Surviving the Not Yet, The Parables of Jesus #16 This is an exposition of Luke 18:1-8. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 2, 2015.
The unthinkable has just happened. There you are sitting in that doctor’s office and you can’t believe your ears. “It can’t be. It just can’t be. He used the “C” word when talking about me!” Your company has just been sold. You’ve given your heart and soul to that company for 15 years. The word is they are going to let you go. Oh sure it’s not an “official” word but you heard it from a very reliable source. You’re struggling with getting up the nerve to let the love of your life know that you “like” her. Sure there is the age difference – but that doesn’t matter to you. But what if it does to her? After all – she is in the 6th grade and you’re a lowly 5th grader! Uncertainty – we all have to deal with it. Whether it is something as innocent as a childhood infatuation or as deadly as a terminal disease, uncertainty wrecks havoc with our minds and emotions.
As live in a new world. A world where a gunman opens fire following a prayer meeting. A world were gang violence is not just a problem on the Coast. Scandal and corruption are common place. Terrorist’s threats abound around the world. Meanwhile our faith is attacked here at home. Who knows what this next year will bring? Sure, as a believer, I can set back and declare with confidence “I know who holds the future!” “I am resting in the strong arm of my Savior.” Then I lay my head down on my pillow at night and my mind is flooded with anxious thoughts about tomorrow because being a child of God does not make me immune from the cares and worries of this fallen world. How are we supposed to live?
The Kingdom of God is here! It has been here since the Lord Jesus died on Calvary and rose triumphantly from the dead. The Kingdom of God is a present, spiritual reality. So why are we in this mess? Because while the Kingdom is a present reality, we are living in the “not yet” before the ultimate fulfillment of that Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the people of God in the place of God under the rule of God. As believers who place our faith and trust in Christ and live under the lordship of Christ we experience the peace and blessing of the Kingdom but not everything is in obedience to the Kingdom. That awaits the return of the great King. Yes, every knee will bow in heaven and in earth and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord – when He comes. In the mean time we live in the tension between the now and the not yet. So how are we to live in the mean time? What “gets us through” these difficult days? That is the focus of our text this morning found in Luke the 18.
Text: Luke 18:1-8
Jesus is moving steadfastly toward the cross.
The time determined by the Father has come.
Halfway through Luke 19, Luke begins his narrative of the Passion Week.
In the last half of Luke 17 is Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom.
I’m convinced that the opening words of Luke 18 are best understood in that light.
The message of Luke to his friend Theophilus and to us is clear:
Thesis: Living in the “not yet” of the kingdom demands a life of consistent, persevering prayer.
The reason I’m so confident about that interpretation is that it is precisely what we are told in Luke 18:1! I didn’t go to four years of college and three years of seminary for nothing you know!
“Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” That is pretty straightforward. You don’t need seminary training to figure that out but we do need to “unpack” this truth. We need to unfold it and examine it to find out how and why it works.
This parable is one of the most familiar of Jesus’ parables. Most often it is called the parable of the “Persistent Widow.” I’ve heard this parable taught and preached on many occasions. I’m convinced that while it is one of the most familiar it is also one of the most misinterpreted and misused parables found in the New Testament. The reason I say that is that most often I’ve heard this parable used to enforce the idea that we must bombard heaven with our praying. We are to be “persistent” with our prayers. While I agree there is an “element” of truth behind that teaching that is not the focus of this parable. To interpret this parable in that way is to miss the point!
Let’s take a look at the parable itself.
First the characters.
We are introduced to two characters:
A corrupt judge
A wronged widow
There are two things I want us to note quickly in light of this passage.
- Our confidence in prayer rests on the beauty of God’s character.
- Our persistence in prayer rests securely on the strength of God’s character.