Proper 24 — October 16, 2016
Sermon Text — Luke 18:1-8
Sermon Audio —
Come back later for the audio of this sermon.
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 18th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Praying without Despair
Our text this morning gets right to the point. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke to His disciples a parable that they ought always to pray without losing heart. Our text has to do with our heart. With heart one believes that God raised Jesus from the dead and with the mouth one confesses Jesus Christ as Lord. To be concerned with the heart is to be concerned with faith. To be concerned with the mouth is to be concerned with what is confessed and therefore also what is prayed. The believing heart prays. The despairing heart . . . doesn’t. Our text this morning gets right to the point and right to the heart, to our heart, even your heart.
These words are exactly the words we need this morning. Jesus is speaking to His disciples, not the crowds, not the seekers, not the Pharisees or scribes, but His disciples, those who have been following and continue to follow Him. While all of God’s Word is meant for the making of disciples, the Word directed toward the disciples, and therefore also you and me, is especially important for our faith. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow Jesus and not the world. It means to heed His Word and the words of men. And Jesus’ Word recognizes that we descendants of Adam have a heart problem. We are by nature given to despair. Old Adam doubts and disbelieves. And though we have been reborn through the waters of our baptism we continue to have the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature about us, working against us, lying to us, and offering us every opportunity to “go on save yourselves.” But such endeavors only lead to more despair and work against our faith.
A Widow and a Judge
It is for faith that Jesus tells us the parable. We Christians walk by faith and faith comes by the Word of God and the message of His Christ. The point of the parable is to move us from the lesser to the greater, from the widow as a beggar to the bride as an heir of eternal life, from an unjust judge to our gracious and merciful Father in heaven. The parable isn’t so much about prayer as it is about not losing heart.
Jesus’ parable describes our world to a tee. Like the widow we often feel helpless and alone. The widow has no husband and no son to defend her. She is on her own and has been sinned against. She cries for justice, vindication, righteousness. The one who can defend her has no fear of God, he has no eternal perspective for his soul or the soul of anyone else. Nor does he respect man. He has no care for even what is socially considered right. It’s as though the widow were surrounded by a bunch of liars and adulterers. For her, there is no lesser of two evils to choose from. The unjust judge and her world are against her. All is evil. Yet she does not lose heart. She does not go away. She presses on for righteousness’ sake. She presses on for truth. She presses on because despite her world and the unjust judge, even the unjust judge cares about his reputation. Rather than suffer a public “black eye” because of her, the unjust judge does the right thing. Even in an evil world, evil people can be compelled to do right. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
As disciples of Jesus we are not raptured from this evil world. Life does not go well. Sin happens in our life and to our loved ones. And with the burden of sin comes the promise of death. Jesus never promises an earthly kingdom, just judges, or even moral politicians. We are in this world and we are promised that suffering and affliction will come to usbecause we are in this world. As Christians the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature are against us, distracting us and deceiving us, seeking our destruction. We ought not be surprised by our daily experience nor let such things hinder our faith in Christ. Nor, ought we to despair when the One on whom we call day and night delays in vindicating us. The parable is given us to move us from the lesser to the greater, that we realize that our eternal well-being is not dependent on unjust judges or immoral politicians. We have no earthly kingdom nor should we expect the kingdoms of this world to embrace us or the God we worship. Remember, the lesser of two evils is still evil. No matter how many times a year the broken clock is right, it’s still broken. No matter how many times the words of men say the right thing or the deeds of men do the right thing, we are still broken, sinful, unclean, men and women living in a broken, sinful and unclean world full of broken, sinful and unclean people.
Always Looking to God’s Action in Christ
“Hear what the unjust judge says!” For sake of his name he acts and answers the widow’s plea. Hear what Jesus says! “Will not God give vindication to His elect.” Jesus moves us from the lesser and the unrighteous to the greater and the righteous. “For the sake of my Name,” the Lord says in Ezekiel, “for the sake of My Name I acted that it not be profaned among the nations (Ezek. 20:9). Despite the brokenness of the world, despite the sins of God’s own people, for the sake of His Name He acted. Moving from the lesser to the greater from the unrighteous to the righteous Jesus moves our hearts from this broken and sinful world to the righteous judgments of God against sin. Though the justice of God calls for sinners to die, He did not call for your death, nor does He will the death of the wicked. NO! He is not like the kings of this world but for the sake of His Name He acted to save you and me and the world from the perils of our sins.
