PARABLE OF THE PERSISTENT WIDOW

June 24, 2009

(Luke 18:1-8)

This is what I call a “how much more” story.  Jesus tells a story, a parable, about how humans behave, and then compares it to how God behaves.  For example, when he talks about fathers giving gifts to their children.  We wouldn’t give our children a stone when they ask for bread, or a snake when they want fish.  How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.  It’s the same with the passage about worrying.  The Lord cares for the birds of the air; he’ll care for us too.  After all, how much more valuable are we to him than birds? 

Another example is in Mt.12, where he heals the man with the withered hand.  He challenges the Pharisees: if your sheep falls into a hole on the Sabbath, you would rescue it.  “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep.”

The point of this story in Luke 18 about the persistent widow is quite clear.  Jesus tells us at the very start: The Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  It’s about persistence in prayer.  He says that if an unjust judge is willing to grant the request of a widow simply because she nags him into submission; how much more can we expect our Father in heaven to answer our prayers.  He may delay in answering, but don’t be discouraged: always pray and don’t give up. 

The story is quite straightforward.  There was, in a certain town, a judge “who neither feared God nor cared about men.”  There was a widow in that town who had been wronged.  It doesn’t matter how she had been wronged, but she deserved justice.  She didn’t have a husband or any other male relative to plead her cause, so she had to do it all herself.  She may have gone to court formally and got no where.  All that was left to her was personally harassing the judge. 

She was like a dog with a bone.  She just wouldn’t give up.  He’d step out of his house in the morning and there she would be, crying, Give me justice.  He’d be out for dinner with his friends, and she’d be standing outside on the street.  She’d follow him about.  He couldn’t shake her off. 

At first he’d brush her aside.  But in time I can imagine she’d begin to play on his nerves.  He’d try all sorts of ruses to lose her—changing his routine; putting on dark glasses. 

Eventually, he couldn’t take any more.  So he says 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. 

He’s going to make sure she gets justice, not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of some peace and quiet.  She gets what she wants, not because she deserves it, but because of her persistence. 

Jesus concludes: 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. 

Jesus is saying, if that judge gave justice to the widow because of her persistence, how much more can we expect God to give his people the justice they cry out for?  God is not like the unjust judge.  Justice had to be prised out of his hands.  God, on the other hand, is only to ready and willing to answer our prayers. 

Let me make a few observations from this.

1. Christians are expected to pray.  We should pray always and not give up.  Prayer is not an optional extra.  It is our duty; our life-blood as Christians.

2. We are to pray continually.  v.7 “who cry to him day and night.”  Paul who prayed three times that the thorn in the flesh be removed.  Or the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who also prayed three times that the cup of suffering be removed. 

Isa.62:6: I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, they will never be silent day or night.  You who call to on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

We might ask why we should keep on praying.  One answer if that God wants us to.  He wants us to give ourselves no rest; and to give him no rest.  He wants us to be persistent in prayer. 

3. We must accept that God will not answer our prayers as quickly as we would like.  We may get discouraged.  But look at the contrast between God and the unjust judge – this is the “how much more” factor.

a. the widow was a stranger to the judge; we pray to the God who calls us “his chosen ones”

b. she was just one; God’s elect are many

(Matthew Henry: As the saints of heaven surround the throne of glory with united prayers so the saints on earth besiege the throne of grace with their united prayers.)

c. she came to a judge that wanted her to stay away; we come to a Father who invites us to draw near

d. she came to an unjust judge; we approach a righteous Father

e. she had no friends or lawyer; we have an Advocate with the Father who ever lives to make intercession

f. the judge gave her no encouragement; God has given us precious promises that if we call on him he will answer

g. she could only press her claim at certain times; we can pray at any time

h. the judge came to dread the sight and sound of her; our God delights in our prayers.

How much more…

Finally: the Lord Jesus ends by asking: However, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?  Here is another answer to the question: Why pray, and why pray persistently?  The Lord is looking for faith and prayer is the exercise of faith.  Prayer that persists, though it seems as if heaven’s door is locked.  As Matthew Henry puts it so quaintly:

The parable has its key hanging at the door; the drift and design of it are prefixed.  Christ spake it with this intent, to tech us that men ought always to pray and not to faint.

The key is persistence.

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One Response to “PARABLE OF THE PERSISTENT WIDOW”


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