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The Importunate Widow.
The unjust judge:
v. 1. And He spake a parable unto them to this end that men ought always to pray and not to faint,
v. 2. saying, There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man,
v. 3. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
v. 4. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man,
v. 5. yet, because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
The revelations of Jesus concerning the last days of the world and His coming to Judgment would naturally fill the disciples with consternation and apprehension. It was evident that, with such afflictions and desolations coming upon the land, they would have need of much patience and continual fortitude, but also of the constant protection of God, To be instant and importunate in prayer, therefore, would be a necessity of the last days for such as intended to heed the warnings of the Master. The story was to teach the disciples the obligation always to pray, to be persistent and persevering in prayer, in spite of all temptation to unbelief, notwithstanding all delay on the part of God. Not to grow weary, not to be overwhelmed by fatigue, that is the secret of the conquering prayer. For the point of the story is not that God does not delay in answering prayer. This fact is only too well known from the experience of many Christians. But the cause, reason, or motive for delay in the case of God is entirely different from that of the judge. The judge represents God only in so far as the Lord often appears to a sorely tried heart as a hard and unreasonable Master, otherwise there is no similarity.
A judge was in a certain city. According to Deuteronomy 16:18, the Jews were to have, in all the gates of the city, judges, whose work consisted in hearing cases and pronouncing judgment. They were supposed to administer justice without respect of persons, Exodus 23:6-9; Leviticus 19:15; Matthew 5:21-22. But the judge here spoken of feared not God, he paid no attention to the calls of justice; and he had no respect for man, he was unmoved even by such complaints as required immediate adjustment. An utterly unprincipled man, controlled by shameless selfishness. Now there was a widow in the same city that had been defrauded, that had suffered an injustice, and she naturally brought her complaint to the official whose business it was to adjudicate matters of that kind. Her cry was: Vindicate me from my adversary, see to it that I get justice, provide a square deal for me. She continued to come again and again, and she became more insistent as time went by. For a considerable time he stood it, for he had no inclination to exert himself, since he was living for his own ease only. But finally he thought the matter out within himself. Though he had no fear of God in his heart and no respect for men in his mind, yet his selfishness thought very highly of his own comfort and peace of mind. To escape the bother which she was making for him, to spare himself disagreeable hours, since she was rendering life miserable for him, he wanted to secure justice for her, lest she at last, in the height of bitterness and rage, literally put her fists into his eyes, punish him, in the language of the prize-ring. The condition of his heart was not changed in a single particle, but he disliked being bored to distraction.
The moral of the story:
v. 6. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
v. 7. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?
v. 8. I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?
The Lord Himself, in pointing out the lesson, brings out the contrast strongly: on the one hand, the judge of unrighteousness, whose ideas of justice were not only hazy, but who knew no justice, whose character was the essence of selfishness; on the other, the just and loving God, whose aim is not only to do justice, but to show mercy to all His works; the one yielding grudgingly and merely to escape being bored; the other finding His delight in showing mercy and in yielding to the entreaties of His own. Truly, God will provide vindication for His elect, for those that believe on Him through the power of His means of grace. But He wants them to continue in prayer, in calling to Him, day and night. He may be leisurely in coming to the help of His saints, He may delay help for a while; but when His hour comes succor which He renders comes suddenly. It is a speedy and glorious deliverance which they experience. The question of God's hearing prayer is therefore beyond doubt, but the certainty of faith in the case of the people earth is not so absolute. With all the temptations of the last days surrounding them, it be a very serious question, from the standpoint of men, whether faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah of the world will still be found at that time. It will surely be a matter of God's power and mercy to keep His elect in the faith until the end.
