Summary: We can’t go around saying, “Thank God that’s not me” because in truth it is us. Just like us, the people who are out there, people who perhaps make us uncomfortable are sinners who need to know the grace of God through Jesus Christ in their lives. The o
A Preacher dies and is standing in line, waiting outside the Pearly Gates. He is standing there patiently, wearing his best suit and tie, dressed like he is ready to preach his Sunday morning sermon. In line just ahead of him is a guy wearing sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and blue jeans. The preacher thinks to himself, “Thank God that isn’t me. I mean, I may be dead but at least I know how to dress for that ultimate meeting with my maker.”
When the two men finally make it to the front of the line St. Peter addresses the man in the loud shirt, “Who are you so that I may know whether or not to admit you into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The man then replies, “Well St. Peter, I am Joe Cohen. I am a cab driver from New York City.”
St. Peter then consults his list. When he looks up he smiles at the taxi driver and then says, “Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The taxi driver puts on his robe and takes his staff and enters into heaven.
The preacher then gets really excited. If a lowly cab driver from such a God forsaken place like New York City gets a silken robe and golden staff, what could be in store for him?
It was finally the preacher’s turn. He stood up straight and erect and walked toward St. Peter. Then in his best preacher’s voice, he booms out “I am the Right Reverend Joseph Snow, pastor at St. Mary’s Church for the last 43 years.”
St. Peter then consults his list again. When he looks up this time he simply hands the preacher a cotton robe and wooden staff and says, “You may enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The preacher is incensed. He has been such a faithful disciple all these years and now that he stands for his eternal reward he gets what is seemingly a slap in the face. “Just a minute,” the preacher says to St. Peter. “That man was a taxi driver. I was a faithful minister of the Gospel. He gets a silken robe and golden staff and I get this? Where is the justice in this situation?”
St. Peter then replies, “Sir, here we work on results. During your 43 years at St. Mary’s Church, when you preached, people slept. When he drove his cab, people prayed.”
II It would seem that the preacher had more than a few lessons to learn about humility. It would seem that such was the case as well for the Pharisee in our lesson this morning. Today we resume our series “Principles from Parables” as we look at the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
Whenever I read this parable, the first thing that I think about is humility. Then my mind cannot help but wander just a bit. It usually isn’t long before I hear Mac Davis crooning in my head, “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ’cause I get better lookin’ each day. To know me is to love me,
I must be a hell of a man, Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble,
but I’m doing the best that I can.”
Without question, people in the world that could sure use a lesson in humility surround us. The scary thing is, if we are honest, it just might be us.
III As I studied this text during the week this past week what kept coming to my mind over and over again is the way that we tend to read and accept this text, even though it isn’t really the way we live our lives. Whenever we read this story we do so with a judging eye on the Pharisee. Perhaps that was Jesus’ point. Still we look at the Pharisee as the bad guy in the story and the tax collector as the good guy and to my way of thinking that is at least a bit unfortunate.
A Pharisee was a member of the Jewish faith but not just any member of the Jewish faith. They were set apart from everyone else. They were not members of the priesthood but instead were laity. They were zealous about keeping the faith, particularly in matters of the law. They wanted to keep the Scriptures, the oral law, and the traditions of the Hebrew faith pure. They were the pious people of their time. They attended every Scripture study and sought to obey every law down to the minutest detail. They wanted above all to be faithful. Pharisees knew how to pray. In fact they applied themselves to the art of prayer.