Summary: From the parable of the Pharisee and Publican a message about how to present our prayers to God.
A TAYLOR-MADE MESSAGE
* In 2009, to hear the word ‘Taylor-made’ means different things to different people. For some, ‘Taylor-Made’ is a trademark name of a company which produces high-end golfing equipment. For others, it paints the picture of something being “custom made, fit, or designed” for an individual.
* Interestingly enough, most (if not all) of the messages which Jesus gave were custom designed for His listeners. Yet, in His divinity, His custom designed messages carry an inclusive for all of us.
* Turn to Luke 18 and let’s walk through a very familiar story, however, it is a story which seems to be talked about very little these days. (Read text).
* Jesus, as He always does, take the ordinary and normal to teach divine truths which we truly need. He will take images like a banquet, a wedding, a coin, a sheep, or a son, and teach us deep truths. He will even take a daily prayer time to show us a message which we need to hear.
* When we read verse 9, we discover that Jesus looked at His listeners, saw their hearts, and then shared a brief but pointed message which was Taylor made for THEM as well as for us.
* He begins painting a picture of two men going to the temple to pray. The crowd has no problem connecting because this was a common occurrence during that day. It is similar to watching men (and women) come into the house of God for private prayer or public worship. They look like they are coming for similar reasons, they look like they are coming in the right attitude, but Jesus carefully tells the story and reveals spirit and flesh.
1. THE PRESTIGE OF EACH MAN – The KJV says this is a “Pharisee & Publican” (most of us realize that a publican is a tax collector). One was a highly religious individual who knew the law, taught the law, and kept the law. In fact, he was focused on the “letter” of the law. Although the Pharisee was generally of middle class means, he was highly respected for his knowledge of the law and his perceived righteousness. He was kind of like a “HOLY MAN.” The Publican, as a general rule, was very wealthy, but was much hated. He was considered a thief. If you remember in Mark 2 and Luke 5, Jesus sat and ate with Levi (Matthew) and his buddies. The question from the spiritual elite was “why do you spend time with these tax-collectors and sinners?” For the Pharisees thought they were too good, too pure, and too holy to spend time with such people.
* It reminds me of a church I served many years ago where a man came in from visitation/outreach and made this statement, “We don’t need that kind of people here.” It seems that Jesus was attempting to give a needed message to those who needed it. The message is that “man looks on the outside and makes decisions, but God…”
2. THE POSTURE BY EACH MAN – Sadly, the prestige of a person tends to impact his posture before God. Somehow, if we are well thought of (or think we are well thought of) or successful or smart, man’s approaches God a little differently. We see it in the posture of the Pharisee when he “took his stand and prayed.” Gene Peterson paraphrases this as ‘he posed.’ One commentator said the “Pharisee had nothing in his eye but self.” The way this story is constructed it seems that the Pharisee stood to make sure he was noticed. It is obvious from the tone of Jesus’ story that the Pharisee was a proud person who was in a prideful posture and that it was displeasing to God. The tax collector, on the other hand, was so filled with guilt and shame, as well as a sense of the holiness of God, that he would not even raise his eyes to heaven. Think about this picture, one standing and looking in a prideful many toward God and the other looking down in humility. It would seem that the question becomes this; “how does a person respond when they encounter God?” The posture of a person approaching God displays the attitude about God.
3. THE PRAYER FROM EACH MAN – To me this is one of the saddest examples of prayer in the entire Bible. Yet, Jesus spoke these words so I must assume that Jesus knew this was a danger for mankind. Compare the prayers; one is filled with arrogance and the other with humility. One is talking AT God while the other is talking with God. One reveals self-confidence while the other reveals self-knowledge. Here is what we learn from this parable; “The content of our prayers reveal the content of our heart.” If we are full of ourselves, then our prayers are full of us. If we are full of God, then our prayers are full of Him.