Luke 18:1-8
Keep Praying

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. This is the last Sunday in the [scholastic] year [in Japan]. Today we are given one of the parables. While we are guided by the word of the Lord as given through parable, let us finish this year out and head for the new one.

The World Where Money And Power Talk

2. In today's parable from Jesus we find "The Unjust Judge." What does it mean to say "an unjust judge exists there?" An unjust judge means someone who doesn't decide things based on "whether right or wrong." In other words, to say an unjust judge is in existence might mean that "how right or wrong something is" is ultimately not the main thing in this world, but that it is a world in which money and power do the talking.

3. We find "a widow" in this parable. In this case, she is not a wealthy widow. She is obviously a symbolic representation of those in a socially weak position. She has no money. She has no power. As a result she is made to suffer unfairly. She makes an appeal, "Please judge against the other party and protect me." But yet, her plea went unheard. The judge turned a deaf ear. Regretfully, as for her case, he did not move based on "whether she was right or wrong," [but], because she had no money and no power. The world, which this parable depicts, is a world where money and power do the talking.

4. This kind of world was all too familiar to Jesus' disciples who were in attendance listening to this parable. In their world they had the control of the huge empire of Rome over them. Even if the Roman soldiers were to inflict harm upon the subjugated peoples, in most cases they would never be duly judged against. Their world had these territorial rulers and priestly aristocrats, putting the likes of the house of Ananias the high priest at the top. Under the rule of the powerful, often times the issue is not right or wrong. It is whether it is to their benefit or not. If they did bring disadvantage to them, not even counting whether it was right, they might be oppressed, crushed, and suppressed. - That was always the fate of the weak. That's how the blood of many weak persons has been shed. Both the immediate disciples of Jesus and the later church have frequently been placed in the position of the weak as described above. It was the same old world where money and power talk that they certainly had seen.

5. Well, since "money and power talk", then the world of today is the same since passing two thousand years from the time of Jesus. On the past 20th of the month (Japan time), anti Iraq attacks by the U.S. and England have initiated. Many people the world over have raised their voices of protest. Through out the world, more than ten million people have gathered in anti war meetings and demonstrations and lifted their voices. Germany has been against it. Among the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, France, Russia, and China have been against it. But nonetheless, the attacks have been initiated. View points are split on this also among the churches in the world on the pros and the cons of the deployment of the military. I am totally against it. I still believe even now that this should never have even occurred. But, the purpose [of this sermon] is not to discuss the rights and the wrongs of attacking Iraq. In connection with today's passage of scripture I would like for us to observe one obvious fact. It is the fact that the reason that this did ultimately happen was not at all based on "whether right or wrong."

6. The reason America and England could put military activity into effect without the U.N. Security Council's resolution for military action, even ignoring international public opinion, was not that the justification for military activity was clear and not that anyone could not refute the justice behind the attack. But it is because America has an overwhelming military force. It is because it has the power. If America did not possess nuclear power, if America did not possess weapons of mass destruction, this military action would not have been possible. Or if America were a very poor country dependent economically to a large degree on other countries, the U.S. could not have taken a military action like this even if it had wanted it to. In that sense, the past 20th of the month was, in the final analysis, but a day that the whole world would have to admit as a world that is a place where money and power do the talking.

7. We certainly do live in a world such as that. Now, do we still have hope in a world like that? Can we have hope and do anything for it? Can we still speak with hope to the children who will go on living in this world from here after? Or should we Christians give up life in this world and only think about life in heaven? Actually, haven't we been repeatedly disappointed so far? Haven't we gone back and forth in despair and discouragement from the big things having world wide scope to the small every day familiar things? Haven't we been hit with the fact that "After all, I'm uselss unless I have power. The strong win. After all, the issue is not whether I'm right or wrong, but I'm strong or weak..."

Don't Fret, But Keep Praying.

8. However, a word from the Lord has been given to us in this condition. For what purpose has today's parable been given? The text says, "Jesus spoke a parable to his disciples to teach them that they must not worry but pray without ceasing," (verse one). I agree; that's the purpose of this parable. The Lord is speaking to us through this parable, "Don't give up! Absolutely do not give up! Don't despair! Don't be discouraged! Keep praying!"

