October 20, 2019
Text: Luke 18:1-8
Politicians! Is there a group that we love to hate more? They promise us the sun and moon, but they never deliver. “Elect me, and I’ll make fix every problem in the world and make your life pleasant, fulfilling, and easy.” Now, I’m overstating the case a bit. We actually do need politicians, because we need people who will serve us in civic office. And I want my politicians to stand for what is good, especially the sanctity of life and marriage, religious freedom, freedom of speech. And I want them to make promises accordingly. I wish they were better at keeping their promises. At least the promises I agree with. I’m glad they don’t keep the promises I’m against. One thing is for sure, though: No politician will ever fix every problem in the world, nor will any politician ever fix my life and give me paradise. See, that really isn’t the domain of politicians, contrary to popular opinion. That role belongs to God. Politicians are not God, though they sure seem to want you to believe they are. Don’t fall for it. Don’t make them into idols. Repent when you think the future of the country or of the world depends on electing your people. Repent of putting politicians in God’s place. Vote, yes, out of love for your neighbor… Though I will say, only vote if you’re informed. This business of “everyone should vote” often leaves out that important point. And if you are informed, and if you have the talent and ability, maybe you should run for office, out of love for your neighbor. But be ready to suffer! And please, for God’s sake, serve with some integrity. But don’t depend on politicians for salvation. Jesus is your only Savior. Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the only true God.
When politicians make outlandish promises they have no intention of keeping, they betray the fact that they neither fear God nor respect man. See, the unrighteous judge in the parable is a politician. And that is the only reason he will help the widow. He doesn’t care about her. He doesn’t care about justice. He doesn’t care about doing what is right. He cares about himself. He will only help the widow because it helps him. The widow, for her part, has no other recourse. The judge represents the law of the land. Now, we don’t know her particular predicament, but we know she is a widow, and that means she has no husband to provide for her. In the ancient world, that would leave her at the mercy of her family and her community. It’s not like she could get a job at the local Walmart. So she has no means to speak of. She has no status in the eyes of the judge. She’s a nobody. But she won’t give the judge a break. He relents and gives her justice lest she “beat me down,” or literally, give me a black eye, “by her continual coming” (Luke 18:5; ESV). It’s unlikely a widow would actually sock a judge in the eye, although I’ve met a few feisty Lutheran widows in my time. But this is probably an idiom. “If the widow keeps coming to me, begging for justice, and I continue to ignore her, how will that look to my constituents? Not that I respect them, but I need them to respect me and support me in office.” Just like a politician, am I right?
We don’t really like where this is going, though, because the judge is in the role of God in the parable. God is not an unjust judge, and we’ll go to our death confessing that truth. But that isn’t Jesus’ point. The point is, if even this unrighteous judge vindicates the widow because of her continual coming, lest she give him a black eye, surely God, who is just, who does care for widows and orphans and the least of these, who does care about all men, and all that is right and holy and good, surely He will give justice to His elect, His faithful people, His Church, who cry to Him day and night (v. 7). That is to say, He will deliver His people from all their afflictions, from sin, death, the devil, hell, and all who hate and persecute them. That is the justice, the vindication for which the Church continually cries to our very-much-righteous Judge, our Savior and our God.
The widow is the Church. She is the Christians, you. And she has no resources of her own to draw upon for protection and to provide for herself. She is lowly and despised in the world. She’s a nobody. She’s mocked. She’s derided. She’s rejected and persecuted, even unto death. She’s at the mercy of others. Often even judges. You watch. It has happened, and will happen increasingly, that the beliefs and practices of the Church will land the Church in court, to be judged by secular judges and justices. It’s happened to the Missouri Synod. Do a little research into the Hosanna-Tabor case that went before the Supreme Court in 2011. We won that one, thanks be to God, but we won’t win them all, or even most of them. So be ready. It’s coming. But our final deliverance, our true vindication, our salvation doesn’t rely on any earthly judge, righteous or otherwise. This is so important in our over-politicized culture. Our only Savior is Jesus Christ. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the only true God. From Him alone comes justice.
In reality, our Lord Jesus Christ has already delivered and vindicated us by His life, death, and resurrection. Though He was righteous, perfectly fulfilling the Law, nevertheless, He stood before unrighteous judges: The Sanhedrin, Herod, Pilate. He was falsely accused. He was derided. Despised and rejected. Tortured. Crucified. His was the execution reserved for the most heinous of criminals. Humiliating. Excruciating. Jesus knows a thing or two about unjust suffering. But in submitting to all of this, in taking on the sin of the world… your sin… the machinations of the devil, the pangs of hell and death, Jesus won the victory. For you. And He is risen from the dead. And you, baptized into Christ, have died with Him and so have conquered. And He gives you His new life now, and He will raise you from the dead when He comes again in glory.
But until that Day, all of this, though very much real, is hidden. Christ, Himself, is hidden. Ascended into heaven. Seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Ruling. Yes, ruling all things. He’s the King. But the world doesn’t know it, and the devil doesn’t acknowledge it. And though we know it and confess it, it is hidden from our eyes. And so we are the widow. A Christian widow buries her husband, and with him, really, herself, her life up to that point. But she knows that he lives in heaven with Christ, and that she will see him again, on that Day when Jesus raises all the dead. Widowhood is sort of this in-between state, an interlude, so to speak, between life with her husband and eternal life when he will be returned to her. (Of course, she can marry again, and go on living a full life, but that is beyond this analogy, so just stay with me for a moment.) The Church’s Husband, Jesus, has died. And yes, He’s been raised from the dead. But He’s gone from her sight. She knows that He lives and that she will see Him again on that Day. And, she knows, He’s with her in His gifts, the Word, the Supper, just as earthly spouses who have died in the faith are with us around the altar for the great Feast. But for now, her Husband, Jesus, is hidden. So she waits and she prays. She cries to Him day and night. “Come back to me! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly.”
And that, in the end, is the point of the parable. We ought always to pray and never lose heart. This isn’t about guilting you because you don’t pray enough. You don’t, by the way, and so, repent, and get to praying. But this isn’t about that. Nor is the idea that you persevere by your own cheerful spirit, like a football team down by ten at the two minute warning, taking the field and playing with heart, never losing hope. The point is, this is the Christian’s life in this world between our Lord’s first coming to die for our sins and rise again, and His second coming to deliver us from all that afflicts us and manifest His Kingdom and the eternal life we already have in Him. In this in-between time, this interlude, what Luther calls the “already/not yet,” the Church prays and she waits. And she does not lose heart. That is to say, she keeps the faith.
When the Son of Man comes, will He find… not just faith, as the ESV has it, but the Faith on the earth (v. 8)? Will He find the community of the faithful, the Christian Church, doing what she is given to do in this time? Praying. Waiting. Preaching. Confessing. Will He find His Bride watching and yearning for Him in faithfulness? He will. By grace. By His Spirit calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the whole Christian Church on earth and keeping it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. And that means you. He has called you, and gathered you here to do His enlightening and sanctifying work upon you.
And as we wait, and as we cry out to God day and night in our afflictions, we can be certain: God will not delay His justice. He will give it speedily. Jesus is coming soon. Rejoice, dear Bride of Christ. He is coming for you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.