Rogate, the Fifth Sunday after Easter May 28, 2000
459, 457, 616, 660
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” So far our text.
In Jesus Christ, Who is coming to earth again to bring everlasting justice, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Have you noticed? Life seems a lot more cheerful when you have a special day to look forward to. You know what I mean. For instance, even if the work you do is drudging and difficult, looking forward to the day your annual vacation starts can make it seem, well, not quite so bad after all. High School students can face those tough final exams with at least a little comfort, knowing it will all be over on graduation day. Many older workers look forward eagerly to the day they’ll retire, when they can finally relax and do those things they’ve always wanted to do. Just having that special day to wait for is a comfort, even before it arrives. It helps you to make it over some of life’s rough spots.
Have you ever looked forward to a certain day so much that actually prayed for it to arrive? When I was a kid, my sister and I used to pray for the day when we’d get to visit our grandparents’ farm in Iowa. Every summer it was the same thing: the days seemed to drag by until the time for the visit finally arrived. Maybe you remember something similar—praying for a certain day to get there. The day you finally got your driver’s license, the day you were married, or the day your first child was born. Well, when was the last time you prayed for Judgement Day to get here? Can’t remember? Never think about it? You should! This is the one Day that we should look forward to more than any other, and there’s every reason for us to do so! That’s the point of our text for today, the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In the words of our theme, Jesus encourages us to:
This is a very interesting parable. It’s a story that you’d think would go over really big in corporate America, where being aggressive and sticking to your guns is such a popular idea. Here’s a poor widow, all alone, who seems to have the odds stacked against her. And yet, through her sheer persistence, she ends up getting exactly what she wants. What a success story! If you skim over the parable in a hurry, it might seem like this is the moral of the story: just keep nagging God long enough, say the same prayer often enough, and in the end He’ll be forced to give you whatever you want.
But that’s not what this text is about. If that were true, why then all we’d have to do is get out our rosary beads and say the Lord’s prayer twenty times in a row like the Roman Catholics, and we’d be home free. But nagging God with a sheer multitude of words doesn’t in itself make prayer more effective. Jesus said, “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them.”—Mt 6:7-8.
God certainly wants us to be persistent in our prayers to Him. But this parable urges persistence in our prayers for a particular thing. if you look up today’s text in the 18th chapter of Luke, you’ll see that it comes right after a discussion of the coming Day of Judgement. Jesus wants us to keep on praying for that Day. That’s the point of the Parable of the Persistent Widow!
I think you’ll agree that this is a prayer that’s too seldom offered. Jesus is coming back to earth again, just as he left it—in the clouds, with great glory. That Day could arrive at any time: next year, next month, even today! We could hear the last trumpet ten minutes after church lets out! But most people, in the routine of their lives, don’t even think about that Day, much less pray for it to come. It’s a bad situation—so bad that Jesus asks the startling question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” When Jesus returns, will there be any faithful Christians left, who are still longing and praying for that final Day to come?
Let’s get personal. What about YOU? When the last trump sounds, and Jesus appears “like lightning flashing from east to west,” will He catch you by surprise? Will He find you unprepared? Or will He find you watching, waiting eagerly for Him, delighted that your prayers have finally been answered? If that Day turns out to be tomorrow, what’s the first thing you’ll say? Will it be: “Lord, I knew You were coming back again, but I didn’t think it would be today!” Or will it rather be: “Lord, I’m so glad You’re finally here—this is the Day I’ve been praying for!”
