Life’s Big Question

Life’s Big Question: 2016 Gospel of Luke #70

Exposition of LukeThis is an exposition of Luke 18:9-14. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, August 20, 2017.


It is a natural response. It is perfectly understandable. It is what anyone would do. You found out that you have greatly offended someone and you immediately begin to think of how you can make it right. Surely there is something you can say or do that will appease them. Some gesture on your part that adequately demonstrates that you are truly sorry and that you’re sincere when you say you will never do it again. We’ve all been there and done that. It makes perfect sense. But what if it is really bad? I mean really, really bad. I mean the worst possible kind of bad? What do you do when the one offended is God? How do you make it right with God? That is what our text is about this morning. As we consider life’s big question while we explore Luke 18:9-14.

Text: Luke 18:9-14

Luke the physician and traveling companion of the apostle Paul is writing to his friend Theophilus about the life and ministry of Jesus. Luke wants his friend to have an accurate account of the life of Jesus. His goal is that his friend would come to see Jesus not just as the Jewish Messiah but as the Savior of the world. His purpose is evangelistic. Throughout his gospel Luke has been showing the growing hostility toward Jesus on the part of the religious establishment. That hostility is reaching fever pitch and is about to explode in the cross.

In the preceding passage Jesus drew a sharp contrast between the character of God and that of a corrupt civil official. Demonstrating that our confidence and persistence in prayer is based on the character and strength of God. We are reminded that we are to pray and never give up. Prayer again is involved in the parable that is before us. But the issue in this parable is the larger question behind the prayers of two very different men.

Thesis: At issue in this parable is life’s most important question – “How is a man justified in the eyes of God?”

How is a man justified?
How is he made right with God?
How does a sinful man stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God?
That is life’s most important question.
That is the question everyone in this room must deal with.

We are all sinful – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all less than what God created us to be. We all fail to live according to God’s commands. We are sinners. What was said of the people in Noah’s day could certainly be said of us today, “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” That’s who we are. That is an accurate accounting of human nature. Now set that along side God’s standard of “Be perfect even as I am perfect.” “Be holy because I am holy.” We don’t measure up. We fall short. How do we remedy that? How do we make that right? That is the focus of Jesus’ parable.

Our first clue as to where this is heading is found in the opening verse. Luke informs us that Jesus told this parable to some folks who where confident in their own righteousness. The words used, mean that they were fully persuaded that they were upright and virtuous. These folks saw themselves as faultless and as pure as the driven snow. We have to add to this sense of self-righteousness a hostility toward everyone else. They not only trusted in themselves – they despised everyone else. They viewed the rest of the world with contempt! Jesus is about to upset their apple cart. He does so by telling them a story about two men. Two men who went to the temple to pray. Two men who were very different. One well thought of and admired by all. The other hated and despised by all. One went home “justified” the other went away condemned. But which is which? The answer may surprise you.

Two men – two prayers – a very surprising response.

Two things I want us to glean from this text.

  1. The example of the Pharisee serves to remind us that God in holiness rejects the pious claims of the self-righteous. (18:9-12)
    Jesus stunned that first century crowd when he said that Pharisee went home under the judgement of God. That Pharisee went home with the wrath of God hanging over his head. When did he say that? He didn’t go home justified. He didn’t go home “right with God.” He went home in his sin.
    Mark it down God in his holiness rejects the pious claims of the self-righteous.
  2. The prayer of the tax collector reminds us that God in grace responds to the humble cry of the repentant sinner. (18:13-14)
    Look at the result.
    “I tell you that man went home justified.”
    That man went home right with God.


How is a man made right with God? How do you deal with your sin? It is not a matter of cleaning yourself up. It is not a matter of your performing certain acts. You can’t make it right. You cannot fix this problem. All you can do is throw yourself on the mercy of God. That’s the Gospel. That is why Jesus came.

God in his holiness rejects the pious claims of the self-righteous but in grace He response to the humble cry of the repentant sinner.

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