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This Chapter contains the Relation of the Importunate Widow, The Parable of the Pharisee and Publican. Children brought to Christ. Our Lord's Discourses; and the History of the Blind Man, near Jericho.
(1) And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; (2) Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: (3) And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
The scope of this beautiful parable is not to insist upon the necessity of prayer; for the Lord's people are supposed to be a praying people. Psalms 27:8 . No sooner doth grace at regeneration enter the heart, than the new-born soul breathes in prayer. Behold, he prayeth! is the first account the Lord himself gives at the conversion of Paul. Acts 9:11 . But it is the perseverance in prayer, the holy vehemency and importunity of a soul in prayer, which, like Jacob, will not leave the mercy-seat without a blessing. Genesis 32:26 . This is the great point, which the Lord Jesus so graciously teaches his redeemed and exercised ones, by the design of this parable. He who best knows how matters go on at the court of heaven, here instructs all his people how to hold on, and hold out, upon earth, until the needed mercy is obtained. In due time we shall reap if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 . Reader! do not overlook this great design of the parable. Neither forget who it is that designed it. He who is the Almighty Advocate at the throne, in whose hands all petitions are lodged, and from whose prevalency in his priestly office, blood-shedding and righteousness, all success must be obtained. It is Jesus, all-precious Jesus, that thus recommends; and, in that recommendation, gives grace to perform. This God-man directs his people to carry all their sorrows, exercises, trials, temptations, fears, and unbelief to him, at his pardon-office, and there wait. And he gives an instance, by the similitude of a parable, how sure they are to succeed.
The Lord first gives the outlines of character in an unjust judge. The portrait Jesus draws of him, is but in two features; but the Lord hath so strongly marked them, that they convey the whole countenance, both of head and heart. He feared not God, neither regarded man. What an awful character in himself! and how unsuited for the office of a magistrate! It is true indeed, that every man by nature, and while remaining in a state of unregeneracy, hath not the fear of God before his eyes; but here is a monster of iniquity that sets God at defiance. Not content with living regardless of God, he prided himself in the contempt of God. He was arrived at that consummate degree of impudence as to boast of it; for he scrupled not to give his
own character, in openly declaring, that he feared not God, nor regarded man. To this infamous man a poor defenceless widow was compelled to bring her cause. What hope could there be that one who made no conscience of his ways would listen to her petition? Can any that have thrown off the fear of God be well disposed towards man?
The parable goes on: And there was a widow in that city (saith Jesus), and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of mine Adversary. Reader! do attend to the several features of character in which Jesus hath drawn her picture; and if, with an eye to the Church; in the case of every individual of Christ's mystical body, you consider the subject (for very evidently it was in this light Jesus intended it), the matter will become more striking. It is Christ's poor, despised, oppressed followers, the Lord meant by this widow. Not indeed that, in the strictest sense of the word, the Church is a widow, for Christ, her husband, is not dead, for he ever liveth. But the Church is called a widow. Lamentations 1:1 . And while Christ is absent from her, she is considered as one in a widowed state. John 14:18 . It is said that Jesus will come and bring home his wife to the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Revelations 19:9. Hence, therefore, during the present day of grace, the Church may be considered as in the city of an unjust judge; and surrounded with many adversaries, both from within and without; and continually longing to be delivered from their power. It is the case of all the Lord's tried ones.
(4) And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man: (5) Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
It is on this point the Lord particularly lays the stress of the whole parable. Here is an unjust judge, one who is regardless both of God and man; fears not the one, nor loves the other; and yet, from the unceasing importunity and clamorous demands of a poor woman, determines in himself that he will do as she desired. From hence the Lord Jesus draws his unanswerable conclusion of the efficacy of prayer in the saints of God. It is as if the Lord Jesus had said, See what perseverance will do. Here's an unjust, unfeeling, time-serving wretch, at length over-ruled, overawed, and actually compelled to do a violence to his own feelings. I will (saith he) avenge her: not to save her, but to ease myself.
