Luke 18:1-8 – The Anti-Hero

Luke 18:1-8—And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luther Preaching ChristIn the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

This short little parable, just four verses, is a captivating use of story.  Jesus uses this scoundrel of a judge to illustrate something about God.  This parable is both irreverent and funny; who here would compare God to a judge who neither fears God or respects man?  Jesus depicts a judge who is perfectly and completely unqualified to be a judge.  Even though this judge is a completely despicable human being, Jesus has him stand in for God.

In a hilarious way, the first words out of this character’s mouth agree with public opinion on him, “I neither fear God nor respect man.”  Imagine if the first words out of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters were, “I’m Cinderella’s wicked stepmother,” and, “We’re Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters.”  It’s great stuff.

The legal system in Jesus’ day worked quite different than ours.  Cases were heard in no particular order; people who had legal disputes would stand around the judge and holler.  The judge would pick your case to be heard based on how he felt that day.  So if you wanted your cast to be heard quickly, the best course of action was to bribe the judge.

JudgeThis particular judge would probably need a large bribe because you could not appeal his sense of decency.  Because he has no fear of God, he is unconcerned that he will one day be judged by God.  Also, because he has no respect for anyone, you cannot threaten to ruin his reputation.  He just doesn’t care.

Now, enter the poor widow.

Typically in Jesus’ day, women were not allowed to speak in legal disputes – that was the job of the woman’s father, husband, or sons.  Because this widow goes herself to this scoundrel of the judge we know she is completely alone, completely helpless.

The widow kept coming demanding justice.  Finally, he caves in; the judge not only hears the widow’s case, but he also rules in her favor with no bribes.  He does all of this, frankly, because he’s annoyed.  Look at what the judge says in the last part of v. 5.  “I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”

That phrase, ‘beat me down,’ literally means, ‘to blacken my eye.’  I’m pretty sure judge isn’t worried about this widow physically attacking him.  And he’s not worried about this widow ruining his reputation in the community – he has no fear of God or respect for man.  He is like the parent who has been beaten down by question after question about everything in the universe and how it all works.  (Come to my house; I know how this judge feels).  He is sick and tired of hearing this woman day after day, night after night, hour after hour, minute after minute crying out to him demanding justice.  The judge does give justice because he is worried about his physical health.

Jesus uses the unrighteous judge to make an incredible point.  Even this worthless scoundrel of the judge will give justice to someone who has absolutely nothing to offer him.  How much more then will God, who loves justice, who defines justice – how much more will give justice to His elect when they cry to Him?  God will absolutely give justice to His chosen ones speedily.

Now, Jesus told this parable to the effect that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  So who here is losing heart?  I know that there are some of you here who are losing heart.  Lately, you’ve been stretched, you are tired, and autumn, the season of death, can be depressing.  The snow is about to fly, the temperature is plummeting, and it’s getting darker and darker every day.

To be a disciple of Jesus can be wearisome and discouraging.  You live  in a hostile world filled with heartache and heartbreak and suffering.  Being a Christian calls for endurance.  Are you losing heart?

Losing heart is a poetic way to say that you despair.  You are helpless, hopeless, lost, and alone.

Believer, you are more like the widow than you realize.  You have nothing to offer God.  You have nothing to use for a bribe.  Your works all fall far too short.  You have no one to advocate for you.  No one can help you.

And above all of that, why would you, a sinner, approach Almighty God asking for justice?  You know your sins.  You know that you are guilty – very guilty.  Satan, your accuser, your adversary,  has a very damning case against you.  You have been unfaithful to God.  You have despised His name, and worshiped everything under the sun.

But there is good news.  Romans 7 says that you are truly a widow.  Your husband, the law, has died.  You are no longer married to the law.  The law has died to you and you can belong to another, to Christ (Ro. 7:4).  The best part is that your new Husband, Jesus Christ, is the Judge to whom you appeal for justice.  You, church, are the bride of Christ.

Imagine that, believer, you are the bride of Christ.  Keep on praying to the Judge to give His judgment upon you.  Your judge is the very One who has taken away your sin.  Do not lose heart.  Do not listen to the devil’s accusations; do not let him or anyone else accuse you.  You are forgiven of all your sins.

How does Christ deal with you, how will He judge?  He will vindicate you.  He judges you to be, “Not guilty,” because you have the righteousness of Christ.

Believe this.

Jesus told this parable to the effect that you not lose heart and always pray.  He told this parable to strengthen your faith that God will certainly hear and answer your prayers.

So who is losing heart?  Notice what Christ says at the end of v. 8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  It looks like Christ is the one losing heart.  But see how strong of an exhortation this is to pray and believe.  According to Jesus in this text, faith and prayer go hand-in-hand.  You do not pray if you do not believe that prayer will do something.  And you do not believe if you do not pray to your God who invites you to pray.

Christ begs you to believe Him when He says that His forgiveness, His work, and His sacrifice is for you.

If He is willing to give you Himself, what good thing would He withhold from you?  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus now and until He comes again.  Amen.