That prayer is too seldom offered, even by Christians. We get so wrapped up in the heartaches and hardships of day-to-day life; things go wrong, illness strikes, depression sets in. Like the patriarch Job, we get especially confused when we see the Christians suffering, while all the time the unbelievers seem to be doing great. We Christians always seem to get the short end of the stick. It’s not fair—it’s not justice! Sometimes we’re just tempted to give up the struggle. We’re tempted to quit offering what seem to be useless prayers that our final deliverance would arrive. It seems so far away. It’s never going to happen—why hang on?—Jesus understood those feelings and temptations, and that’s why He told this parable to His disciples, “…to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
Why pray for the Day? Because it’s a prayer that’s sure to be answered. The widow in the parable had evidently suffered some injustice—maybe somebody had stolen her land or deprived her of her rights. She had no husband to stand up for her, and the judge whom she came to for justice, well, he really couldn’t care less about her problems. Things didn’t look too good for this lady. But simply because she kept pestering him and kept pestering him—wonder of wonders!—she succeeded. She actually got what she wanted!
Now, Jesus says, compare her situation with your situation. She got justice even from this wicked judge who didn’t care two cents for her! “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”
Think about it. We Christians are God’s own chosen people—how can He possibly ignore us? If you took all your life savings and bought an expensive new car, could it possibly happen that you would park it out in back of the garage and forget all about it? Never! You’d take the best possible care of it; you’d wash it and wax it, you’d change the oil regularly, you’d be very careful to see that it got all the service it needed. Well, our Heavenly Father gave His “life savings” for you and me. In order to purchase us from the power of sin and hell, He sacrificed the one thing that was most precious to Him—His Son Jesus. Jesus gave His body on the cross to redeem us, the same body that we received in the Lord’s Supper last Sunday. He poured out His precious blood for the forgiveness of our sins, the same blood that we received a week ago in the Sacrament. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—Jn 3:16. Can the Lord, who paid such a high price for us, refuse to grant any of our needs in life? Impossible! Paul asks, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”—Rom 8:32.
Last but not least, you can be absolutely sure that there will be a balancing of accounts on the Day of Judgement. No more suffering or humiliation for God’s children there! There, a final and absolute justice will be meted out. Yes, and there are many unbelievers like the rich man in the parable who will hear the words, “Son, remember in that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”—Lk 16:25.
Is it useless to pray for Judgement Day to get here? An exercise in futility to pray that God would grant final justice to His persecuted people? No! “I tell you,” Jesus says, “He will see that they get justice, and quickly!” Like a lightning flash, that Day will be here, and then you and I will enjoy forever the eternal happiness that our Savior has won for us. My fellow Christians, pray for the Day! It’s one prayer that is sure to be answered!
Finally, it’s a prayer that’s worth repeating. The widow in the parable repeated her request to the unjust judge because that was they only way she could get what she wanted. But our case is different. We have a God who loves us and cares for us. He knows what we need even before we ask Him. The Lord promises, through Isaiah, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”—Is 65:24. We can pray to our Heavenly Father with confidence because we know that, when we pray in Jesus’ name, He can’t possibly ignore us! He has to hear, and He has to answer. After all, isn’t it God Himself who commanded us, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking…for he who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and unto him who knocks the door shall be opened.”
The reason we’re persistent in praying for the Day is because we know the Lord will answer us. One of Martin Luther’s friends was listening at the door of his study one day when the Reformer was praying out loud. The friend was shocked at the insistent tone of Luther’s prayer. He said, “It was as though he had the Lord by the throat, and was demanding that God keep His promises!” Well, we don’t have to demand—we know that, in Christ, all God’s promises to us are “yea” and “amen.” And even when we’re in the deepest trouble of our life, even when the world is laughing at us for believing in Jesus and holding tight to God’s Word, even when our life nears its end and we face the dark specter of death, even then—or especially then—we can repeat that old prayer. We can pray for the Day. And we know what God’s answer will be!
Do you know any one-word prayers? You may not realize it, but you know several. Hosanna is a one-word prayer meaning, “O Lord, save!” Hallelujah is a prayer meaning, “Praise the Lord!” Well, today I’m going to teach you another one: maranatha.—It’s an Aramaic word that means, “O Lord, COME!” Maranatha! God grant that we may use that word in every prayer we pray. Let’s keep on looking forward to the arrival of our Jesus back on earth. Let’s keep on praying for the Day. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.