Luke 18:1-17

As this chapter opens, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. This is part of a dialogue which started in the middle of the previous chapter.

In Luke 17:20, the Pharisees came and asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God was coming. Jesus replied that it would not be coming with observable signs, but rather that it was already in their midst. And yet, there would be a future day - a day of the coming of the Son of man which would be like lightning and like the day of the Flood and the day in which Sodom was destroyed.

Kingdom not coming with signs to be observed (17:20-21)


Return of the Son preceded by rejection of Messiah (17:25)


Pray persistently and do not lose heart (18:1-8).

In the meantime, His followers should continue to pray and not lose hope. But will those prayers do any good? To answer such a question, Jesus tells a series of parables.



This is a parable about persistent prayer. Winston Churchill was asked once to speak at Eaton, the school he had attended as a boy. Everyone anticipated the great orator. He came up to the podium and delivered the simple injunction, "Never give up," and sat down. That is the point of this parable. It is that we should not give up when it comes to prayer.

1. The Purpose of the Parable.

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. (Luke 18:1).

Luke tells us at the outset what this parable is about. It is a parable about continuing prayer.

How much do you prayer? How much of your time is spent in prayer? Perhaps this parable is for you. It is for all those who feel like throwing in the towel when it comes to prayer.

2. The Parable.

Saying, "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. 3 And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’

"And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out.’" (Luke 18:2-5).

The first character in this parable is the judge. He is an unrighteous judge. He does not fear God. He does not even care about men. He is only concerned about himself. He could care less about this woman or the legality of her plea.

The second character is a woman. She is a widow. She has lost her husband and has no one to care for her. What is more, she is being wronged by an unknown adversary. And so, she takes her case to the judge.

Why does he finally act upon her case? It is not because he is a good judge or because he wants to do the right thing. It is because of her persistence.

3. The Meaning of the Parable.

And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:6-8).

God and the unjust judge are opposites. Although there are similarities between them, the main point of the parable are that they are different. They are not only different, they are opposites.



He is unrighteous.

He is righteous and holy.

He does not know the woman.

God knows us completely.

He does not care about the needs of the woman.

He cares for all of His creation.

He finally grants the needed help only because of the inconvenience caused by the woman.

He will not be slow, but will grant justice speedily to the elect.

Do you see the point? If an unjust judge answers a persistent plea of a woman whom he cares nothing about, how much more will the righteous God answer the prayers of those who He loves.

There are two points to this parable which are brought out here:

Now, you might argue that this prayer has been two thousand years in the waiting. But you would not be taking into account that the Lord is patient regarding His promise of judgment.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

God is patient. This patience is oriented toward a specific goal. This patience is for OUR benefit as the elect of God. This is seen by the fact that this promise is not to all men. It is to God’s elect (shall not God bring about justice for His elect - Luke 18:7). It is to His people.

Does this mean that God does not answer the prayers of unbelievers? No. But it does mean that He does not PROMISE to answer those prayer. There is one prayer that God will always answer, no matter who prays it. It is the prayer of repentance. If you seek the Lord, then you will find Him.

Notice what this prayer consists of, both in the parable and in the explanation. It is a prayer for JUSTICE. Our problem is that we are usually asking for the wrong thing. We pull out our Christmas wish list and we think of God as a giant gift certificate. God will answer our prayers when that which we pray for is a proper thing for which we ought to pray.



Jesus moves from the first parable to a second parable. The first flows into the second. Once again, Luke begins by telling us WHY Jesus is relating this parable.

1. The Purpose of the Parable.

And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt (Luke 18:9).

As Christians, we are apt to read this and look down their nose at the Pharisees who were looking down their nose at others. We need to be careful that we do not fall into this same trap.

Are there certain classes of sinners at whom you are inclined to turn up your nose? Do you ever think to yourself, "I’m so much better than so-and-so?"

2. Two Men.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer." (Luke 18:10).

We have just finished a parable about prayer. Now we see a parable where two men come to pray. These two men were as different as two men could be.

Cartoonists are commonly masters of characterization. You see it in political cartoons where some outstanding feature of the one being characterized is exaggerated. Jesus uses that kind of characterization in this story.

This is a story about self-esteem. One man will have a very high view of self while the other will have a very low self-esteem.

a. The Pharisee.

The Pharisees were the spiritually elite of their day. They held to the authority of the Scriptures. They believed in the supernatural and the resurrection.

The name ‘Pharisee’ comes from the Hebrew word parash, "to separate." They had separated themselves from the Gentiles and from the Hellenistic way of life. When it came to the keeping of the Law, the Pharisees were careful to dot their i's and cross their t's.

Righteousness was this man’s profession. He saw himself as the last bastion of morality.

b. The Tax-gatherer.

All tax-gatherers were viewed with contempt. They were men who had paid the Roman government to purchase a franchise to collect taxes. They would then show a profit by overcharging people on their taxes.

Imagine France after the Nazi takeover. A French townsman volunteers to take taxes from the people and takes a cut for himself. How would he be viewed? He is a traitor and a collaborator with the enemy.



A member of the religious elite.

Social outcast; not even permitted into the synagogue.

Held to a strict interpretation of the Law.

Had rejected the Law and sold out his country for profit.

We have already seen the disdain with which the Pharisees held for tax-gatherers. In Luke 15:1-2 we saw that they had a problem with Jesus because He ate with tax-gatherers and sinners.

