For an introduction to this series, click here.
March 28, 2007
This chapter begins with teaching about prayer. The first story in the chapter is the persistent widow. She pestered the unjust judge until he decided to hear her case just to get her off his back, not because he was interested in her case.
This is one of the great mysteries of prayer. I'll be the first to admit I don't understand a lot about prayer. I know it's one of the basic things Christians do, but often it is difficult to understand. God is an all-loving, all-knowing Father. He knows what we need before we ask, and He knows the desires of our heart before we ask. Of course the two (what we need and what we want) don't always match up. I think that's the basis of much of the mystery of prayer. Jesus tells us here to be just like the persistent widow: bugging God until we get what we need. That seems so strange. And I'm not sure what else can be said right now.
The next story is the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee, of course, bragged about himself to God in his prayer. No doubt Jesus' audience had heard lots of prayers like this. Jesus may have been exaggerating for effect just a little, but you can bet a lot of the people recognized some of the platitudes in the prayer. Meanwhile, the tax collector went off by himself and prayed simply, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Of course, Jesus informed his audience that the tax collector was justified before God, whereas the Pharisee was not.
Next, I always wonder: why did the disciples always send the little kids away? Surely by this point (This section of Luke is generally agreed to be within a couple of months of the Crucifixion) they would have seen that Jesus enjoyed being around children. I don't understand people that don't like kids. When I was a kid, there were people that I knew didn't like me or kids in general, just because they were kids. Kids live in a simpler world, and just the chance to be a part of that world is enough of a reason to be interested in them and help them.
Next we have the story of the rich young ruler. This pitiful man was so tied up in his money that he was unable to commit himself to God. I think the lesson we need to learn here is that Jesus was willing to let people walk away. So much of the evangelism techniques we see in our day borrow heavily from sales techniques. The most important rule of sales is to not let the customer get away before they make a final decision. Jesus does the opposite of that here. We assume that the rich young ruler never came back, but we don't know. God works in ways we don't understand. Certainly not all of us came to faith in Christ the first time we heard the Gospel. I'm certainly thankful for the people who were patient with me and did not strongarm me into making a shallow commitment to Christ. I know there's more to it than that, but sometimes we as Christians get so excited about witnessing to others that we cut corners to make Christianity more palatable. And when they do commit to that, are they really committing to Christ? We can't see people's hearts, but I've seen too many people walk away from their profession to say that they all committed to Christ.