The Pharisee and the Publican.
v. 9. And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted themselves that they were righteous and despised others:
v. 10. Two men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican.
v. 11. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not I other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
v. 12. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
During the last journey of Jesus, representatives of the Pharisees were present almost continually. It is probable that some of these had given some evidence of their imagined superiority again, or there were other that had their way of thinking and acting They trusted in themselves that they were righteous; they firmly believed themselves to be perfect; they felt only the deepest contempt for the others whom they supposed to be in a class far beneath them, below the consideration of all decent people. They were representatives of the self-righteous, self-sufficient people, with both inherent and carefully educated Pharisaic tendencies. The parable of Jesus was intended to open the eyes of this pitifully blind class. Two men went up into the Temple to pray. The third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day were observed by the Jews as the hours of prayer, Daniel 6:10. If possible, they went up into the Temple for that special prayer, or turned toward the Temple in making it. The chief places of prayer were the halls, or porches, or the inner courts, where there was little or no distraction or disturbance. The first of these two men was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect among the Jews. He stood, he made it his object to be as prominent and conspicuous as possible, for he felt his self-importance and intended to convey to others this same impression. He prayed to himself, literally: his words were more in the nature of congratulation and praise of himself than a communication to God. What he said was the firm conviction of his own heart. He proudly enumerated his supposed virtues, thanking God, incidentally, that he was not like other people. The poor man did not know, in the arrogance of his pride, that he might do whatever he chose, "yea, if he sweat blood and had himself burned with fire, it would still before God an abomination and the greatest of sins. " The Pharisee boasted that he had done no harm to others; he was no extortioner, no robber that openly took his neighbor's property; he was no unjust person, he paid his debts and gave to every man his due; he was no adulterer, he had never openly lived in sins of the flesh; he was not on a level with the publican, whose many transgressions were proverbial. But he also had positive virtues; he observed all the ordinances of religion, both those commanded by God and those enjoined by the elders. Only one day in the year had been set aside by God as a day of fasting for the entire people, the great Day of Atonement. But the Pharisees of the stricter kind added voluntary fasts on Mondays and Thursdays; the latter, because on that day Moses was said to have. ascended on Mount Sinai; the former, because they believed he had come down on that day from the mountain. This Pharisee was also very strict about giving tithes, the tenth part of all that he possessed, down to the smallest vegetable in the garden, Matthew 23:23. The Pharisee is a type of all self-righteous people of all times, of every person that has pleasure and delight in himself, in his own wonderful being and doing, that boasts before God of his civic honesty and blameless reputation, of some outward, glittering virtues, and despises others.
v. 13. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner!
v. 14. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
The publican had nothing of the arrogance and self-assertiveness of the Pharisee. He stood at a great distance, probably in the shadow of a pillar, where he would be as inconspicuous as possible. He is acutely conscious of his unworthiness. He does not even dare to lift up his eyes toward the sanctuary as to the visible shrine of God's presence among His people. He can only, in piercing grief because of his sin, beat upon his breast. His prayer is one shuddering sigh: God, be merciful to me, the sinner! In his eyes there is only one sinner worth mentioning, only one whose sins he can see; and that is himself. See 1 Timothy 1:15. He knows of no merit, no worthiness, on his part; he has nothing to boast of. It is only shame, boundless, overwhelming shame, that he feels. And he asks only for mercy, nothing but God's grace. The publican is a type of the repentant sinner, that knows and acknowledges his sin, that feels its guilt in heart and conscience, that confesses his guilt over against God, but also turns to the Lord as to his merciful, gracious God, accepts and appropriates the grace of God, the pardon which is assured to all sinners in Jesus, the Savior. The judgment of Christ in the case is clear and comprehensive. With emphasis He declares that this man, the publican, went down into his house justified, pardoned rather than the other, the Pharisee. He received the atonement of Jesus in faith in the Messiah. He was justified by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith. "There we hear two strange and peculiar sentences, altogether opposed to human wisdom and imagination of reason, terrible in the eyes of all the world, that the great saints are condemned as unrighteous and the poor sinners are accepted and declared to be righteous and holy. " All the great saints after the manner of the Pharisees are in actual fact unrighteous; their worship, praying, praise is nothing but hypocrisy and boasting; they are not honest toward God and men, and, what is still worse, they have no prayer to God, ask nothing of God, want nothing of God's love and mercy. And therefore they remain in their sins and are looked upon by God as unjust and treated accordingly. The poor sinners, on the other hand, that acknowledge their sinfulness and desire nothing but mercy, they receive the mercy for which they long. For everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated; but he that. humbles himself will be exalted. He that believes' himself to be pious and righteous, that exalts himself above all sinfulness and above all sinners, will close the door of mercy before his own face, will bring upon himself damnation. But he that confesses his condition as that of a lost and condemned creature, and puts his sole and only trust in the grace of God, will be accepted by God as His dear child in Jesus the Savior.
