nullPentecost 19 2019, Proper 24
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 20, 2019
Gen 32:22-30, 2 Tim 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

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Like most Bible readings, today’s Gospel comes to us from a larger context.  We are reminded that while chapter and verse numbers are useful aids for finding places in the Bible, they are not inspired.

It can seem that Luke 18 is a new idea, but it follows Jesus teaching about the end of time and the persecution that the church will endure.  At times this persecution will be so severe that God’s people will eagerly desire the end of time to come quickly.  Luke 17:22 (ESV) 22 And [Jesus] said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.[1]  Jesus encourages the disciples not to lose heart in the middle of persecution.  For when the time is right, the Son of Man will come to judge the living and the dead.

Here is where today’s Gospel begins.  In light of the fact that the church will be persecuted in this world, Luke 18:1 (ESV) 1 …[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.[2]  Jesus instructs His church to pray while she is in this world.

The judge in the parable is not worthy of his position.  Luke 18:2 (ESV) 2 [Jesus] said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.[3]  This judge is interested in his own comfort and doesn’t really care about the cases that come before him.  He isn’t interested in the law of God and he isn’t interested in the opinion of people.  He is just interested in his own convenience.  How would you like to come before this man in a legal dispute?  You would rather find a different judge.

Unfortunately, the widow in today’s parable has no choice.  Widows in biblical times have no power or economic clout.  They are among the weakest, most vulnerable members of society.  For this reason, Old Testament law stipulates that God’s people care for them.  Deuteronomy 27:19 (ESV) 19 “ ‘[Moses said] Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ …[4]  Jesus does not give us the details of the woman’s case because they are not relevant to the point of the parable.  What we do know is that this woman went to someone who should have helped her get justice.

The judge sees no gain in helping the woman, so he decides to ignore her.  He hopes she will just give up and go away, but she doesn’t.  Every morning he enters his court and there she is making her petition.  Eventually, he gets sick and tired of seeing her.  After a while, Luke 18:4-5 (ESV) 4 … he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”[5]  He does not hear her case because it is the right thing to do, but because he is sick and tired of seeing her in his court every day.

This parable is a parable of contrasts.  Jesus contrasts this unrighteous judge with God, who is righteous and holy.  Luke 18:6-8 (ESV) 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily… [6]  With these words, Jesus teaches His disciples that if an unrighteous judge will give justice just to get a nagging widow off his back, how much more will the God of love and mercy ultimately bring justice to His people.  The judge doesn’t want to hear from the widow.  God wants to hear from us.

The contrast between God and the unrighteous judge is not the only contrast in this parable.  There is also the contrast between us and the widow.  Although Jesus does not tell us the details of the widow’s case, we do know that it was a good case.  On the other hand, our case before God is the exact opposite.  If we ever came alone before the court of the Holy and Almighty God, He would immediately find us guilty and sentence us to nothing but punishment here in time and forever in eternity.  The widow has good reason to ask the court to act.  We have good reason to ask the court not to act.  We, by nature, have no rights in God’s court.

But God loves us so much that He works out a plan to give us those rights.  He sends His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in order to redeem the world.  Jesus Christ endures the punishment of the guilty verdict we deserve.  He opens God’s court to all when He dies on the cross and then rises from the dead.  Although we have no rights in God’s court, He gives us rights for the sake of His beloved Son.  We receive those rights when the Holy Spirit works faith in us.

The judge, who neither fears God nor cares about his fellow man, finally does the right thing just to get the widow off his back.  How much more will God, who sacrifices His only begotten Son do what is best for us?  When it comes to God, we are assured that He listens and will surely grant grace to those who cry out to him.

In this parable, Jesus teaches us to pray continually and never lose heart.  Why?  Because his promise is that he will grant justice for his chosen ones and will do so quickly.  However, the justice he grants is not what we deserve.  He does not bring about the justice dictated by the law, but the justice dictated by His love and grace.  Jesus shows us that God’s justice is not rightly understood until you first understand God’s suffering love, a suffering love that has as its aim to make the sinner whole and the ungodly just.  This suffering love is even for people like the unjust judge, and it is for you and me as well.

Marin Luther, when he teaches about prayer in his Small Catechism, says that we are to be confident when we pray.  We “ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”  We are God’s children for the sake of the innocent suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  God deeply longs for us to approach him, describing to him the needs of our lives and the longings of our hearts.  Do we do it once?  twice?  No! We pray continually.  We never give up.

The most profound prayer we have is the prayer that Jesus Himself gave to us.  In a few minutes we will join together in that prayer.  Shortly after that, God will answer that prayer in a very special way.  What better way is there for God’s Kingdom to come on this earth than when it comes in the true body and blood of our savior, Jesus Christ?  With that body and blood we receive forgiveness for our trespasses for Jesus himself said, Matthew 26:28 (ESV) 28 … this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.[7]  Is it any wonder that we pray the Lord’s Prayer shortly before we receive this very special answer to this prayer?

We are children of God for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ; we already have God’s Kingdom among us.  However, we are not fully aware of His kingdom, as the Apostle Paul tells us in, 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV) 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.[8]  So we pray continuously.  We pray especially for the end of time when we shall see Jesus face-to-face.  We pray for the final day of judgment.

After Jesus finishes telling the parable He asks,  Luke 18:8 (ESV) 8 …when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”[9]  Will he find faith that is persistent and loyal?  And the answer implied in the question is yes, he will! He will find people like those mentioned throughout the Bible who prayed without ceasing.  He will find faith in people like the tax collector, who humbles himself and beats his chest imploring God for mercy.  He will find faith in people who, like the little children, look to Christ and trust him implicitly.  He will find faith in people like the blind beggar, who cries out to Christ for healing and mercy.  He will find faith in people like you and me.  For we, too, are a people who stand before God imploring Christ for mercy and leaning on him for everlasting hope.

So can we pray and not lose heart?  Yes! Can we pray and not give up?  Absolutely! For we know to whom we belong.  Jesus Christ shed His blood in order to ransom you from sin.  You belong to Him.  You are part of His family.  He has won eternal life for you.  Part of that eternal life is the right to open your heart to God in prayer as the Apostle Peter teaches, 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.[10] He cares for you and, unlike the judge in today’s parable; God wants to hear from you.  You are his beloved child.  Pray continually and do not lose heart.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[9]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[10]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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