT as well with the prophet Ezra in Ezra 9:6. We also notice that this tax collector beat his breast. We need to understand that this was gesture they did back then to show the sincerity of the grief they were going through and to show that they were truly sorry for their sins.
Then this man pleads with God to have mercy on him because he is a sinner. This guy is a great example for us† about the attitude we should have when have sin in our lives and how humble we should be as we approach God in prayer. Like this tax collector, we should fully understand how horrible sin is. The writer of Hebrews tells us the when we willfully sin it like trampling the son of God underfoot and counting the shedding of his blood as a common thing, which is an insult to the spirit of grace HEB 10:29.
Paul tells us that the wages of sin is death in Rom 6:23. Once again, the Hebrew writer tells us that when we fall away and sin, it's like re-crucifying Jesus all over again Heb. 6:6.† Though we donít deserve, thankfully. God provided us a way to be forgiven of our sins. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God Rom 3:23. In fact, letís read what John has to say about this matter:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.† 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.† 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.† 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
After these two men said their prayers and were on their way home, we find out the result of their prayers. Jesus said:
Luke 18:14 †"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The Pharisee did not receive anything from God because of his haughty attitude, and besides, he really never asked God for anything in the first place. He might as well have stayed home. But due to the tax collectorís sincerity and humility, he was justified and was forgiven† of his sins.
The main point Jesus wanted to make with this parable was to show these people who thought so highly of themselves that if they want to be exalted, which means to be lifted up, †they must humble themselves before the Lord. Certainly, Christians must also learn to be humble in their prayer lives and in their lives in general. Notice the following verses that teach us this very principle.
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."† 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,† 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Matthew 18:4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.† 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.† 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,† 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,† 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.† 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.† 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
No matter how many †good things we do, no matter how righteous or smart we may be, we have no room for boasting, instead we need to remember the words of Jesus in
Luke 17:10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
So, let us learn from this lesson to always be persistent in our prayers and to have a humble attitude about it all. When we have the right attitude not only can we be confident that God hears our prayers, we can know that our problems and concerns are being heard and that God will make everything work out the best way for us that is according to His will. So, never neglect the wonderful avenue of prayer.