Summary: Speaking in the context of His second coming, Jesus tells two parables about prayer.
Introduction: We continue with our study of the Gospel of Luke. We’re going to look today at the first part of Chapter 18. If you’ll notice, you’ll see that, for now, we’re skipping the last part of chapter 17. This material concerns some prophecies that Jesus made about the future, concerning the fall of Jerusalem and His second coming. With your permission, I’m going to cover this material later on, when Jesus again addresses this subject in Chapter 21. However, please keep in mind that what we’re going to see in Chapter 18 occurs in the context of a discussion on Jesus’ second coming. That will be made even more clear as we look at Jesus’ teachings here.
Today we look at two parables on prayer, two prayerables, if you will.
I. The Parable of the Unrighteous Judge
Just as He did in Chapter 16 with the story of the unrighteous steward,
Jesus uses a bad person to teach us some good lessons. Let’s read:
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Note that Luke tells us the point of this parable right up front. It’s about persisting in prayer. The Greek word that Luke uses for "not give up" literally means to not be overcome by evil, to not faint, to not grow weary. Don’t let yourself get worn down.
Many times I’ve read this parable, focusing on the widow, thinking to myself, "Jesus is giving us the example of asking and asking and asking until God gives us what we want." But you know, as I read this, I don’t think that’s what He’s saying at all. If you’ll notice, the focus of this parable is on the judge, not on the widow. When Jesus goes to make His point, He says "Listen to what the unjust judge says..." He doesn’t say, "Look at the widow." The focus is on the unjust judge.
The judge is set up as a contrast to our heavenly Father. The judge cares for no one, has no sense of right or wrong. The widow would be the most defenseless person in town, for widows back then typically had few rights and little help from others. Anyone would have been moved to compassion by her plight. But this judge wasn’t. Yet he granted her wish, because she wore him down (the Greek says that the judge decided to give her her wish before she hit him under the eye! However, this is probably figurative; I don’t think that Jesus is saying that the judge was afraid the widow would beat him up).
Is this how God works? Do we have to wear Him down with our prayers? No! Jesus says God will bring about justice for His chosen ones QUICKLY. If an uncaring, unrighteous judge can be moved to do what is right, how much more our heavenly Father who loves us! He will not make us beg; He will answer our prayers.
But remember, the context of this is Jesus’ return. It is similar to the image in Revelation 6 of the saints crying out, "How long, O Lord, until you avenge us?" That’s why Jesus talks about finding faith when He returns. This parable is a challenge to be faithful to the end. It is a challenge to keep praying for the culmination of God’s kingdom, the growth and extension of its borders. It is a challenge to focus our eyes on the coming Lord. It is not a parable about how to wear God out and get that new car you always wanted. It is about eternal justice from the eternal Judge.
So what do we learn from this parable?
(1) We need to focus our prayers on the kingdom. Isn’t this what Jesus taught in Matthew 6? "Thy kingdom come..." Jesus modeled that we should pray for the kingdom before praying for our own daily bread.