3. Their Prayer.

The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

"But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’" (Luke 18:11-13).

We read that the Pharisee was praying to himself. Quite frankly, I think that reflects the god whom he was worshiping. He certainly was not praying to God. What we are given is a glimpse into his soul.

He is sincere. He is religious. He fasts regularly. He is a tither. But in all of his good works, there is a problem. The problem is that there is no humility. He is puffed up with pride. He feels that his right standing before God is based upon comparing his righteousness with that of someone’s worst.

With his words he makes it sound as though he is worshiping God, but the truth is that he is really worshiping himself.

Standing nearby was the tax-gatherer.

His posture is different. He is unwilling to even lift his eyes up to heaven.

His hear is different. It is a heart full of sorrow and repentance.

His prayer is different. His is a prayer of repentance. The words of his prayer are significant -- Have mercy on me -- literally, "See me in the light of propitiation. Be appeased with me on the basis of the sacrifice which has been made here in the Temple."

His prayer is short and to the point like a telegram:

Message: Be Merciful!

Signed: The Sinner

One man came on the basis of his own righteousness. The other ceased to compare his best with the worst in others. Instead he looks at the righteousness of God and how his own righteousness is so far removed. He comes on the basis of a sacrifice that has been made on his behalf.

4. The Results of their Prayer.

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

Jesus pronounces judgment upon these two men. One man goes home justified. But it is not the good man, but the sinner who is justified. This is given in the form of a chiasm.

He who exalts himself

Shall be exalted



Shall be humbled


He who humbles himself

What does it mean to be justified? It is not that the tax-collector was now righteous. He was a self-confessed sinner. But God had declared him to be righteous.

This brings up an important question. How can a righteous God declare that someone is righteous when they are not really righteous? It is only through the crediting of the righteousness of another. This truth is known as IMPUTATION.

When Jesus was upon the cross, the guilt of your sin was IMPUTED to Him. He was judged in your place as though He were a guilty sinner. That does not mean He started to sin or have evil thoughts. Rather it means that your sin was reckoned to His account. It was credited to Him.

In the same way, when you come to Christ in faith, you find that His righteousness has been credited to you. You have been reckoned to be righteous with the very righteousness of Christ. This is not affected by how good you try to be. It is not your own personal righteousness that is in view, but rather the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is the basis for your justification. God looks at the righteousness of Christ that has been credited to you and He accounts you are being righteous with that perfect standard of righteousness.

How do you see yourself? What is your self-image? If you see yourself as righteous, then I have some bad news for you. You have disqualified yourself from the gospel. The only qualification for accepting the gospel is that you see yourself as unworthy of it.



As we come to the incident of Jesus and the children, you will notice that there is no time indication mentioned. Luke does not say that this was the next thing that happened.

Neither does he tell us where this narrative took place.

There is a reason for this. It was not necessarily the next thing that took place. But Luke sees a TOPICAL connection and so he places them together. He sees in this incident with the children a living parable of the truths which he has just described.

1. Rebuke from the Disciples.

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. (Luke 18:15).

I think that the disciples were well-intentioned.

After all, Jesus was a busy man. He was on an important mission. The disciples had been enlisted to assist in that mission. And they were certain that there was no time for children.

The disciples intervened. After all, there was work to be done and miracles to be performed and sermons to be preached and demons to be cast out. They thought that only "important people" should see Jesus. Certainly there was no time for something as mundane and as useless as a bunch of soiled diapers and running noses.

By the way, that is one of the lies of the feminist movement. It says to women, "You don’t want to limit your life to something as mundane and as insignificant as taking care of a child, do you? Not when you can have a career and independence and a life that really counts!" What it is saying is that the raising of children isn’t very important. I’ll bet you never thought of the disciples as being feminists. But in this regard, they were. And Jesus rebukes them for it.

2. Rebuke from Jesus.

But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." (Luke 18:16-17).

The disciples had been saying in effect that there was no room in the kingdom for children. Jesus turned it around by saying that there was no room in the kingdom for anything but children.

To what quality of children is He referring? He says that it is the particularly unique way that they have of accepting things. It is the manner in which they receive the kingdom of God.

Have you ever seen a child at Christmas? A child has no difficulty in accepting a gift. And that is what the kingdom is. It is a gift. You do not enter it by being righteous - even as righteous as the Pharisee of the previous parable. You enter it by realizing that you are unrighteous and in need of grace. You enter it by acting the part of the repentant tax-gatherer who saw only his need. You enter it through taking on the quality of a child.

In what way must we receive the kingdom like a child? What is it that draws the Lord to a child? I want to suggest several things:

a. A Quality of Trust.

Have you ever seen a child leap into his father’s arms? That child doesn’t say, "Are you certain that you have the right timing and motor control to catch me in a safe manner in accordance with OSHA Standards?" There is complete trust and abandonment.

b. A Quality of Powerlessness.

There is nothing so powerless as a baby. The smaller the child, the more helpless that child is. And the more that parent takes an active role in feeding and changing and nursing and burping that child.

c. A Quality of Teachableness.

The mind and soul of a child is a sponge, ready to soak up knowledge. You know the familiar saying, "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks." We grow up and we become set in our ways and we become unteachable. And if we ever become unteachable, then we cease our spiritual growth.

Jesus looked at the disciples with their growing sophistication and their doctrinal knowledge and He pointed to these children and said, "You need to be like that."

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