Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 5 July 2015
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Luke 18 v 1-8
We are now almost three quarters of the way through Luke’s gospel, and it is worthwhile pausing for a moment to remind ourselves where we are in Luke’s masterful biography of the person of Jesus.
There is no doubt at all why Luke wrote this gospel. He tells us so in the opening verses. Towards the end of the apostolic era, when the church was becoming established, and those who had known Jesus personally were starting to die out, the folks were asking: “How did all this start?” Luke’s gospel is his answer to that question. In it he systematically and scientifically goes through the life of Jesus, showing them that their faith is rooted in a historical person and in real events. And to us too, this historical basis is key to our understanding of what our gospel is.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
So, let’s start to dig into the passage:
Luke tells us exactly why this parable is here. We need to be encouraged to not give up. Why? Precisely because we often want to. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the long haul, for a time when they will suffer ridicule, persecution and death – and often the question will arise: is it really worth it?
Nowhere is this more true than on the subject of prayer: we pray for years for ourselves, for a project and for God to act to bring deliverance from our enemies, yet the problems persist,issues remain unresolved and the tide of evil sweeps on. Why bother? Jesus is making clear that we need to persist to persevere and to keep going.
The story is of a self-satisfied, uncaring person in authority who refuses to listen to the perfectly legitimate request of a woman who is in great need. But the woman has two things on her side. Firstly, she is right! Secondly her boldness and persistence. She is quite shameless, and keeps going and going until the judge gives her what she wants simply to get rid of her. There is much humour in this – a woman breaking powerful ruler simply by force of persistence.
Jesus is not telling us that God is like the unjust ruler. In fact God is contrasted with that figure. But he is telling us that persistence, perseverance and patience is what is required in his followers. Sometimes we need to learn to simply keep on going! So, we remember that we are God’s chosen ones, and that if we seek justice, he will see to it, at the right time, that we get it. But it does raise the question – what does it mean to seek justice? Is this an encouragement for us to keep going with our own particular grievance, whatever it may be?
Surely, this means that we are to seek God’s justice in our lives and in the world, through prayer. Prayer is not a slot machine for us to get out of God what we want, but the means through which God gets his program done on the earth. We are called to pray god’s purposes into being: ”Your kingdom come, your will be done”
And, as is often the case – there is a sting in the tail.
Jesus has been talking with his disciples and others about his coming. He draws this lesson to a close by asking: when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
When Jesus returns, or calls us home, will he find a believing praying faithful church?
Who are the greatest people on earth? Those who persist, persevere and pray.