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The Unjust Judge. The Pharisee and the Publican. The Rich Ruler
1-8. The Unjust Judge (peculiar to Lk).
There is a close connexion with what precedes. The mention of the Second Advent leads Christ to speak of the need of prayer and watchfulness in view of it. The main lessons of the parable are: (1) The duty of continual prayer; (2) the certain answer to prayer, if it be only persistent enough; (3) the certainty that in the end God will maintain the cause of His elect against their adversaries; (4) a warning against failure of faith in times of seeming abandonment by God.
The moral difficulty that in this parable God seems to be compared to an unjust judge, is best met by saying that in reality God is not so much compared as contrasted with him. The argument is, If justice can be obtained by persistence even from an unjust judge, how much more can it be obtained from the Author of all justice. It is true that God is said, like the unjust judge, to delay justice. But His motive is entirely different. His delay is due to love, love of the saints, whose faith He designs to purify and strengthen by much waiting, and love of their adversaries, to whom He gives a space for repentance before the day of vengeance comes.
1. Perhaps this is our Lord’s own comment on the parable. Always to pray] On the other hand, the rabbis taught that God must not be fatigued by too frequent prayer. Three times a day was enough. ’If a man comes to address you every hour, you say that he holds you cheap: the same is true of God, whom no man ought to fatigue by praying every hour.’ The words are to be taken literally, because even purely secular acts, when done to God’s glory, are acts of devotion. The whole lives of the faithful should be, in Origen’s words, ’one great connected prayer.’ Faint] i.e. become weary.
2. A judge] Probably a heathen judge, because, (1) The local Jewish tribunals consisted of three judges, and (2) Jewish judges (at least in NT. times) had no such evil reputation. They were required to have this sevenfold qualification, ’prudence, gentleness, piety, hatred of mammon, love of truth, that they, be beloved, and of good report.’ Yet see on Mark 12:40.
3. Avenge me] better, ’Give me justice against my adversary.’ Her ’adversary’ was probably a rich neighbour, who, taking advantage of the death of her husband, had stolen her land. The offence of violently appropriating the property of widows and orphans is often alluded to in the OT., and forbidden with threats of divine vengeance (Exodus 22:22-24, etc.).
5. Weary me] lit. ’give me a black eye.’
7. Avenge his own elect] i.e. the members of His Church. Christ comforts His disciples who are discouraged by the persecutions which are even now threatening, by promising that God will visit their persecutors (the Jews and afterwards the heathen) with condign punishment. This was literally fulfilled in the calamities which overtook the Jews and the chief heathen persecutors of the Christians.
Though he bear long with them] better, ’though he is slow to act for them,’ i.e. though His coming seem to be delayed.
8. Speedily] cp. Revelation 22:20; 2 Peter 3:8-10. Christ’s coming, though it may seem to be long delayed, will be as speedy as the scheme of God’s providence, which takes account of the needs of the whole world, will permit. It will not be delayed an instant longer than is necessary.
Nevertheless, etc.] The sense is, ’Nevertheless, in spite of the warning and encouragement I am giving you, the faith of many will have waxed cold at the time of My return.’ Christ does not mean that the elect will have lost their faith altogether, but that on account of the trials and disappointments which will precede the Second Advent, and also on account of its unexpected delay, they will be discouraged.
Faith] or, rather, ’the faith,’ i.e. the unshaken confidence in the certainty of My Second Coming, which I hope to find.
9-14. The Pharisee and the Publican at Prayer (peculiar to Lk). This parable is apparently addressed not to the Pharisees themselves, but to certain of the disciples of Jesus who were proud of their spiritual attainments, and lacking in the virtues of humility and penitence.
10. Into the temple] Probably into the second court, ’The Court of the Women,’ at one of the stated hours of prayer. The Temple, like modern Christian churches, was used for private as well as public prayer.
Publican] see on Matthew 5:46.
11. Stood] i.e. placed himself conspicuously in the attitude of prayer: see on Matthew 6:5. God, I thank thee] The words of the Pharisee can hardly be called a prayer. He asks for nothing, and feels his need of nothing. The Pharisee did, indeed, acknowledge that his virtues were derived from God, but he took all the merit of them to himself, and boasted of them before God and man.
12. Twice in the week] viz. on Mondays and Thursdays: see on Matthew 6:16-18. Of all that I possess] RV ’of all that I get.’ The Pharisee prided himself on his works of supererogation, i.e. works done over and above what God required: see on Matthew 17:7-10. The Law commanded only one fast in the whole year (viz. Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:29). The Pharisee fasted twice a week. The Law tithed only the fruits of the field and the increase of cattle. The Pharisee tithed mint and cummin (Matthew 23:23), and indeed his whole income (cp. Tobit 1:7-8).
13. Afar off] viz. from the Pharisee, whom, in his humility, he thought far more righteous than himself. Would not lift up] Since the rabbis forbade the eyes to be raised to heaven during prayer (see Matthew 6:5), it is necessary to suppose that there was some special indication of humility in the publican’s attitude. Be merciful, etc.] lit. ’be propitiated to me the sinner.’ ’As the Pharisee had singled himself out as the one holy in the world, so the publican singles himself out as the chief of sinners, the man in whom all sins have met—a characteristic trait! for who, when first truly convinced of sin, thinks any man’s sins can equal his own (1 Timothy 1:15)?’ (Trench).
14. Justified] A favourite word of St. Paul’s, employed in St. Paul’s sense, as is natural in the Pauline Gospel. ’Justify’ in the NT. means always ’to regard as just,’ not ’to render just,’ or ’sanctify.’ Rather than the other] This probably means that the publican was justified, and that the Pharisee was not; not that the Pharisee was regarded as righteous, and the publican as more than righteous.
For every one] Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11.
15-17. Jesus and the children (Matthew 19:13; Mark 10:13). See on Mt.
18-30. The rich young ruler. The reward of those who forsake all (Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17). See on Mt.
31-34. The passion and resurrection predicted (Matthew 20:17; Mark 10:32). See on Mt.
35-43. The blind man at Jericho (Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46). See on Mt.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Luke 18". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent