October 20, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night?’”
Again this week, Jesus speaks with a parable. What you heard this morning is similar to a parable that you have heard earlier this year: the story of a man who had surprise guests. That man had visitors come to him in the middle of the night, so he kept knocking on his neighbor’s door until he was given needed food for his visitors. Today, you heard a story about another person who kept on asking until what was needed was received. This was the story of the persistent widow who finally got what she needed. The lesson learned from each of these stories is about persistence and trust, when the Lord’s people ask for what they need from Him. The Gospel Writer makes this very clear with his introduction of Jesus’ parable: “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Hear again about the characters in Jesus’ parable. The widow in Jesus’ story keeps going to a judge, asking for justice in her case: “There was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’” She has an opponent, someone oppressing her. Jesus doesn’t tell exactly what the situation is, but what a widow would suffer is not too difficult to imagine. Perhaps someone wasn’t giving the widow access to her late husband’s property and goods. Or maybe a landowner was demanding an unreasonable rent for her dwelling. Could her own children be mistreating her? Not every detail is disclosed, but Jesus explicitly tells His audience that this widow constantly went to a judge for help, for justice.
But Jesus says something very unsettling about this judge before whom the widow must plead her case: “He neither feared God nor respected men.” This is the last thing that anyone would want to hear about the men appointed to ensure that justice is dispensed and enforced. However, that is the situation. The judge has the last word in the situations presented to him; what he says is done. And you were told that when the widow approached him, the judge would not answer her: “She kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused.”
The judge’s lack of fear for God and respect for people drove him not to answer the widow’s pleas. He wouldn’t do anything for her. He did not care whether she was oppressed or not; neither was he concerned whether a lack of justice was found in his area. The judge knew that he had authority, but his lack of concern for what the Lord demanded of people in places of authority kept him from doing anything positive for the widow. He would not do what was truly just and right.
That was the case until the judge considered what would benefit him: “Afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” In essence, the judge is saying: “This widow constantly bothers me with her petition; and every day that I show up at my courtroom, she is there again with her complaint. I’ll give her what she wants, so I won’t have to see and hear her anymore.”
In the end, justice is served: the widow’s petition is heard and answered. She is given a judgment against her opponent. But the motivation of the judge’s action wasn’t justice; it was expedience. His action was driven by wanting to be rid of the situation, to remove what was bothersome to him, to serve his own purpose. And Jesus wants you to get that point: “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says.” Jesus tells you to listen to what the unrighteous judge says, because He is going to compare Himself to that man.
That’s the point of the story Jesus tells. Notice what the Gospel Writer calls Jesus: “the Lord.” This is a teaching of Jesus that points out His identity. He is telling us: “I am the Lord. But I am not an unjust or uncaring Lord. My actions are not done out of an unjust or self-serving motivation.” Understanding that Jesus is a caring and listening judge is important for your lives as disciples.
Paul told Timothy that the Lord “is to judge the living and the dead.” The Son of Man is a person of ultimate authority. But the authority He possesses is exercised for your benefit. Hear Jesus’ words about that: “And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily.” The Lord Jesus is promising justice for your cause, your petitions against your opponent. And who is that opponent and what is your petition? Remember what you will pray together as Jesus’ disciples: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.”
Every day you can come before the Lord’s presence with these petitions. He is constantly having us before Him making these pleas. He can’t get away from them. He’s like that judge who has the widow incessantly showing up with her demand for justice. So Jesus answers you. But you don’t receive an answer because Jesus wants to get rid of you. Jesus does not respond out of expediency or self-service. The Lord answers your petitions because He desires that you receive justice and judgment against your adversaries. Jesus desires that you be forgiven of the sins that you commit; that you stand against the temptations of your flesh, the world, and the devil; that you be preserved from the assaults of Satan, so that you will see him eternally conquered, put under Jesus’ feet forever.
So Jesus answers your pleas. And He wants you to know that, to trust in that, to rely on that. Remember how the lesson ended? Jesus poses a question: “I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” You have the petitions that Jesus has given you to ask of Him. You have the promise that He will hear and answer. But do you trust that? Do you believe what Jesus says? Will the Judge of the Living and the Dead find faith on earth when He comes to administer justice on your behalf for all eternity?
There will be faith on earth, there will be a group of faithful, as long as Jesus’ disciples respond to the need “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Remember, that’s the purpose of this parable. It’s also the same purpose that Paul gave to Timothy, as you heard this morning: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” No matter what the situation is, be persistent in faith. Don’t lose heart. Don’t go wandering off for some other source of help or salvation. Don’t neglect to make the petitions that Jesus has given you.
Jesus’ parable is meant to teach you that you ought always to pray and not lose heart. Your situation is just like what the widow faced, but with one very significant difference: you are not widows approaching a judge who really doesn’t care about your plight or the lack of justice in his district. No, you are the Bride of Christ who not only is asking a Righteous Judge for what you need, but who has her Faithful Husband on the justice seat. That is why you can certain that your pleas are heard, why you can ask and be sure of answer.
So you approach your Lord with your petitions: “Forgive me. Keep me safe in times of trial. Preserve me from the Evil Foe. Grant me justice against my opponent.” And Jesus says: “I am the Lord, who shall preserve you from all evil and will preserve your soul. I will judge the world with righteousness and My people with equity. Your petitions are granted.” That is what you and I and every single Christian on earth need to hear. That is what the Church needs to trust and bank on receiving.
That faith is what the Lord desires you to have and to act on. Regardless of what may oppress you, what may rise up against you, whether it be of body or spirit, Jesus wants you to turn to Him. But not only is it something expected of you, it is what He empowers you to do. Remember the question that He asks: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” The answer will be “No”, if you become focused on your enemies and opposition and are overwhelmed. The answer will be “No”, if you turn to your own power and strength to get out of your situations of trouble in body and spirit.
But the answer can be “Yes” for you. If you cling to Jesus, if you place yourselves where He is present, if you constantly come before your Judge, then there will be faith found on earth. For that will mean you are in the places where Jesus makes His gifts present—the locations where forgiveness, life, and salvation are distributed freely to you. It means that you are where Jesus’ disciples corporately bring their petitions before Him. It means that you are found where the Holy Spirit dwells with His ability to create, sustain, and preserve faith—the faith that the Son of Man desires to see when He arrives.
So Jesus exhorts you again today: “Come before Me with your petitions. Here I am to deliver justice to you, to bring judgment against Satan and his allies. Be assured that your sins are forgiven; you are not abandoned in times of trial; deliverance and rescue is here for you.” The truth is that this promise will be fulfilled. It may not be totally accomplished in this age, but your Lord will return to judge the living and the dead. So He tells you: “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. I shall never leave you or forsake you.”
With those words of Jesus in your hearts and minds—the words that not only describe a reality but also create it—you will persevere. You will seek out Jesus and turn to Him for aid. You will receive the everlasting righteousness that your Redeemer has earned for you. And you shall have the justice that your Judge will grant to you, His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night. That is what the words of Jesus promise to you today.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.