9. The widow in our story lived in a world where an unjust judge was. In that world of hers, she had neither money nor power. But, she did not give up. She did not despair. She did not lose hope. She kept on making her appeal. So at last finally her situation took a turn. It goes like this in the text beginning at verse four. "The judge had turned a deaf ear for a long while. But, after a while he thought, 'I don't fear the gods nor do I feel for people as people. But because this widow woman is noisier than I can deal with, I will render a decision on her behalf. Otherwise, she will keep coming for ever, and no doubt will give me fits.'," (verses four and five).

10. Jesus came up with this story of this unjust judge even though he was talking about God and though teaching about prayer. I like Jesus' style of speaking here. He doesn't depict the image of a prudent father, or speak in the style of "In the same way, God will do the same thing ..." but of all the images he could have used he brings up a crooked judge. Why would he deliberately tell a story of an unjust judge? It would be for no other reason than to highlight "the element of surprise" in that the judge made a move. Something surprising happened. A shocking thing happened. A judge whom you would not expect to move on behalf of the weak, a judge for whom it would not be possible to move on behalf of someone without money did at last move. That goes beyond the common sense and practice of humanity. Something so surprisingly unpredictable happened. And why? Because she wouldn't be discouraged. Because she didn't despair. Because she didn't give up.

11. Because she will not give up for even anything, what seems impossible even before the crooked judge of this world does happen. Jesus continues with "How much more would God ..." What the Lord is teaching here is not just to "Never give up." It is "Don't give up but pray." Prayer is not a speech to oneself. There is a Listener. Not an unrighteous judge, but the true ultimate judge bends his ear to hear. Consequently, the world's money and power alone have no say so. In a true sense, God is the one doing the talking. The truly powerful One does the talking. And he intervenes with his power. That is to say then that, "I say this though, God will judge swiftly," (verse eight).

12. In never giving up, just as a surprising thing even with the unjust judge took place, even more so with God, God most definitely will move for us in a surprising manner that exceeds the human mind by far much more. But also, when it comes to God's judgment day at the end we cannot even imagine it. All we can see for now is that at God's judgment the world's money and power will ultimately shut their mouths for good. There the issue will only be whether it is in accordance with the will of God, whether it is right or wrong in the sight of God.

13. And so, we know that the will of God which will be revealed at the final judgment of God has already been revealed within history. It has been revealed in none other than Jesus himself, who gave this parable. Consider this. The holy and righteous One (Acts 3:14) had no ties whatsoever to the world's money and power. His figure hung on the cross, as seen from the eyes of society, was nothing except weakness in its extreme form. On the cross Jesus could not even move his own hands and feet! The world's power ganged up on him and nailed him onto the cross. Then it murdered him, threw him into the pit of the grave, and covered it with a huge stone, and sealed it, and then it deployed Roman soldiers around it. The power of this world really succeeded in shutting up the truly righteous One in a tomb. At that time then this world in a real sense was a world where money and power did the talking. But, God didn't leave that world alone untouched. He intervened in a surprising manner. God raised Christ from the dead. God moved in a decisive manner. The world has moved in a big way. History has moved in a huge way. And yet, [our] God holds the final conclusion of [our] world.

14. So we should not give up. We mustn't fret. When it comes to ourselves personally or to the world at large, we mustn't ever give it up as hopeless. We must pray believing that what happened to Jesus will ultimately happen to this entire world. God's justice will penetrate it, God's love and his law alone will be in control, we must believe this and keep praying.

15. Jesus said, "But, when the son of man comes, will he find faith still on the earth?," (verse eight). The main thing is not how terrible conditions will be on the earth. It is whether until the time of the end there will be faith on the earth. It is whether there will be on this earth people who believe and keep praying. The new year we are about to head into is even more a year into which we head that much more into the last day. As we remember that the Lord wills that faith be found on earth until his second coming, we want to make it a year of praying without ceasing.

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