(6) And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. (7) And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? (8) I tell you, That he will avenge them speedily, nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Now our Lord most blessedly makes application of the parable. Hear (saith Christ), hear what the unjust judge saith. As if Jesus had said, Hear, my poor afflicted redeemed ones, what an unfeeling judge saith, when overcome by the ceaseless and unremitting importunity of a poor widow, and take comfort and encouragement in all your approaches to the throne. After such an instance as this, never never despond. And shall not God avenge his own elect? There is an uncommon beauty and strength in the expression, His own elect. Not simply an elect, but God's elect; not only a chosen seed, but God's chosen, and which God delights to call his own. Not simply a people set apart, and set apart for God, but set apart by God himself. His own elect. I cannot say enough in endeavouring to point out to the people of God the blessedness, and the peculiarity of the expression. His own elect. They are his. And they are his choice, his elect. And they are so before all others, and in preference to all others. And the Father gave them to his dear Son, not only before all others, and in preference to all others, but as a choice manifestation of his love. In short, his own elect. Reader! pause over the blessed thought, for it is a very blessed thought! and learn, that amidst all the cavils and disputes of infidels, that God hath an elect, and which are specially and personally his own. And learn, at the same time, that though they are God's elect, yet are they as this poor widow was, much oppressed by the adversary; yea, they have many adversaries: and do not forget also, that as they are God's own, God cannot but regard them.
And (saith Jesus) shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? Shall this time-serving wretch, this unjust judge, be at length overcome to do, what he delighted not to do; and shall not God do that, which is his glory and his pleasure to do? Shall this poor widow prevail with an unjust judge, and shall not the married wife of Jesus prevail with a just Father? Shall a cruel unfeeling man be at length overcome, and shall not a merciful tender God be gracious? Is it possible to suppose, that she, who had no one to speak for her, and no interest in the mind of this earthly judge to aid her petition, should yet at length by importunity succeed; and shall not the poor of Jesus's family be successful who have Christ to speak for them, and have in the very bosom of God our Father an advocate in his own everlasting love, which in Christ must ensure their acceptance? Yea, saith Jesus, (thus putting a blessed positive emphasis upon it,) I tell you, he will avenge them speedily. But, Reader! what a humbling thought is it at the close of the parable in the Lord's question, when Jesus saith; Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth? It is a kind of question which carrieth with it its own answer, as if he had said; No! he will not. For, notwithstanding all the covenant faithfulness and promises of God in Christ Jesus, who is there that lives up to the enjoyment of the whole by faith? Reader! what a reproach is it to the truly regenerated soul, that Jehovah's word and oath, with all Christ's precious salvation, should be so little rested upon by faith?
(9) And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others: (10) Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (12) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (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. (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.
Here is another beautiful parable of our Lord's, and the occasion for which he spake it is declared. I do not think it necessary as in the former, to enlarge upon the several features of it. Every circumstance in both the characters Christ hath drawn, is descriptive of the different ground for which they stood for seeking acceptance with God. And it should be observed, in order to give weight to the design of our Lord's teaching, that the Pharisee and Publican are as much living characters now, as then, in the days of our Lord. Every man is a Pharisee that is seeking acceptance with God either whole or in part, who prides himself upon his own good deeds, and prayers, and sacraments, and almsgiving; and hath recourse to Christ no further according to his will than to make up (if there should be any) his own deficiency. And every man may be called a Publican, in the sense of this parable, who from the teaching of God the Spirit hath been led to behold the Adam-nature in which he was born, and the condemnation in which he is involved, both by original, and by actual transgression; and led by the Holy Ghost to God in Christ, acknowledgeth himself unmeriting forgiveness, while in sorrow and contrition he seeks it. Justification is of God in Christ. And therefore the self-condemned, and not the self-righteous, find justification before God.
(15) And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. (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. (17) Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.
We have a parallel passage, Matthew 18:1 , etc. to which I refer; and shall only in addition observe in this place, what an endearing and tender representation is given of our Lord Jesus Christ, in such a beautiful and interesting trait of character, in thus folding in his divine arms little children. What an encouragement for believing parents to bring their offspring often before him!
