Monday, October 17, 2016

Parables of Jesus, Part 5 -- The Unjust Judge

Primary Sources:

1. The Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice, Moody Publishers, 1983
2. The Parables of Jesus, R. C. Sproul, video series and Study Guide, Ligonier Ministries, 2013

Parables of Jesus, Part 1
Parables of Jesus, Part 2
Parables of Jesus, Part 3

Parables of Jesus, Part 4

The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8)

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose 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.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said 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.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Well, not too much of a mystery here. It's kind of like the "example" problem in a textbook. After all, Luke explains the meaning of the parable in a preamble: They ought always to pray and not lose heart.

How hard is that?

Here is what Calvin had to say about the parable:

“We know that perseverance in prayer is a rare and difficult attainment; and it is a manifestation of our unbelief that, when our first prayers are not successful, we immediately throw away not only hope, but all the ardor of prayer. But it is an undoubted evidence of our Faith, if we are disappointed of our wish, and yet do not lose courage. Most properly, therefore, does Christ recommend to his disciples to persevere in praying.”—John Calvin, Commentary on Luke 18:1-8
This interpretation of the parable follows our hermeneutic discussion from Part 4. No silly allegorical interpretation, just a simple straightforward lesson. Still, we cal look a little under the hood.

Why A Widow?

  • Widows occupy a special place in NT teaching, with many examples such as:
    • The widow’s mite
    • The essence of true religion is caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27)
    • The first “crisis” in the church was over the care for widows
  • Widows possess a vulnerability that resonates well with the Christian ethos
  • Emphasis on the care and utilization of widows is but one way Christianity improved the lot of women.

Rabbit Trail

Christianity is often accused as being anti-women. Indeed, we must be mindful of the culture of 1st century Palestine—which was in no uncertain terms “a man’s world.” 1 However, Jesus (counter-intuitively, perhaps) created a great leap forward when he overturned the Mosaic law 2 allowing divorce. Divorced women had no alimony, no support, no source of income. A divorced woman was often a destitute woman who had to turn to begging.

In a Nut Shell

  • We have persistence, in the person of the widow
  • We have fallen man in the person of the unjust judge
  • We have a plain message: Persist in your prayer—if an unrighteous judge will eventually provide justice, how much more so will a just God?

It Might Be More Narrow

A less appealing but possible view, the parable speaks of prayer with a specific purpose:
  • The woman had an adversary.
  • She was seeking justice, not salvation, sustenance, healing, etc.
  • The woman, through prayer sought vengeance. 

Q: Is vengeance good or bad?

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19)

A: Good! Vengeance from God is good. Personal vengeance is bad. Still, especially given Luke's preamble, I think it is safe to say that this parable is applicable to all prayer, not just a persistent prayer prayer for vengeance.

Now what about that ending?

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

What’s up with that? It sounds awful!

The consensus response: The answer is yes He will, but not because our faith is strong. It is because His faith is strong, and he has promised to redeem a people.

The “scary” ending is not a gloomy anticipation of an eschatological defeat, of Christ returning to a church in ruins, but a rallying cry for all to mimic the widow’s persistent prayer.

1 If you think the NT gives the rule of life for all times and all cultures you would have to conclude that women should wear head coverings. On the other hand, if you think that the head coverings mandate is cultural, then you must  examine all passages related to the roles of men/women for possible cultural correction. (Instead, we all tend to cherry-pick, don't we?)

2 I am not sure where that falls for the classic Covenantal view that all OT laws are still in effect (except for the ones that aren’t. ) The Mosaic divorce allowance does not seem to be a ceremonial law. (The again, we all tend to cherry-pick, don't we?)


Jump to Part 6

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