Christ Blesses Little Children.
v. 15. And they brought unto Him also infants that He would touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
v. 16. But Jesus called them unto Him and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.
v. 17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
The incident here told happened in one of the hamlets, probably in Perea, while Jesus was on His last journey to Jerusalem. The kindness of Jesus won the hearts of all that were not filled with prejudice against Him. And therefore the mothers of the village brought their little children, their babies, to Jesus, in order that He might lay His hands upon them in blessing. There was nothing of superstition in this act. But the disciples, as soon as they noticed this proceeding, gravely rebuked the mothers for disturbing the Master, who in their opinion was far too busy and engaged with far too weighty questions to be disturbed with trifles. But the view of Jesus in this matter differed from that of His disciples very decidedly. In a manner which carried a world of reproof for their interference, He called out to the mothers, bidding them come. He was glad and wanted the little children brought to Him. No one should in any way interfere with such bringing nor deny to the little ones the friendship and blessing of the Savior. Of such is the kingdom of God. That is the requirement for entry into the kingdom of God, that faith must be as simple and sincere as that of children. They accept Jesus, their Savior, without question and without doubt; they love Him and cling to Him in joyful abandon. With solemn seriousness Jesus makes this declaration, that no one can enter into the Kingdom unless he accepts it as a little child. Note: Since the only way in which anyone can come to Jesus is by faith, it follows that children can very well believe. Also: Since the only means of grace of which we know that it can transmit faith also to infants is that of Baptism, it follows that we should bring our children to Jesus by means of this Sacrament as soon as possible. Finally: We must strive unceasingly to bring our reason into captivity under the obedience of Christ in the Word, in order that our faith may become simple and childlike.
Denying All for Christ's Sake.
The rich young ruler:
v. 18. And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
v. 19. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good save one, that is, God.
v. 20. Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.
v. 21. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
v. 22. Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.
v. 23. An/d when he heard this, he was very sorrowful; for he was very rich.
See Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22. Jesus was still on the eastern side of the Jordan when the incident occurred which is here narrated. A young rich ruler of a local synagogue came to him and asked him, with all marks of respect and esteem: Good Master, by the doing of what. will I inherit eternal life? The question gave Jesus one of the best opportunities of confessing Himself to be coequal with God the Father. For He did not decline the honor which lay in the word "good. " But He called the attention of the ruler to the word he had used. Jesus was not only good in the sense commonly associated with the word, that of a virtuous man and wise teacher. He is the Good in the absolute sense. So much for the form in which the young man had addressed Him. As for his question, he had mentioned works, he had expressed his belief that the inheriting of eternal life depended upon something that he could do. Jesus takes him up at this point. He reminds him of the commandments which, as ruler of the synagogue, he certainly must be familiar with. Note: Jesus does not quote the commandments in the order which is generally followed, thus showing that not the order of the precepts of God, but the keeping of their contents, is the important matter. But when Jesus had named five of the commandments, all of them from the second table of the Law, the ruler made the astounding statements: These all have I kept from my youth, thereby proving that he had no true idea of the spiritual understanding of the Law of God. His conception of his duty according to the commandments was that universally held among the Jews, namely, that a mere outward observance of the letter of the Law was equal to its fulfillment; Only transgressions in deeds and, under certain circumstances, in words were accounted sin; transgressions in desires and thoughts were not taken into consideration. The ruler had evidently made his declaration in good faith, and Jesus loved him for it, Mark 10:21. Nevertheless, it was necessary for the great Physician to cut deeply in this case, in order to lay bare the tumor of false sanctity. So Jesus told him that he still lacked one thing in order to be perfect and thus to lay claim to the inheritance of heaven. Everything that he had he should distribute to the poor; then he would have a treasure safely laid away in heaven, then, also, he could be the Lord's disciple in truth. The Lord's object was to show the man how far he still was from keeping the commandments as he should, how far from perfect his love toward God and his neighbor was, how completely his heart was still bound up in the things of this world. The advice of Jesus strikes the heart of the matter, and finds its application in the case of every person. We should love God above all things, and if He demands it, if the welfare of the kingdom of God makes it necessary, we should be ready to sacrifice all earthly goods and life itself; and we should at all times serve our neighbor with our money. The test was too much for the young man. He was deeply grieved, he became very sorrowful on account of the words of Jesus. He had been touched in his weakest spot; he was very rich. In giving up his riches he would be denying himself that which his heart placed even above the love and service of Jesus. Thus many people that once heard the Word of God and were attracted by some phase of church work, have turned their backs upon the Church, and everything it stands for and offers, because their Pharisaic hearts were struck by some sermon concerning their special sinful hobby. It is necessary at all times that the Word of God, the Law, tear the mask of self-righteousness from the face of the sinner before he can become a disciple of Jesus in deed and in truth.
