17 October 2010

Luke 18:1-8

"Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?" (v.7)


The writer of Luke's Gospel introduces Jesus' parables (stories with meanings) by giving them settings suggesting how they should be interpreted or, in this case, telling the reader what the parable is about beforehand. In contrast, the writer of Matthew's Gospel usually reserves his 'explanation' for the final sentence of the parable. In both cases, the interpretation appears to be editorial - ie given by the writer rather than Jesus.

We are told at the beginning of today's passage that this parable is about the need to keep on praying. Several of Jesus' parables make comparisons between human behaviour and God's way of working: if even a human father behaves in a loving way, then how much more will God act lovingly towards God's children.

Today's parable belongs to this category. Jesus was not commending the 'unjust' judge. On the contrary, Jesus made it clear that the judge was neither respectful of God nor of the people he was serving. The parable simply made the point that if even a judge like this eventually dispensed justice, so all the more would God listen to the voice of people crying out to God.

There is, however, a deliberate contrast between the judge and God. The judge acted out of self-interest - "so that she may not wear me out by continually coming" (or, more graphically, "so that she may not finally come and slap me on the face"). There is no self-interest motivating God's actions. God acts out of the character of grace, responding to those who do not deserve it. That is why this passage has been chosen to illustrate this week's theme of 'Gospel Grace'.

To Ponder

What do you think is the relationship between 'justice' and 'grace' in the way God responds to your actions?

In what practical ways can you seek to reflect this balance in your own human relationships?

What experience do you have of grace? Of unconditional, undeserved love?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr David Calvert

David is a retired Methodist minister whose active ministry included a mixture of circuit ministry and theological education..