South Sydney Anglican Church

Luke 17-21: “Portraits of True Faith” (Sunday Series 3)

22 October 2023

Bible Passage: Luke 18:1-14

Christians must patiently and humbly look for God’s Vindication

Intro:      Well Morning Friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are continuing to study Jesus’ words about the Kingdom of God – (in Luke’s gospel). Particularly, we are thinking about Jesus first coming and second coming. So please pray with me as we begin…

Prayer:   Well as I shared last week – the Jews had very little comprehension that the Messiah would come, then go away and then come back. Although there are perhaps hints of this in the Old Testament, for most Jews it was a new idea. This is what it says in Luke 19:11 (Slide 2 – Lk.19:11). The Jews thought that soon as the Jewish Messiah came – Gods Kingdom would be established on earth in its fullness. So Luke, chapters 17-21 spends a lot of time explaining we enter the Kingdom of God, now by faith. And Jesus is already the King over God’s Kingdom – now. But the Kingdom of God will not come in power or in fullness until Jesus’ return. And this idea pervades much of the teaching in Luke 17-21 – including the parables we are looking at today…

So as we begin to think about Jesus’ return, the widow getting justice and the tax collector being vindicated – I want to say a few words about Israel and Gaza. It seems like every week now we have new events on the world stage to divide us. Pro Covid Vaccine or anti Covid vaccine? Pro Voice to Parliament OR anti Voice to Parliament AND now pro-Israel or anti-Israel. And sadly, the conflict between Israel and Gaza, is already beginning to polarise us – again.

So I want to say a few words about Israel-Gaza and man’s desire for justice. Modern, secular morality (non-Christian, non-religious ethics) is now based on victimhood and the pursuit of justice. The way to work out what is the right and moral thing to do in all circumstances – is to work out who is the biggest victim and then come up with a way of getting them justice now.  Consequently, many people (including non-Christians) have observed this is fuelling a kind of cultural Marxism. Just as Karl Marx argued the oppressed groups of the world (the proletariet) MUST rise up and overthrow the unjust oppressors (the bourgeoise) in order to establish real peace and equity on earth. So everyone who considers themselves a moral and reasonable person must align themselves with the victims and help the victims of the world.

Now this is hard for Christians to navigate – because the Bible does have a special concern for orphans, widows, refugees and the poor. And in many circumstances (but not all circumstances) – orphans, widows, refugees and the poor are victims of injustice. That’s the reality in our fallen world and Christians are called to be concerned about justice. But the Bibles answer to addressing the injustices of the world is quite different to modern secular man’s answer. The Bible also identifies the real oppressor – Satan in a way that modern secular man does not acknowledge. Secularism simply paints a picture that some people are good and some people are bad…

So who is the oppressor and who is the victim in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the first week of the conflict – just about everyone was on Israel’s side – because Israel was the obvious victim of a terrorist incident. But then as Israel have responded (and civilian casualties rise in Gaza) – more and more people are identifying the Palestinians as the victims we must now protect. Against this backdrop of increasing hostility on the world stage (and with Israel at the centre) – I want to share with you a prophecy from Zechariah 14 (about the day of the Lord). (Slide 3 – Zech.14:1-3). Now I’m not a Zionist per se. Nor am I necessarily saying this prophecy is about to be fulfilled and Jesus is about to return. But this is a prophecy in the Bible that has never been fulfilled in Israel’s history – because verse 1 tells us it happens on the Day of the Lord which is the Day of judgment. Now two weeks ago – I could not foresee how or why all the nations of the world might turn against Israel. But this week perhaps I can. And Zechariah 14 carries a warning about all the nations turning on Israel. Now I’ll say a little more about this – because I’m not really on anyone’s side. But can Christians, Israel, Palestine, widows or any of us – really expect justice prior to Jesus’ return?