The lesson of the incident:
v. 24. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
v. 25. For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
v. 26. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
v. 27. And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
The young ruler had gotten more than he bargained for; he went away from Jesus, and it is very doubtful whether he ever returned. Jesus determined to teach His disciples and others that were near a lesson drawn from the incident. He told them in the form of an exclamation: How difficult, how next to impossible, it is for those that have goods, that are rich, to enter into the kingdom of God! See Matthew 19:23-30; Mark 10:23-31. A person that is rich, actually calls the goods that are entrusted to him his own, and thus puts his trust in them, instead of in God alone, who has laid this responsibility upon him, is a servant of mammon, and cannot get to heaven. The difficulty is well illustrated by a proverb after the Oriental fashion, according to which it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man of that kind to enter into the kingdom of heaven. "For the rich people commonly become so entangled in the love and in the lust of riches that they cannot seek Jesus; yea, they do not desire to see Him: All their consolation is centered in money and goods; the more they get, the greater their desire, grows to possess still more. " But the saying of Jesus was too much for the spiritual understanding of the disciples and other hearers. In astonishment and perplexity they ask: And who can be saved? But Jesus gave them the solution by saying: The impossible with men is possible with God. It is true in general that God's almighty power is not limited. And it is true, with special reference to conversion, that it is by the merciful power of God that sinful people are converted and renewed, that their hearts are torn loose from the love of this world and its riches and turned to His service all alone.
v. 28. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all and followed Thee.
v. 29. And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God's sake
v. 30. who shall not receive manifold more in this present time and in the world to come life everlasting.
The disciples of Jesus had experienced in their own lives the wonderful mercy of God, who had not only caused them to forsake the things of this world and had wrought faith in their hearts, but had given them the additional privilege of being disciples and friends of their Savior. Peter now reminded Jesus of the fact of their having forsaken all in order to follow Him. It appears even here, however, that the thoughts of Peter were still engaged with things of this world, that the idea of a temporal Messianic kingdom had not yet been driven out entirely. But Jesus deals with him in all patience. He tells him and all the apostles with solemn emphasis that there is no one that has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who would not receive in return, as a reward of grace, much more, a hundred times more, even in this present world. Even here on earth, in Christ and in the Kingdom of Grace, a Christian finds full compensation for everything that he has given up and sacrificed in this world's goods; for the standards of the kingdom of God are entirely different from those of the world, Mark 10:30. And finally, when the time set by God has come, He will give to the believers the inheritance of eternal life, not on account of any works or sacrifice, but as a reward of grace. Then all that he may have been obliged to suffer, to sacrifice, to deny, will sink into insignificance and be forgotten in the enjoyment of the heavenly bliss.
