Summary: In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, we see that you can’t impress God. Having "religion" doesn’t impress God. The Publican gives the REAL "Sinner’s Prayer".
“The REAL Sinner’s Prayer”
INTRODUCTION: Jesus loved to speak in parables. They grabbed people’s attention. If Jesus said, “Once upon a time, there was a man who ….”, then everybody stopped to listen to the story Jesus was about to tell.
It’s like … when I stop to tell a joke … people will look up (or wake up) to listen. ONLY … Jesus was a better story teller than I am a joke teller.
LIKE … the guy who went to visit his brother in prison. They were eating lunch with 1000 other inmates, when one of the inmates stood up and said “Number 32!”. Everybody began laughing hysterically. After awhile, another inmate stood up and said “Number 12!”, and, once again laughter. He turned to his inmate brother and asked him what was going on. The inmate brother explained that there was only one joke book in the whole prison, and everybody had read it so many times that everyone knew all the jokes by number. The brother decided he would try it. He stood up and said “Number 17!” Silence … not a chuckle. He asked his inmate brother why no one laughed. His inmate brother said, “Some people can tell a joke, some can’t!”.
Jesus gives us the REASON for this particular parable … the AUDIENCE – 18:9. There were some in the audience who thought too highly of themselves … AND looked down on everybody else. These 2 usually go hand-in-hand, don’t they? PRIDE … AND … a CRITICAL, JUDGMENTAL spirit.
WHY? BECAUSE … self-righteousness has to COMPARE itself to something. No one is PERFECT … no one is HOLY. The next best thing is to try to convince others (and God) that we’re BETTER THAN the other poor slobs! WE’RE not perfect … BUT … at least we’re BETTER than they are!
The TRUTH is … we are ALL sinners. We ALL come short of the glory of God. The person who jumps half way across the Suwannee River, is just as wet as the person who only jumps six feet.
Jesus used 2 characters in His story.
• The PHARISEES were the good guys. They were highly thought of in that day … the best of the best. They were highly respected laymen who devoted themselves to obeying all of God’s laws. They were thought of as the “hero’s”.
• The PUBLICANS were the bad guys. They were Jews who had sold out to the Roman government to collect the taxes … the worst of the worst. They were corrupt, traitors, cheaters … the scum of the earth. They were thought of as the “villains”.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector had several things in common:
1.- THEY BOTH WENT TO CHURCH – 18:10
BUT … they went for different reasons. Let me ask you this morning … “Why do you come to church?”
PHARISEE – He came to church so others could see how religious he was … how good he was … so they could see him there. He never missed a service. AND … when he came, he would always give a public performance. Here was his audience … SO … he would put on a show.
He stood where everybody could see him … this was important to him – 18:11. “stood” … when they prayed, they stood up, hands outstretched, looking up to Heaven, praying out loud.
“prayed thus with himself”. He addressed his prayer to God … BUT … he was praying for others to hear. NOW … when you pray, you pray to someone greater than yourself … RIGHT? The Pharisee thought so much of HIMSELF, that he prayed to HIMSELF! To be truthful, God wasn’t listening anyhow! Matthew 6:5 - “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” He prayed so others would be impressed with what he said … self-centered prayers.
I don’t like to critique the prayers of others. As long as it comes from the heart, it doesn’t have to be fancy, with a lot of “thee’s” and “thou’s”. I am, however, (I’ll be honest with you) sometimes guilty of critiquing the prayers of other preachers! Some preachers PREACH when they pray. They’re not talking to God, but to the congregation. Some preachers pray LONG prayers. I guess they have to catch up on Sunday morning for the time they missed in prayer during the week! I have even been so unspiritual as to TIME the prayers of the exceptionally long-winded preachers!
You don’t have to be LONG, ELOQUENT, or LOUD. A little boy was saying his night-time prayers, and in a LOUD voice he prayed, “Dear God, I’ve been a good boy, and I sure would like to have a new bicycle.” His mother said, “Son, you don’t have to be so loud, God can hear your prayers without yelling. He’s not deaf!” The boy replied, “I know Mama, but Grandma is … and she’s in the next room!”