Pentecost 22 – "The Persistent Widow" – Luke 18:1-8 – 10/16/16

sermon-10-16-16

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Every Sunday when we gather around the Lord’s Word and Sacrament we make the bold confession of faith saying that we ‘believe in Jesus Christ… who will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead…’

When we say ‘WE BELIEVE’ we mean that we are ‘sure,’ we are ‘confident,’ we ‘trust,’ that Jesus Christ will come again, and when He does, He will ‘do justice.’
– He will vindicate all those who put their faith and hope and trust in Him against all the accusations from others that they were being foolish and ignorant and naïve for believing and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and His cross is the power of God.
– He will get justice for those who could not get justice for themselves because they were too weak, or the deck was too heavily stacked against them, or the system was too corrupt, or they didn’t have an advocate.

Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…” (Mat.25:31-32).

And so our faith is not based on a ‘hallow hope,’ or a ‘pie in the sky,’ or our ‘own imagination,’ but on the solid foundation of God’s own Word and promise which cannot fail.

And so we pray to Jesus Christ when injustice is done to us and it hurts us and we suffer and our rights are denied and the courts rule against us. For justice comes from the Lord.
– And we pray to Jesus Christ when we see INJUSTICE HAPPEN TO OTHERS who cannot get justice for themselves. For justice comes from the LORD.
– We pray to Jesus Christ when we see the injustice of prejudice, and abortion, and the drug trade, and sex trafficking, and politics, and persecution. For justice comes from the LORD.

We confess that ‘We believe in Jesus Christ… who will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead…” And because there will always be injustice in this world until Jesus comes again, and because it will only increase and increase as the time draws nearer and nearer we will pray without ceasing. Persistent prayer is to be the posture of the church until our Lord comes again. And our persistent prayer is, “COME LORD JESUS.”

But how easily we ‘lose heart,’ and how quickly we grow weary of praying. How quickly we give up.

– The injustice continues and compounds day upon day.
– And the innocent continue to suffer and the guilty continue to prosper and ‘where is the justice’ and ‘where is the Lord?’

And in our frustration and impatience with the Lord, we cry out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

And we begin to say to ourselves,
– “maybe God doesn’t see this thing that is happening.
– Or maybe He doesn’t care.
– Or maybe He’s not even there.

And we quit praying because ‘what’s the use.’
– And we quit confessing because ‘I have my doubts…’ ‘I’m not so sure if God hears me…’ ‘Does anyone see how unfairly I’m being treated?’

This was to be the experience of every disciple of Jesus, beginning with the 12 and continuing to everyone who would be His disciple today.

“And He told them a parable to the effect that they should always pray and not loose heart.”

“He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to Him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’”

This is a marvelous parable if only because it’s so realistic. There are only two actors on the stage – a judge and a widow. Off stage, somewhere out of sight there’s an ‘adversary’ who has cheated this woman somehow, and is convinced that he’s gotten away with it again, and her loss is his gain, and only the strong survive.

THE JUDGE
The judge “neither fears God nor respects man.” In other words, he doesn’t believe in God so he has no fear that God will be his judge in the end. Which connects directly to the fact that he doesn’t care about his fellow man. Lack of faith in God always leads to lack of love for man. For this judge, it’s all about ‘me’ and what’s good for me, and how my vocation and career is all about me.

THE WIDOW
Then there’s the ‘widow.’ In Jesus’ day, ‘widows’ were the most powerless and vulnerable. And in one way or another, she’s been ‘ripped off.’ Someone has taken advantage of her weakness.

We’re not told how, it really doesn’t matter. But this much is for sure, SHE KNOWS THAT IF SHE’S EVER GOING TO GET JUSTICE FROM HER ADVERSARY, IT’S GOING TO COME FROM THE JUDGE. HE IS HER ONLY HOPE FOR JUSTICE.

So she comes to the judge with her complaint. But he turns a deaf ear and tells her to go away. He’s busy with other, more important cases. If he had to hear every petty little case that came to him he’d never have any time for golf and fishing and hiking and the things that really matter in his life.

So, what’s this poor widow to do? Does she ‘lose heart,’ and ‘give up’? No. “She kept coming to him.” She is persistent. She is like Jacob who wrestles and wrestles and “will not let go until you bless me.” (Gen.32:26)

In her WEAKNESS, this widow has POWER. It’s the POWER OF PERSISTENCE.

