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Monday, October 8, 2007


Lexegete TM | Year C | Luke

October 21, 2007 (Lectionary 29)

Complementary Series

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121 (Ps. 121:2)
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Semicontinuous Series

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104 (Ps. 119:103)
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1-8

1. CONTEXT: Luke 18:1-8a

This parable and the following (9-14) continue the
journey to Jerusalem, Jesus on the way to the cross. This
journey sets Jesus' theology of the kingdom in contrast to
the methods of the kingdoms of this world. Here we see
the freedom of God to act as God chooses, to the surprise
of those who have worked out the systems of the society in
which Jesus and the disciples lived and ultimately to the
surprise of the people of the infant church of Luke's
time. Jesus surprises us by praising unlikely people--a
woman, an unjust judge--for qualities that are not
acceptable in polite society, but are necessary for
survival. The negative example of the judge can be
compared to the dishonest steward of chapter 16.

At chapter 17:20, the Pharisees have asked a question
about the coming of the kingdom. Jesus discusses with
them the apocolyptic expectation of the day(s) of the son
of man. Danker points out that in this discussion Jesus
subsumes the traditional idea of the day of the Lord under
the idea of the Kingdom, rather than making the two
identical, thus making Jesus' appearance at the end of
time continuous with his contemporary activity. This
parable comes as an admonition to tenacity of faith in the
face of the oppostion of this world. The emphasis is not
on apocolyptic curiosity, but on current relationship to

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 18: 1-8a

Lk.18: 1 & 7, 8 The extent of the parable itself is
in dispute. Those who limit the parable to verses 2-5
place primary emphasis on the tenacity of the woman.
Those who hold that the original story continues to verse
8a place a dual emphasis on the judge and the woman, with
the judge being a negative example: If an unjust judge
can be persuaded to act justly, how much more will God act
in behalf of the people of God--the elect. To the
people whom Luke addresses this Gospel, the question of
the Pharisees in chapter 17 is pertinent when rephrased:
How long do we need to put up with abuse in this world?
The answer comes in verse 8: God will come unexpectedly
to see justice done--therefore, remain faithful until the
Under the latter interpretation, Luke's introduction to
the parable (verse 1) is too limiting, because it
emphasizes prayer in a manner that manipulates God,
whereas the emphasis on the judge in verses 7 and 8 lifts
up the compassion of God.

Lk. 18: 2-5 Scholars generally agree that the case as
presented is financial in nature, possibly relating to the
inheritance. The widow may have been quite young, as the
marriage age tended to be 12-15. Jeremias quotes an 1894
text which tells of a similar incident in Mesopotamia,
which the author had witnessed, wherein a woman cried out
because she did not have the money to bribe the judge's
secretaries in order to gain a hearing. The judge asked
about the ruckus, then heard the woman's case. Some
scholars see this as another instance of Luke's concern
for the oppressed, especially the poor and women.

Lk. 18: 5 [upopiaze me] It is debateable whether the
judge literally fears a black eye, or figuratively fears
exposure at some public scene.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 18: 1-8a

I suggest two possible themes for preaching: (1)An
emphasis on prayer without ceasing in the face of
difficult circumstances (God, are you listening?), or (2)
an emphasis on being found faithful to the end.

One way of recognizing the dual affect of prayer
without ceasing and faithfulness for an extended length of
time might be to recall the underground Christians of
Japan who continued to practice faith during persecution
by creating secret altars in their homes and passing the
faith quietly from generation to generation. One problem
with this illustration for those of us who worry about Too
much individualism in the American church is the fact that
even after the practice of Christian faith is safe in
Japan, the hidden Christians still continue their hidden
ways. Even so, the practice of prayerful hope in the
midst of an uncertain future supports both aspects of our

"When Arsenius (one of the desert fathers) had asked
for the second time, "Lord, lead me to the way of
salvation," the voice that spoke to him not only said, '
be silent' but also, 'pray always'...The literal
translation of the words 'pray always' is 'come to rest.'
The Greek word for rest is [hesychia], and [hesychasm] is
the term which refers to the spirituality of the desert.
A hesychast is a man or a woman who seeks solitude and
silence as the ways to unceasing prayer. The prayer of
the hesychasts is a prayer of rest. This rest, however,
has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It
is a rest in God in the mist of a very intense daily
struggle." (Nouwen, p. 55f)

Another approach to continuous prayer might be an
introduction to Psalm 13: "How Long, O Lord..." The
Psalm concludes with reliance on the steadfast love of the

"Our whole life is an effort to approach, to
appreciate, to some degree to participate in, the
absoluteness of God himself. But we can never do it;
that's why our whole life is a restlessness....This
restlessness may make us want to throw in the towel--or to
pull up our socks. You can play it either way. You can
either be creatively restless, as before the unknowable,
or you can simply collapse into futility. One of the
goals of the Christian message is to join together the
people of the way, the way of an eternally given
restlessness, and to win from that restlessness the
participation in God, which is all that our mortality can
deliver." (Sittler, p. 28.)

There are always stories of times of crisis in our
communities--either of personal, local, or broader
nature--in which there has been perseverence in the face
of great odds. I think of the variations in coping with
the great depression, the resentment that destroyed lives
and families as over against the faithfulness that created
systems of cooperation.

4. REFERENCES: Luke 18: 1-8a


Fortress Press, 1976.

Jeremias, Joachim. REDISCOVERING THE PARABLES. New York:

Scribner's, 1966.

NEW TESTAMENT. Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1974. IV: 187 f, 380 f; VIII: 435, 590 f; IX: 449 f.

Nouwen, Henri. THE WAY OF THE HEART. New York:
Ballantine, 1981.

Sittler, Joseph. GRAVITY AND GRACE. Minneapolis:
Augsburg, 1986.

Exegete: Herman W. Frerichs is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, now residing in St. Louis, MO (email: .)



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