Summary: The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector teaches us that repentance humbly confesses our unworthiness and trusts in God’s verdict that he justifies and forgives us because of the payment Jesus made in our place

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God through which the Holy Spirit touches our hearts this evening is recorded in Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of there own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. he would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ’God have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)

This is the the word of our Lord.

Dear friends who walk with Jesus,

When a son chooses to stay and work the family farm, we may say he is walking in his father’s footsteps. To follow in someone’s footsteps means that that person is our example, our role model, our mentor.

During this Lenten season we want to walk with Jesus in his passion, but we do not want to merely follow in his footsteps. Although Jesus is the best role model, mentor, or example we will ever find, Jesus is much more. During Lent we see Jesus serve and pray, suffer and die. But our primary purpose for walking with Jesus is not to learn how to do those things. Our primary purpose for walking with Jesus is to see that he did them all for us. He did them in our place, to take away our sins. He did them as our Savior.

So our focus in Lent is not to walk with Jesus, our role model. Our focus is to walk with Jesus, our Savior.

Although many different kinds of attitudes and beliefs can claim to walk with Jesus as a role model, only one attitude can truly walk with Jesus as the Savior. What attitude is that? The attitude of repentance. In the Gospel for Ash Wednesday Jesus illustrate repentance. As we begin are Lenten walk with our Savior in his passion, we walk in repentance. That’s the theme we focus on. Walk in repentance. Walk 1) humbled by our sinfulness and 2) justified by God’s mercy.

1) Humbled by our sinfulness

As Jesus heads to Jerusalem for the last time, he continues to teach God’s Word to the people. He knew that many listening to him were confident of their own righteousness. Instead of trusting in the Lord for forgiveness, they trusted that God accepted them for who they were. To prop up their trust in themselves, they were quick to see the faults in others so that they could look down on those people and think themselves higher up.

Jesus told this parable about a Pharisee and tax collector to topple their attitude. Although, when we hear the word Pharisee ,we have a strong negative impression, in Jesus’ day it was just the opposite. Pharisees were the leading citizens. They were the church-goers. They were the ones that everyone thought did the right things.

So also the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. He appears very religious. He is at the temple. He prayers. He says the right words: “God, I thank you.” But then the rest of his words reveal the true attitude in his heart. He doesn’t really thank God for his grace and mercy; rather, he brags about himself. Instead of comparing himself to God’s standard of perfection in the Commandments, he compares himself to the worst of mankind: robbers, evildoers, adulterers. In lovelessness he criticizes his fellow worshiper, the tax collector, as just another one of those degenerates. Then he thinks that he has done even more than enough to satisfy God, fasting twice a week and giving a tenth of all that he gets.

It wasn’t wrong for the Pharisee to do good or fast twice a week or to give a tenth of what he had. The problem was his attitude. He trusted in his own goodness and so exalted himself.

You and I can fall into the same trap as the Pharisee. We know the right words to say, like the Pharisee. We know how to appear religious, like the Pharisee did. We easily fall into this kind of thinking: “I am glad I’m not like those people you read about in the newspaper. Why can’t they behave decently. I’m glad I’m not called to the principal’s office, like so-and-so. Look, I go to church twice a week during Lent. I give a lot more in the offering plate than a lot of others do, especially considering how much they earn.”

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