Summary: Jesus told a story in Luke’s Gospel to teach us about the irony of God’s righteousness and man’s sinfulness.
Opening Statement: There are many literary forms used in the Bible. There is poetry, proverb, legal document, dramatic narrative, hymn, sermon, theological treatise, personal letter, and apocalyptic vision. And sprinkled into all of these genres are figures of speech and word pictures that highlight what is being said. The form that a writer or speaker chooses to use in order to communicate his or her message indicates it’s meaning or how it should be treated or interpreted.
Review: We launched into a miniseries a few weeks ago that deals with Jesus’ use of parables or stories. Jesus was the master storyteller. Jesus used story or parable to connect with his listeners.
Clarification: Some of the parables were true stories taken from daily life. They are told as fact in the present tense. We’ve seen seed growing, yeast at work in dough, children playing, sheep grazing, and we all know what it’s like to lose something. Jesus told true stories about these things. Some of the parables were story parables. These stories, which may or may not have actually happened (the historicity is not important), are meant to convey a significant truth. Jesus made up some of these stories and used them as illustrations. Then there are example stories. They give us examples to either follow or avoid. They focus on the character and conduct of the individual.
Observation: While these stories teach us many good and wholesome things (as we will learn together), the parables do two other things that are easily overlooked.
First, the stories of Jesus indicate that He was fully acquainted with human life in its many experiences. He was knowledgeable in farming, sowing seeds, and reaping a harvest. Not only was he familiar with the workaday world of the farmer, the fisherman, the builder, and the merchant, but also he moved with equal ease among the managers of estates, the ministers of finance at a royal court, the judge in a court of law, the Pharisees and the tax collectors. His stories portray the lives of men, women, and children, the poor and rich, the outcast and the exalted. He knew about work and wages, about weddings and festive occasions as well as funerals and sickness. Clearly, Jesus used an understood, familiar truth in order to teach an unfamiliar or unrealized lesson.
Second, Jesus’ stories reveal His heart. They tell His autobiography and the autobiography of God. Do you want to know how God feels about people being a good neighbor, read the story of the Good Samaritan. Do you want to know how God feels when someone who is lost finally finds home again? Read the story of the Prodigal Son. Do you want to know how Jesus feels about people obeying His teachings? Read the story of the house built on the rock or sand?
Title: We’ll continue today by looking at The Pharisee and the Tax Collector OR The Pastor and IRS Agent
Proposition: Jesus told a story in Luke’s Gospel to teach us about the irony of God’s righteousness and man’s sinfulness.
Text: Luke 18:9-14
Recitation: 18:9 Jesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. 18:10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself like this, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: extortionists, unrighteous people, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ 18:13 The tax collector, however, stood far off and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast
and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!’ 18:14 I tell you that this man went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Message: He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’” Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but it you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”