Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 18:1-8
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 24–Sunday Between October 16 and 22 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Worn Out
What the judge fears most from the widow’s constant bothering is being worn out (v. 5). The pressures of apocalyptic-like experience (17:22-37) might leave the disciples feeling worn out. Whether or not we are anxious with our own postmodern and millennial experiences, we can certainly experience being worn out from all that bothers us in our daily lives–in our work, in our home, in our travels.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Losing Heart
The unjust judge gives us a good look into our worn out souls as well. Jesus did not want his disciples to lose heart; but the pressures can mount to the point that we are willing to make concessions, whatever the cost, to keep the pressures from mounting any further. There is only so long that we can hold out (v. 4). Our patience has its limits. But our confession is one of unfaith.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: God Against Us
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith? Not if he looks at our worn out, heartless, impatient responses to what we think is our world. But maybe more than our world. What if the seemingly unjust experiences of life have some basis in divine predilection? What if the real pricks against which we are kicking are not simply our experiences and our neighbors, but God who is out to have us judged and brewing in our own juices? What if, in fact, divine justice is really being served by this experience?!


Step 4–Initial Prognosis: The Widow Advocate
In the midst of a seemingly godless experience (though it really isn’t), there is the charge of the Widow-for-us. Jesus becomes himself abandoned upon the cross, but does not cease to make plea for our justice–and not the justice of old, but the justice of righteousness which he himself secures for us through his own mortifying crucifixion. This plea is indeed heard by the Father, and we receive the new recompense of the Widow’s merit on our behalf.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Faith on Earth
When the Son of Man comes, we indeed may recognize that this Son of Man is the same Widow who petitioned for our very lives. Our faith trusts that in the midst of our experiences, there is a larger reality that looms on the horizon in the presence of the coming Widow. So our confession of faith (even in “times of confessing,” if necessary) does not waver, because we have the eschatological smile of knowing the Son of Man by name, Jesus the Christ.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Praying Always
Naming the name in prayer is one of the ways we cut through the darkness of our bothered and tried lives. We have the freedom to call upon God as our Father, and we have that freedom and command from our supreme Widow Advocate to constantly be making pleas and petitions in all of life’s circumstances. But praying always does not mean always praying. There is our work for the kingdom that accompanies our prayer. In our work, in our homes, in our travels, there is the joy of encouraging the discouraged–partly by the prayers of our own lives, and partly by our pleas and petitions with the Widow to our Father in heaven, who hears and smiles upon our lives.


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