(18) And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (19) And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is God. (20) Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. (21) And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. (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. (23) And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. (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! (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. (26) And they that heard it, said, Who then can be saved? (27) And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (28) Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. (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, (30) Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life ever-lasting.
Both Matthew and Mark have recorded, and nearly in the same words, this interview which Jesus had with this ruler. Matthew 19:16 ; Mark 10:17 . I refer to the observations there offered upon it. Every incident in our Lord's ministry becomes interesting, but to notice the whole would lead into endless discourses. Truly it must be said, and without a figure concerning the person and work of the Lord Jesus, there is no end of his greatness.
(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. (32) For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully intreated, and spitted on: (33) And they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. (34) And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
I request the Reader to remark with me how graciously the Lord Jesus, by little and little, as they were able to bear it, prepared the minds of his disciples for the great events which were now coming on, and very shortly to be accomplished at Jerusalem. The Passover, which was now at hand, the Lord Jesus well knew would be his last. And I beg the Reader to observe yet further, how sweetly Jesus directed their minds to the study of those scriptures which referred to him on the subject, that when the great events foretold should be accomplished, they might the better be enabled to compare the prediction with the event. And let me add, that the Reader will do well to be occupied in the same. For this purpose, let him consult those scriptures to which in the prophets we may suppose Christ here referred, Isaiah 53:0 ; Psalms 2:0 ; Psalms 22:0 ; Psalms 69:0 ; Isaiah 50:0 ; Daniel 9:24-27.9.26 ; Zechariah 11:12-38.11.13 . These holy records will be truly blessed, when opened to us by God the Holy Ghost; if we take them with us in our hands, and feel their power in our hearts, when by and by we come on to that part of Luke's Gospel, where we follow the Lord Jesus Christ from the garden to the hall of Pilate, until we take our stand at the foot of the cross. Oh! the preciousness of entering into an heartfelt participation of those momentous truths, when with the eye of faith we behold the Lord Jesus as Paul describes him, witnessing before Pontius Pilate a good confession. 1 Timothy 6:13 .
(35) And it came to pass, that, as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: (36) And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant? (37) And they told him, That Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. (38) And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. (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. (40) And Jesus stood and commanded him to be brought unto him. And when he was come near, he asked him, (41) Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? and he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. (42) And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. (43) And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.
The history of this miracle hath been so largely dwelt upon, in the review taken of it in Mark's Gospel, (Mark 10:46 ) that I need only refer the Reader to it in that place.
Reader! let us both beg of God the Holy Ghost, for his sweet and gracious office it is, to lead to the mercy-seat, to endite our prayers when there, and to give us everything suited to that sacred place; that He will of his rich mercy so help us in our infirmities, that we may be enabled to do as Jesus here commands, always pray and not faint. And oh! what unanswerable motives the Lord hath here furnished us with, in beholding a cruel, time-serving, unfeeling judge, at length prevailed upon to give way to a poor widow's unceasing importunity; when we call to mind that the Lord to whom we go in Christ, is our righteous, gracious, compassionate tender Father; and who himself hath expressly said: It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear! Oh! for faith, to believe the record God hath given of his dear Son!
Lord hide pride from our eyes, that no child of thine may be tinctured with pride, like this haughty blinded Pharisee; but give to all thy redeemed grace to be humbled like this poor Publican, that with self-contrition as his, we may each smite upon his breast as he did, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
And oh! for the continual teachings and leadings of the Holy Ghost, that as babes desiring the sincere milk of the word, we may come to Jesus; and never be sorrowful, as the young man rich in this world was, when called upon to leave all for Christ. Do thou, blessed Lord! do by us as by the blind man near Jericho, put a cry on our heart, and the more the ungodly rebuke for following Jesus, the more may our souls cry aloud for him, until Jesus heareth and answereth prayer, opens all the blinded senses of our spiritual faculties, and gives us grace to follow him in the regeneration; that we may glorify the Lord upon earth, and praise him to all eternity in heaven.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Luke 18". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent