O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Luke 18:1-8
Preached on Oct 20, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, there was a young man who had gone to church since he was born. He had been through Sunday School. He had been confirmed. And he knew the love His Lord had for him. He knew Jesus had died to save him. But when he entered high school it was suddenly very hard for him to be a Christian. His friends, at least those who used to be his friends, had turned against him because of his faith. They bullied him. Ridiculed him. And made fun of him because He believed in Jesus. The young man was ashamed. He began to keep his faith to himself. He prayed less. He even resented his Lord who loved him. Eventually, he found himself angry at God, mad that he was facing such persecution for His Name. And then came that question, like a whisper in his ear, "If your loving God really exists, why does He let this happen to you?"
In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is comforting His disciples. He is speaking words for them to hold onto when things get bad, because they are days from Jerusalem, and as we know things are going to get bad. The text says, "Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." Don't you love that translation? Ugh. It makes Jesus sound like some sort of cheerleader or something. Keep your spirits up. Don't lose heart. What the Greek really says there is that the disciples ought always to pray and not enkakein. You might have heard a few words mushed together in there. The word "en" or in, and the word "kaka." I'll let you figure out what kaka means. Yep, you guessed it, kaka is bad. It literally means evil. So when you put it all together – you get – not in evil. Do not give in to evil. Do not give in to unbelief. Don't stop believing when things don't look so good, because listen up boys, we are almost at Jerusalem and I've told you twice what will happen to me there.
This is why He tells this parable. To comfort His disciples because things are going to get bad. And to comfort you because being a Christian in this world is hard. People don't want you to talk about Jesus, because they don't like to hear about Him. They don't want you to talk about your sin, because they don't like that either. They don't want you to talk about the righteousness that is found only in Christ. For that they'll bully you, ridicule you and try to make you feel ashamed. Christ told us, if you confess me before men, you will be hated, you will be called hateful. You will be misunderstood and misrepresented. And through all of this, you will be tempted to give in to evil. To leave your faith for a moment and act against it. And when you are honest with yourself, you know you've done this. No, you never wanted to, you thought twice about it in the moment, but it felt like Christ was so far away, like His righteousness was taking forever to get to you, so you took matters into your own hands, and you gave in to temptation. But now what do I do? I am an enemy of the world, and I've denied my Lord. Beloved, this parable is for you. Jesus tells this parable to you.
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.'
A widow, a woman who had lost her husband. A woman with no one to stand up for her. In the ancient world, widows may have had it the worst. Poor and lonely, they had almost no voice. But this one – this one kept coming to the judge. This one kept begging the judge for something.
And despite what you see in the English translation, she was not begging for the Law. She was not saying, "Give me justice," but "Justify me!" I beg you judge, declare me innocent. Declare me righteous. Have mercy! For I have an enemy, an adversary, one who accuses me night and day – my guilt, my unrighteousness. It speaks against me and only you can outspeak it. Declare me righteous in the face of my unrighteousness.
Jesus has really said something here. For this widow doesn't come to the judge every day because she is poor. She doesn't throw herself before him like a beggar because she is lonely. She isn't crying out to the one who holds the gavel because she has been bullied, or ridiculed or made fun of, but because she wants to be justified, forgiven, Gospeled. All she wants is to be able to stand when she faces the judge of the living and the dead.
Now for a while the judge refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will justify her, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'"
We often think that the judge just doesn't want to be bothered by her anymore. That she is wearing him out or something. But there is far more going on in the Greek here, and you're gonna like it. He says, "I will justify this widow so that in the end she will not hoopopiadzeye me." Hoopopiadzeye. Which literally means "give me a black eye." The judge is not tired of her, he is worried about the way he looks. He is worried she will "give him a black eye" or ruin his reputation. He doesn't want her to make him look bad in front of everybody else. No, this judge doesn't care about God or man, but he does care about his own reputation. He does care about his name – and he is willing to justify this widow in order to maintain his good name.
Now, if this is true for an unrighteous judge, Jesus asks, what about your Father who is heaven? The very source of all righteousness, the One whose Name actually creates righteousness – will He not justify His elect, those who cry to Him night and day? Will He let His Name be brought to ruin? Let you give Him a black eye? How much more will He justify you – how much more will He declare you innocent – how much more will He tell your adversary to go away – He wants to speak you righteous in the face of your unrighteousness, and that is why He sends His Son.
And no – it will not be long – as Jesus speaks these words He is about to be crucified, and the proclamation of His cross – the message that God has justified the ungodly – is about to go out into all the world. His Name is about to be vindicated. Proven true! Justified before all nations! And you now know, that when He rose from the dead, He declared, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." The Triune Name of God declares you righteous for the sake of Christ. He wants the whole world to know forevermore that He takes care of His people. The black eye of His cross has justified you, and He promises you have the judge's ear any time you need it.
So pray, and when you pray - You don't need to figure out if you are asking for the right things, just ask – God will say No if you need No and Yes if you need Yes – because prayer is a gift – You can know for certain that God wants to hear your prayer. He promises that whatever you say to Him, He hears you. And He wants His Name, which He has spoken upon you to be justified. To be true. He wants you His dear saint to make it to His kingdom, that on the Last Day – when the judge stands before all people – you will be found righteous – then all those adversaries and opponents and naysayers and bullies that gave you trouble all your life will see once and for all that God's Name is on you – and you are justified in Him. That your Jesus and His cross are true. That will be the day. Christ will be your glory.
But in the meantime, as you wait, weak and poor and lonely under the cross, as you look around and think, wow, things are bad, we are getting crucified out here, know that you are like the disciples, you are like the widow, you are like every single Christian who has ever confessed His Name, even your Lord Himself, but He is working it all out for your good – for this is the way of the cross.
When the Son of Man comes, does he find faith on earth? No. But He creates it. By His Word. By His promise and by His righteous, justifying deeds which He does for you – His poor widow, His poor beggar, His poor hopeless one who can find no justice in this life – so pray – because He is listening. Truly, He is listening to you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr