Summary: This is a sermon calling us to repentance from a better than thou attitude of the Pharisee
When we look at the text today we see that Dr. Luke made no bones about who Jesus was addressing in this parable. Jesus was telling this parable to the high and mighty, holier than thou folks. He was addressing the religious folks that acted like they were just a little better than everyone else. He was talking to those who because of who they thought they were, had a tendency to look down on everyone else.
You know sounds like he may have been talkin to church folk, Sounds like he coulda been talking to those Pentecostal folk, sounds like he could have been talking to those Baptist folk, sounds like he could have been talking to those Assembly of God folk. But it sounds a whole lot like he might have been talking to some of us Methodist folk to.
But hey, it’s not our fault we are surrounded by a world full of instant gratification and praise and awards for being mediocre. We aren’t really pushed to do our best to earn anything, and we get rewarded for little things that really aren’t anything special at all and we think we are good enough. I’m guilty of it, my grandkids will come to me and say “Papa I picked up my toys.” And I’ll say “good Job” and shower praises on them for doing something that should be done by them anyway. They played with them and scattered them around. A generation ago it wasn’t like that, I would go in and say “ I picked my toys up” my mom would say “ since you’re done with that you may as well feed the chickens, slop the hogs and gather the eggs so you can be cleaned up by supper.” We didn’t get anything special for doing what we should have done anyway, but today it’s different, but I believe that each of us will fit in this parable somewhere no matter what generation we grew up in. And if you don’t think that Jesus is talking to you in this parable you need to listen up because you may be the one that needs to hear it the most.
Two very different men happen to be at the same place at the same time and both bring a very different attitude. One is a very religious man, a Pharisee no doubt, you can tell by the way he is dressed with his phylacteries and fringes on his robe. He was a keeper of the law, even though Jesus labeled them as hypocrites. Because they didn’t practice what they preached, they put burdens on the people and none upon themselves, they liked to be noticed and they always wanted the best seat in the house.
The other was a man who was hated by his fellow Jews they saw him as a sorry no good sinner, someone who was worse than the worst. He was a Tax collector, no one liked him at all because of what he did. They were responsible for paying the taxes to the government but could have any money left to themselves and they were allowed to charge whatever they wanted to the people.
They were considered unclean by other Jews because of their close association with Gentiles. Their people saw them much like a traitor.
These two men also came before the Lord in very distinct and different ways.
The Pharisee was so sure of himself he prayed “O Lord I’m so glad that I’m not a sinner, that I follow the law and even go above and beyond at times. I don’t do all that other stuff like cheating and stealing, I don’t commit adultery. And Lord I think you should know I certainly am not like that no good tax collector over there. The Pharisee was putting on some pompous airs and wanted God to recognize the good things he was doing that he was supposed to be doing anyway.
Then we see the tax collector, to ashamed to even lift his eyes toward heaven, tears streaming down his face, beating his chest saying “God I need your mercy, God I’m not worthy, Lord I know I’m a sinner, I lie, I cheat, I steal, I know I’m not good enough to even be standing here before you, I know I can’t do it on my own. Please I beg you have mercy on me.”
And Jesus said “the sinner went home justified before God.” The one with the repentant heart, the one that wasn’t afraid to cry out that he was wrong, the one that admitted that he needed mercy. He was the one justified in the eyes of God.
The Tax Collector went home without guilt and shame, he laid it all out, and you know something the tax collector went home, unburdened and free.