Summary: In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus spells out how to get REAL with God.
Stained Glass Masquerade
Pastor Jeff Williams
A Lying Lion
Not many people know that Pastor Dick wanted to work for the zoo when he was younger. As a teenager, he bugged the manager nearly every day for a job. Each time the man would have to let him down easy. But one day, things took a strange turn. The manager took Dick in the back room and began to whisper, “If you really want a job at the zoo, I have a proposition for you. Our gorilla died last night and we can not afford a new one so try this on.” The man handed Dick a brand new gorilla suit. Well, Dick excitedly tried it on and it fit. He finally had a job at the zoo.
The next morning, he climbed into the cage and starting eating bananas. A young boy took a keen interest in the gorilla and Dick became inspired. He jumped up and down, made gorilla sounds, and started swinging on the tire swing. The young boy called his mother over excitedly. Egged on by his audience, Dick swung so high that he ended up going over the wall and landed with a plop…in the lion’s cage! By this time, the mother had walked away but the young boy ran to the other side. The lion woke up and let out a slow growl. At this Dick panicked and began yelling for help. The boy yelled for his mom, “Mommy, monkey can talk.” The lion got up and slowly circled Dick and the young boy yelled, “Mommy, lion’s gonna eat the monkey.” At this Dick totally lost it and began loudly exclaiming that he was not in fact a monkey but a man and he did not want to be eaten. The lion pounced and knocked Dick to the ground and opened his huge jaws. Just when he thought he was a gonner, he heard the lion say, “Would you please shut up, you are going to get us both fired!”
Sometimes, actually very often, things are not what they seem, are they?
Turn with me to the book of Luke and find the eighteenth chapter. [Prayer]
A Master Teacher at Work
Let’s start with a definition. What exactly is a parable? Simply put, a parable is a fictional story with a moral or spiritual point. All of us have grown up hearing parables. There once was a boy who kept trying to get attention by ringing the bell and saying the wolf was in town and they were all in danger. Then one day, the wolf really did show up, the boy rang the bell, but no one believed him. The moral? Don’t “cry wolf” if there ain’t no wolf! A variation of this story involving a little chicken who kept thinking the sky was falling. More recently, the parable of four children who wander into a wardrobe and discover the magic land of Narnia has captured our imaginations. These parables are a part of our folklore and we learn from such stories lessons that can be applied to real every day lives.
Jesus was a master teacher and if you read the Gospels carefully you will discover that He almost always taught the crowds using parables. One time one of the disciples asked why He did not just teach like the other rabbis. Jesus’ reply is cryptic:
“This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
Jesus understood the role of a great teacher is not to give the students all the answers but to teach them how to think. These stories sparked discussion and debate, confusion and questions. In one sense, the parables Jesus told were so simple: stories of farmers and seed, lost sheep and coins, bandits and victims. Out of the forty parables Jesus told, only a couple of them mention the name of God. In another sense, Eugene Peterson writes that they were much deeper than that: “They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imaginations. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts. An abyss opened up at their very feet. He was talking about God; they had been invaded!”
A Parable for the Proud
Wherever Jesus went, He was surrounded by crowds. These crowds were made up of all kinds of people, from the spiritually dead to the spiritual snobs. We are told that this particular parable is for the snobs. Look at verse 9:
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:” (Luke 18:9)
The phrase “looked down on” can be translated “to utterly despise.” I love the way the Message paraphrases this verse, “To some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people.” Ouch! These spiritually superior super-saints were about to learn a lesson about what is most important in the kingdom of God.