28 October 2007

Luke 18:9-14

"For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (v.14)


Pharisees were scholars of the Jewish Law who had a particular concern to educate the ordinary people. Jesus is often shown arguing with them about the interpretation of the Law. Tax collectors were seen as living 'outside the Law' because they were collaborators with the occupying Roman forces. They were hated, and often enriched themselves at the expense of poor people.

I often find it useful to enter into the parables of Jesus by imagining myself as one of the characters, but it is difficult to do this today. If I chose to be the Pharisee I would have to face difficult questions about my attitude to other people, my attitude of relying on my own goodness and not on the grace of God and face the justified challenge from Jesus; but if I chose to be the tax collector, I would have to become more aware of my own sinfulness - never an easy thing to do.

So I will simply be present in the situation, as an observer.

Jesus tells us that the Pharisee 'looked down' on 'thieves, rogues, adulterers, and tax collectors'. Perhaps we would have done the same, if we, as 'religious' people, felt we, as the chosen ones, were doing all we could to keep to the rules and regulations required by our faith and others were not. We would be more deserving of God hearing our prayers.

Not so, according to Jesus. The tax collector had realized his need of forgiveness, and had asked humbly for it.

Can you imagine the impact Jesus' parable had on the Pharisees present? They must have been livid with anger. How about those in the crowd, for people would have been listening to Jesus? Probably they would have been amazed, wondering, pondering.

But perhaps some were weeping - the prostitutes and tax collectors, thieves and adulterers who heard that it was possible for them to be saved, to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be justified before God. There was hope for them yet. There was a place for them in the kingdom of God, where all are valued.

To Ponder

A challenge faces us: who are the ones we might 'look down upon'?

In response, is there anything you can do today to bring hope to another person?

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.