Look to Christ, the love of God made flesh! Look to the cross, the justice of God meted out against sin. Lift up your weary heads from your sin stained hands and behold the hands of your savior, pierced for you. Wipe the tears from your cheek and see clearly the brow of Him who bears the sins of the world. Draw near by the blood of Jesus to receive from His side the water that cleanses and the blood which atones. You cry for vindication and God gives Jesus. You plead for mercy and God gives the cross. You long for righteousness and the righteousness of God is outpoured for you and for all on Calvary.
Here, the greater One dies.
Here the righteous One is put to shame.
Here the Holy One of God is mocked.
Here the unjust is justified.
Here the Lord of life is put to death
Here the doer of good deeds undoes your sins.
Here the greatest becomes least so the least are exalted.
Here the first becomes last so the last are invited to the wedding feast.
Here love overcomes hate, truth dispels lies, light scatters the darkness.
Ours is a God who is steadfast in love, delights in showing mercy and saves by the power of His Name.
Though Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, He has triumphed over sin, death, devil the world and all that is destined for destruction by rising from the dead on the third day. God has vindicated His Son in order to fully vindicate, justify, save you and all who believe on His Name. God has highly exalted Jesus that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.
Come Lord Jesus, Come Quickly (Word, Sacrament and the End)
But isn’t our text about how we should always pray without losing heart? Why aren’t we talking about prayer? Doesn’t prayer flow from faith? It is only by faith that we are bold to pray. With the heart one believes and with the mouth one confesses. Where the heart grows weary faith suffers and prayer dwindles. A person who struggles to pray doesn’t have a prayer problem but faith has come under attack. Your faith is constantly assaulted by the world we live in. We have not been raptured but remain in the world. Sin and its consequence can easily distract us from source of our life together hindering our prayers because of what we are told are more pressing matters.
As disciples we are called to move from the lesser to the greater from the words of men to the Words of God. It is the Word and promises of God which stir us to a more lively faith and encourage us to press on like this widow. Here on this side of eternity we are beaten and battered day in and day out by sin, death, devil and our own sinful nature. To focus on our affliction is to distract us from God’s remedy. It is precisely because of our sufferings in this life that we need to repent and turn from the world and its enticements towards the God who has redeemed us by the blood of His Son. The vindication and justification God provided for our salvation so long ago is not a distant memory or a pious thought we need to get us through. NO! God’s mercy outpoured for you and me on Calvary is present here today in His means of grace. Through baptism, absolution and the blessed meal we Christians are renewed by the forgiveness of our sins. The life, death, and resurrection are give us as a gift and so also the heart of God. Through these we learn and receive God’s tender mercies for us. Apart from these we grow weary with doubt and may even lose heart. Through these gifts we are moved to pray, without these we begin to trust our own words or the words of others. We pray today because of God has done for us in Christ and is delivered to us today.
Will the Lord Find You Faithful?
Beloved in the Lord, take heart! Your God, though He is patient with you and this rebellious and wicked world, has not abandoned you to the whims of an over emotional mob or the rulings of unjust judges. He speaks to you today to move you from the lesser to the greater, from the small picture we see today to the big picture revealed in His Son. Do not lose heart but press on. You, by virtue of your baptism into Christ have been redeemed. You are no widow. Your Savior is risen. You are His beloved bride, an heir of salvation.
Thus the Savior’s question “will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when he comes” is really a question put to His disciples, even you. Will the Lord find you faithful? Heed the words of your righteous Savior. Repent and believe the Gospel. And pray. Call on the name of the Lord. For the sake of His Name He will not grow weary of your voice nor delay in coming. Behold, the table is set. The Savior approaches in gentle mercy. Here is your vindication, a foretaste of the vindication to come when the day or resurrection finally and forever makes death His footstool and sin and suffering are no more. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!