6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: When religion replaces Christianity, the result is spiritual superiority

Parable 13 – The Pharisee and the Publican

In our unit complex we have a gym which I religiously use six days a week

 One of the pieces of equipment there is one of those treadmill walkers

 It has all sorts of fancy programming, adjust the speed, incline, personal programs

 Over the years I’m sure it is responsible for a lot of blood, sweat and tears as well as a few calories being burnt off

 However despite all the effort exerted, the burnt calories, and the volumes of sweat collected, no one has ever gone anywhere on it

 Its just a fancy treadmill, the type they put in a rats cage

 Now I know that’s not the point, but the parable we will be looking at today is a lot like that treadmill, a lot of effort expended but no headway being made

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

 The start of this parable has a familiar ring to it

 Last time when we looked at the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich man, it started in a similar way

Luke 16:14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

 So we see Jesus addressing a particular attitude that permeated the ranks of the Pharisees

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

 Again we see another similarity. One was a respected member of society and the other a low-life tax collector. (Lazarus and the Rich man)

 So these two men head up to the temple and in the same way the Pharisees made a big show of giving their donations to the temple treasury, you can imagine the Pharisee going to a prominent place in the temple precinct and praying a prayer intended for the audience as well as for God

 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

• So he rattles off a long list of his accomplishments that would impress the most dedicated Jew of the day

• And to be honest, he would be welcomed with open arms in most congregations today, he’s thankful, honest, fair, faithful to his wife and not ripping off his fellowman

• But most importantly he pays his tithes, most congregations today would like this last trait

Now we come to the other man, a low life who does rip off his fellow man and worse, he works for the occupying power so he’s also a traitor

 But notice where he is standing, off in the shadows, wanting to be inconspicuous

• 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’

• Rather than telling God what a great asset he was to have around, this man went to God recognising his need and seeking God’s forgiveness

• In v.14 we read Jesus’ evaluation of the two attitudes

• 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Again we see some parallels with Jesus’ earlier parables. The so-called good guys are rebuked, and the low-life’s are accepted

 Older Brother in the story of the Prodigal, Lazarus, and now this dedicated Pharisee

 So what is the common problem that links these three that earns them Jesus’ rebuke

 They looked down on their fellowman because they thought they were spiritually superior

• Usually the lesson of this parable is simply a lesson in humility

• Its not, it is instruction in the futility of religion

• Its like someone getting on a treadmill exerting all this effort and energy thinking it going to take him somewhere

• And that is the great flaw in a religionists thinking – they think they are going to get to heaven on their good record – on their church attendance, on their tithings, on their fasting

• But they’re wasting their time on a game that doesn’t even exist

• There is nothing we can do to make us right with God

• If righteousness could have been achieved through the law, it would have been unnecessary for Jesus to come and do what he did for us

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