Point 1:         Jesus says; Victims of Injustice will get justice at His Return (if…)

Show:            Luke 18:1-5 (READ)

Explain:         Well Jesus tells us a parable about a widow and an unjust judge. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Now verse 1 also tells us that Jesus is telling us this parable to show us that we should always pray and not give up. So yes, (in part) this parable (and the next parable about the tax-collector) are about the importance of faithful Christian prayer. But equally this parable is about not giving up. When you are praying to God who are you putting your hope of deliverance in? You’re in difficulty and bad stuff is happening – who are you putting your hope in to deliver you? (PAUSE. That’s right – God). When you’re in difficulty and bad stuff is happening (and you stop praying) – who are you now putting your hope in to deliver you? (PAUSE – that’s right. Maybe yourself. Maybe the United Nations or the Australian government or perhaps even yourself). But if your not praying anymore – it means your hope in difficulty is in something other than God and His deliverance. So the overall application in this parable is kind of keep praying, keep your hope in God and wait for the deliverance that only He can bring…

So this imaginary widow faces some sort of injustice. She’s in difficulty and bad stuff is happening. Perhaps, her family is not looking after her properly according to Jewish law. Perhaps, she has been used and abused by some shonky tradesman – who intentionally preys on vulnerable pensioners. You know, we regularly see – such stories on a Current Affair of dodgy tradesmen overcharging pensioners and then not really doing the work. Now of course, the Bible identifies widows, orphans, refugees and the poor – as the sort of people in life who without means – are more susceptible to becoming victims in our fallen, sinful world. It is Darwinism – survival of the fittest writ large in life. The strong tend to exploit the weak even if they deny that’s what they’re doing. The Bible tells us not to do this. Christians are meant to have special heart for those who are susceptible to exploitation in this world. And this widow really is a victim of injustice in the fullest sense.

Something has happened to her that is unfair and worse yet, the earthly judge who is meant to uphold justice doesn’t really care. The judge is also part of this fallen, sinful world. He is not a good guy. Twice we are told he does not fear God or care what people think of him. This is a common Jewish expression for the ungodly. The unrighteous. Although, he pretends to be a good guy (and on the side of good) he is really in his position simply for himself (not for justice). Welcome to the world as it really is. Many people who claim to be on the side of good and on the side of justice (are simply in their positions for themselves). This is simply the norm of pre-election promises and post-election realities…

So Jesus commends the widow for rising up, overthrowing her bourgeoise oppressor and taking justice into her own hands. (Pause). Please note, I’m being sarcastic. No! The widow keeps patiently asking the judge to give her justice and in the end he relents and gives her the justice she desires.

So now we get to the heavenly meaning of this parable in verses 6-8 (Slide 7; Lk.18:6-8). The basic idea – is if the unjust judge eventually gives the widow the justice – how much more will God (who is just and good) eventually give his people justice if they keep asking. The answer is – that of course – God will eventually give us justice – if we keep looking to him, rather than taking justice in our own hands. Now its actually very hard to translate the end of verse 7. You see where it says “will he keep putting us off forever”. Well, more literally – it kind of says will God be patient forever? The “patience” word raises the question who is God being patient with? Is God being patient with our nagging prayers for justice or is God being patient with others and therefore, not immediately answering our prayers for justice.

There seems to be a natural connection here to Gods words in 2 Peter 3 that we recently looked at. Peter explains God is not slow in sending Jesus back to judge the world, rather God is patient with us not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to faith in Jesus.

Apply:     Jesus is telling us – eventually God’s patience with the world – giving everyone time to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus – will be worn thin. As Gods people really do become greater and greater victims of injustice (and we see more and more injustice in the world) we should be crying out to God more and more “Come Lord Jesus Come. Come and bring the justice that only you can really bring.” And eventually, a time will come when the suffering of Gods people is so great that God will intervene to end our suffering, even though that will mean eternal suffering in hell for those who have rejected Jesus and continued in sin. But then Jesus asks the question; “But when the Son of Man comes will he find persistent prayerful people on the earth looking and longing for God’s justice OR will we have taken justice into our hands or perhaps looked to other things to give us the justice we desire?

The application is clearly that between Jesus’ first coming and second coming we must continue looking for true justice in Jesus’ return. In this fallen sinful world there is always going to be injustice and there are always going to be victims. The problem is our world is sinful and there are no truly good guys. Yes, some people pretend to be good guys concerned about the victims of the world. So they rally together to overthrow an identified oppressor. But as they rally together to overthrow an identified oppressor, they themselves become an oppressor and new victims of injustice are created. Therein lies the story of the world. So knowing this is true – Christians have to be very careful who we side with in contexts of injustice or war.

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