And this is why I said that this parable is so REALISTIC. I know this is a gross overgeneralization, but I think that women tend to be more ‘persistent’ in the face of injustice than are men.

Frankly, if I’m shorted some refund I should have received for something or paid more than the advertised price for something or if I don’t get the treatment I deserve, my first reaction is to just shrug it off and forget about it. If I buy something that doesn’t work as well or as long as it’s supposed to, I probably just throw it away and go get another one.

But a woman is not likely to do that. She wouldn’t rest until she got justice. She’d take it back and demand a refund. And if the clerk gives her a hard time, she’ll persist and persist, until finally, the clerk will turn to the supervisor and say, ‘this woman isn’t going to go away until she gets what she wants.’ And simply to avoid the embarrassment or the hassle,’ the clerk will give her justice.

The power that this poor widow has is her persistence. “SHE KEPT COMING TO HIM.” And the judge who “REFUSED” to hear her case, finally breaks down and says 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.”

The unjust judge will give this woman justice, NOT BECAUSE he cares for this woman one bit, but ONLY BECAUSE it’s in his own best interest to give her justice.

To the widow’s credit, SHE KNEW FROM WHERE HER JUSTICE MUST COME. And as unjust as this judge was, she never ‘LOST HEART.’ She never ‘GAVE UP.’

But now, what if the judge were a RIGHTEOUS JUDGE?
– What if the judge heard this woman’s plea AND HAD COMPASSION, because He LOVED THIS WOMAN?
– What if the judge did what was RIGHT for this woman, not because it was the politically expedient thing or to do or to get rid of her, but because it was the GOOD and the RIGHT and the SALUTARY thing do?
– And what if this judge was willing to see that she got justice, even at GREAT COST to Himself, even at the cost of HIS REPUTATION and HIS SECURITY and even HIS VERY LIFE?

If this were her judge, then who would blame her for being so persistent.
– No, we would call her a fool if she ‘lost heart’ and gave up.
– If this were her judge, she would “always pray and not lose heart” because she just loved coming to Him with her problems and troubles.
– And every little injustice done to her would be just another reason to return to her beloved judge again and again and again.

How much more should we persist in prayer BECAUSE WE HAVE SUCH A JUDGE…
– who Himself suffered such injustice as has never been,
– who was tried by corrupt and politically minded judges
– and although He was totally innocent, was unjustly punished
– who cried out to God in prayer for justice and got NO ANSWER in reply.

For we do not have a JUDGE who is unable to sympathize with our injustice, but one who in every respect has been wronged as we are. But He had no sin.

Do not think that He doesn’t hear your prayer for justice or that He doesn’t care if you suffer unjustly or that you are suffering persecution for His name’s sake.

Do not think that He cannot rescue and deliver you and give you justice against your adversary.

For just as God did not delay long over His Son but gave Him justice over His adversary on the 3rd day, so He will “give you justice speedily.”

Speaking to the men of Athens, Paul declares that God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31).

Your adversary is Satan. He is the one who lurks behind every act of injustice towards God’s people and the persecution of the elect. But Satan has been judged and he has been locked up in the prison of hell. And our Lord has already DECENDED INTO HELL and declared His verdict of guilty on YOUR ADVERSARY.

And when He comes again, He will declare it for all world to hear – both the living AND the dead. And when comes, all the waiting will be over. What felt like such a long delay will seem like a moment, like a flash, like twinkling of the eye.
– What seemed so slow in coming will come suddenly.
– For, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness…” (2Peter 3:9)

Until then, ‘we do not loose heart.’

– WE PERSIST IN PRAYING because we know that our Judge is faithful to His Word and promise.
– WE PERSIST IN SPEAKING against ‘injustice’ wherever it is happens trusting that justice will be done but that justice is not ours but the Lord’s.
– WE PERSIST IN PRAYING for ‘our adversary’ that he might yet repent and be forgiven and be justified before God.
– WE PERSIST IN RETURNING TO THIS SANCTUARY, to hear the voice of Judge, to receive the justice He carried out for us in His body and blood, and to be reminded that the victory is already ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We persist in praying that when He comes, He will find faith on earth.

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