Today's Gospel once again relates a parable that Jesus told to His followers, but the parable in today's Gospel is a little bit different from the normal parable. It is a parable of contrasts. Normally, Jesus compared the things and people in a parable to things and people in our spiritual lives. He often compared someone or something in the parable to God and someone or something else to us, and so forth.
In today's parable, Jesus does the opposite. He tells of the interaction between a judge and a widow, but He contrasts them with God and with us. As we think about today's gospel, we should look for the differences between the judge and God, and between the widow and us.
The judge in today's story is very unjust. He is really unworthy of his position. When Moses established the position of judge in Israel, He told the judges, [Deuteronomy 1:16-17] Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. He also told the people, [Deuteronomy 16:18-20] "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
The judge in today's parable is the opposite of these guidelines. [Jesus] said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. This judge was interested in his own comfort and didn't really care about the cases that came before him. He wasn't interested in the law of God and he wasn't interested in the opinion of people. He was just interested in his own convenience. How would you like to come before this man in a legal dispute?
Unfortunately, the widow in today's parable had no choice. Widows in biblical times had no power or economic clout. They were among the weakest, most vulnerable members of society. For this reason, Old Testament law stipulated that the worshiping community care for them. Moses said, [Deuteronomy 27:19] "Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow."
We're not told why this widow went to the judge. The details of her case are not relevant to the point of the parable. What we do know is that this woman went to someone who should have helped her in her quest for justice.
This widow had every right to be in this judge's court and she was there continuously. In fact, this widow kept coming to his court. The story gives us the impression that this widow was there when court opened and she was there when court closed. She became a fixture in the judge's life. She became a pest. In today's world, we might even say she was a stalker if it weren't for the fact that she had every right to be in this judge's court.
Finally, the judge can't stand it. He is sick and tired of seeing this widow in his court all the time. She is getting on his nerves. So, even though he doesn't want to try her case - even though there is nothing in it for him, he agrees to grant her day in court to this widow. He just wants to get her out of his life.
As I said at the beginning of the sermon, this is a parable of contrasts. The two characters in this parable are the judge and the widow. We can contrast the judge with God and we can contrast the widow with our selves.
The contrasts between the judge and God are many. The judge doesn't care about justice. God does. The judge cares about himself. God cares about us. The judge didn't want to hear from the widow even though she had the right. God wants to hear from us even though we don't have the right.
There is one main difference between us and the widow. The widow had a case. We don't. In fact, if we ever came before the court of the Holy and Almighty God, He would immediately find us guilty and sentence us to nothing but punishment here in time and forever in eternity. The widow had good reason to ask the court to act. We have good reason to ask the court not to act. We, by nature, have no rights in God's court.
But God loves us so much that He worked out a plan to give us those rights. He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in order to redeem the world. Jesus Christ endured the punishment of the guilty verdict we deserved. He opened God's court to all believers when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead. Although we have no rights in God's court, He gives us rights for the sake of His beloved Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit's gift of faith.
The judge, who neither feared God nor cared about his fellow man, finally did the right thing just to get the widow off his back. How much more will God, who sacrificed His only begotten Son do what is best for us? When it comes to God, we're assured that God listens and will surely grant grace to those who cry out to him.
In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to pray the way Jacob prayed in the reading from the Old Testament. The Son of God appeared to Jacob in human form and Jacob wrestled with Him all night. He even continued wrestling after God dislocated his hip. The parable in today's Gospel urges us to wrestle in prayer until we empty out our hearts in God's presence. It urges us to be persistent like that widow. God welcomes our persistent prayer for Jesus' sake.
In this parable, Jesus teaches us to pray continually and never lose heart. Why? Because his promise is that he will grant vindication and justice for his chosen ones and will do so quickly. However, the vindication and justice he grants is not what we deserve. He does not bring about the justice dictated by the law, but the justice dictated by His love and grace. Jesus shows us that God's justice is not rightly understood until you first understand God's suffering love, a suffering love that has as its aim to make the sinner whole and the ungodly just. This suffering love is even for people like the unjust judge, and it is for you and me as well.
Luther, when he teaches about prayer in his Small Catechism, says that we are to be confident when we pray. We "ask Him as dear children ask their dear father." That's the language of relationship. We are God's children, and he desperately longs for us to approach him, describing to him the needs of our lives and the longings of our hearts. Do we do it once? twice? No! We pray continually. We never give up.
Jesus ends this parable with a question: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Will he find faith that is persistent and loyal? And the answer implied in the question is yes, he will! He will find people like those mentioned throughout the Bible who prayed without ceasing. He will find faith in people like the tax collector, who humbled himself and beat his chest imploring God for mercy. He will find faith in people who, like the little children, look to Christ and trust him implicitly. He will find faith in people like the blind beggar, who cried out to Christ for healing and mercy. He will find faith in people like you and me. For we, too, are a people who stand before God imploring Christ for mercy and leaning on him for everlasting hope.
So can we pray and not lose heart? Yes! Can we pray and not give up? Absolutely! For we know to whom we belong. Peter the apostle has said, [1 Pet 5:7] "[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." He cares for you and, unlike the judge in today's parable; God wants to hear from you. You are his beloved child. Pray continually and do not lose heart. Amen.
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