December 18, Advent 18, Luke 18- Justice, the Faith of Children, the Fulfillment of the Prophets


Read Luke 18

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8 (ESV)

It’s easy in today’s world to be cynical and to give up, especially when we face disappointment, broken promises and the effects of the failures of broken systems every day.  Often we have to call and complain about poor service or wrong pricing or other issues in the course of doing business and going about our lives.  The squeaky wheel does in fact get the grease.  The more that the widow pestered the judge, she wore out his patience. It was easier for him to just give her what she wanted instead of enduring the constant pestering.

God is not like the unjust judge or the customer service department at the cable company. We don’t have to pester or threaten Him. He knows our prayers before we pray them.  He arranges for our provision in ways we need and that are best for us-  even when we don’t know our needs well enough to bring those needs to God in prayer.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

Martin Luther taught that we are all beggars before God: The phrase, “Wir sind pettler, hoc est verum” (We are beggars, this is true) is said to be his last words.  The apostle James teaches us that if we break one little tiny bit of God’s Law we are guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

Faith is not just knowing that we are beggars, but also trusting in  the One Who took our sins to the cross to forgive our sins and to cover us with His righteousness and goodness.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 (ESV)

Children find it easier to trust than adults.  We become cynical and jaded, but Jesus calls us to trust Him.  Even when the news is bad, the road is hard, and there seems to be no hope, Jesus is there with us, walking with us through our trials.  He wants us to bring children to Him from the very beginning, so that they will learn to cling to Him from the very beginning.  This is why we bring infants to the baptismal font, to the means of grace that God makes available for us, regardless of our age or stage of life.

Jesus, seeing that he (the rich young ruler) had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:24-30 (ESV)

The rich young ruler had fooled himself into thinking that he had obeyed the Law all his life.  Unfortunately it is not possible for anyone to do that.  If we could earn or buy our way to eternal life, why would the Son of God need to suffer and die to deliver us from the eternal consequences of our sins?

It is true that there is no buying or earning our way into eternal life.  Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6)

The disciples still hadn’t quite gotten what it was that Jesus came to do, even though He tells them again that He must die, and that He will rise from the dead as the prophets foretold.

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34 (ESV)

The blind beggar on the road to Jericho cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus did have mercy on him, and restored his sight.

And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. Luke 18:39-43 (ESV)

Lord, we confess that we are beggars- blind, flawed and unable to believe in You, save by your gift of faith and the means of grace You give us in baptism, Holy Communion and in hearing the Word of God preached to us.  We pray that You would heal us, forgive us and give us our sight so that we may see you and that we would patiently and faithfully await Your glorious return.

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