The Lord's Third Prediction of His Passion.
v. 31. Then He took unto Him the Twelve and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.
v. 32. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on;
v. 33. and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death; and the third day He shall rise again.
v. 34. And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
Twice the Lord had spoken very explicitly of His coming Passion, but the disciples had not understood the reference: Here He took the Twelve aside and placed Himself at their head as their Champion and intrepid Leader. Then He gave them a full prophecy concerning His Passion, enumerating the several outstanding features. To Jerusalem they were going, there the great tragedy was to take place. All the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the suffering and death of the Servant of the Lord, of the Messiah, would there be fulfilled; all things would happen to the Son of Man as written in the prophets: Delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, derided and mocked, treated with contempt, spat upon. But always, in the end, the definite assurance of His resurrection on the third day. In spite of the detailed account, however, the disciples understood none of these things, the entire matter being hidden from them, they had not the faintest idea what it was all really about. They merely huddled about Him, while amazement and an indefinable dread took hold of them, as of an impending disaster. "Notwithstanding all the information which Christ had given them concerning this awful subject, they could not as yet fully comprehend how the Messiah should suffer; or how their Master, whose power they knew was unlimited, should permit the Jews and Gentiles to torment and slay Him as He here intimates they would."
The Blind Man of Jericho.
The passing of Jesus of Nazareth:
v. 35. And it came to pass that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging;
v. 36. and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
v. 37. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
v. 38. And he cried, saying, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
v. 39. And they which went before rebuked him that he should hold his peace; but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
See Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46. Jesus had now crossed the Jordan from Perea into Judea and was nearing the city of Jericho. Near this city He healed two blind men, as Matthew relates, one before entering the city, of whom Luke tells, one upon leaving the city, whose healing Mark relates. As Jesus with & large company of people, in addition to His disciples, was nearing the city, the blind man, who sat near the gate of the city, where many people were wont to pass by, heard the sound of the many feet moving along the road and inquired as to the reason. He received the information that it was Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, who was passing by. Immediately the man acted as though he were electrified. He cried out with a loud voice, calling upon Jesus to have mercy upon him, giving Him the name which was reserved for the promised Messiah as a title of honor. From the reports concerning Jesus and His work this blind man had gained the right, the saving knowledge concerning Christ, and his faith looked up to the Master as the only one who, in His mercy, could cure him. The leaders of the multitude that were just passing the spot where the blind man was sitting, tried to hush him up, just as is often done in our days, when helpless cripples are regarded as a nuisance and treated accordingly. But the man was not daunted by their rebukes that he should hold his peace. He continued his cry to Jesus for mercy:
v. 40. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him; and when he was come near, He asked him,
v. 41. saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
v. 42. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.
v. 43. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
Jesus, as soon as He heard the plaintive cry, stood still in the road and commanded that the blind man be brought to Him. And now willing hands were found without trouble to render the service required. In order to hear the prayer of faith, Jesus asked the man what he desired Him to do for him. The request of the blind man was incidentally a confession, for he called Jesus Lord, confessing Him to be God, just as he had previously expressed his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Here was a full confession of faith in the person and in the office of Jesus. In the strength of this faith he made his prayer that he might be able to see, that his eyes might be opened. And Jesus, in the depth of His sympathy for all men, in whatever trouble they may be, spoke the almighty word which opened his eyes: Receive thy sight. His faith had gained the boon of the merciful healing for him. "As soon as the word sounds: Receive thy sight, he believes it; therefore, what he believed now happens to him. That is the first lesson which we should learn from this gospel, namely, to believe the Word of God with complete, trustful heart, without wavering. " At once he received his sight and followed after Jesus, with his mouth overflowing with praise to God. Trusting in God's mercy and Christ's love for sinners and His sympathy for those suffering in any way from the curse of sin, he was made whole without delay. And all the people that saw this miracle likewise gave praise to God. Note: A Christian that has received any evidence of the mercy of God, in the countless benefits conferred through the means of God, really never has cause to complain, but should always be found with his mouth singing the praises of Him who has led him out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into His marvelous light.
Summary. Jesus tells the parable s
of the importunate widow an d
of the Pharisee and the publican, blesses little children that are brought
to Him, speaks to the rich young ruler concerning sacrifices for His sake, gives His disciples the third prediction
of His Passion, and heals the blind man of Jericho.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 18". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany