The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Jesus wanted his disciples to always pray and never give up and to encourage them, he told them this parable of a persistent widow.
He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” – Luke 18:2-5
In the ancient times, widows were often neglected. Surely, his audience could relate to this parable where the widow was denied justice. Even an ungodly judge answered her request, out of fear of constant nagging. Jesus uses this example to teach us that we should bring our requests before God. Even this atheist judge who did not care what anyone thought of him, decided to grant justice. How much more would our God answer our prayers if we ask him persistently?
… I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:7-8
God does his part by giving us justice when we ask for it, but will we fulfill our part when Jesus comes again.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
When dealing with the proud, Jesus told a parable of a Pharisee who was confident in his own righteousness.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—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.’ – Luke 18:10-13
Like the Pharisees we try to justify our actions before the world and sometimes even before God. But unlike this world, God knows our heart and our intentions and we cannot fool him into thinking that we are righteous.
The Pharisee narrated his deeds according to the law to claim his righteousness while the tax collector did not even see fit to come near the altar. We must understand, that on our own, we are not even worthy to come in the presence of the Lord and pray to him. Rather, it is the blood of his Son which is the only thing that makes us worthy to be called the children of God.
“… For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:14b
The Little Children and Jesus
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. – Luke 18:15
Like the widows, children were also the neglected sect of the society. In welcoming them to his fold, Jesus was re-emphasising his claim that the smallest will be welcomed first. The humble and meek will inherit the earth. If our hearts are not like that of children, we have no part in the kingdom of God.
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
One day a rich ruler came to Jesus asking “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” – Luke 18:19-20
He gave no response to Jesus’ initial question of why call Jesus good, but promptly answered saying that he had kept all the commandments since he was a young boy. Many people thought that Jesus was only a teacher and perhaps Jesus wanted to see who the rich man thought he was, God or man.
Jesus saw in the man, someone who was confident in his righteousness and put yet another task before him –
“You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Luke 18:22
The central message of Jesus’ ministry was always forgetting everything and following him. To some that meant leaving their jobs behind, while to some it meant leaving their homes, but to most, the number one obstacle to following Jesus was wealth. Jesus earlier also alluded to the same, citing the need of selling ones possession and giving to those in need (Luke 12:33).
On hearing the latest task that Jesus assigned, the rich man was disheartened because he was very wealthy. Seeing this man’s hesitancy, Jesus said,
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” – Luke 18:24-25
The people who had gathered around asked Jesus, who can stand up to these standards as all of them had money in mind. Jesus simply replied that which is impossible with man is possible with God. Jesus did not simply give a statement, but as we see in the next chapter, he gave a living example when Zacchaeus turned to Jesus, forsaking all his wealth.
Peter suddenly started reminding Jesus that he and the other disciples left everything to follow him. Like the Pharisee in the above parable, Peter is also somewhat justifying his righteousness. Jesus neither acknowledges him nor rebukes him but simply gives the statement that
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Luke 18:29-30
Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time
Jesus reminds his disciples of his crucifixion for the third time but this time he includes more details.
He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” – Luke 18:32-33
Like with Peter’s denial, followed by Jesus reinstating him by asking him thrice will he feed his lambs, here also, Jesus emphasises the events leading up to his death the third time, so that the disciples may be witnesses to the fact that it was all God’s plan.
A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight
Jesus entered Jericho and when he and the crowd were walking on the roadside, a blind beggar called out to him.
When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Luke 18:36-39
In calling Jesus the Son of David, the blind man was seeing what the rich man refused to see. The rich ruler called Jesus a teacher but this blind man could see that Jesus was the Messiah. Just as they did with the little children, Jesus’ entourage were rebuking this blind man for causing a scene. The very people who were in-charge of bringing souls to Jesus, were shooing away this blind man in need. It was a good thing that he was not phased from their rebuke, but like the persistent widow, he kept on calling Jesus’ name.
This was the last time Jesus was coming to Jericho, as he was on his way to Jerusalem where he would be executed. If the blind man had not grabbed his opportunity, he probably would have stayed blind for his entire lifetime. Jesus asked the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”Like the man at the pool of Siloam and even king Solomon, God gives us the freedom to ask for what we want but what we want is usually not what we need. But this man knew exactly what he wanted. He replied, “Lord, I want to see,”
Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. – Luke 18:42-43
- Like the blind man, are we clear in what we want from Jesus?
- Are we persistently asking for what we want?
- Do we sometimes take pride in the things we do for God?
- Can we answer Jesus’ call to leave everything and follow him?