Sunday 23 October 2022

Bible Book:

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

Luke 18:9-14 Sunday 23 October 2022

Psalm 84


Perhaps I’m not the only person whose first sermon was based on this parable. The parable is short (a bit like my sermon) but very memorable (unlike that sermon). There are two characters, two prayers and two outcomes. We quickly identify a hero and a villain, and we are satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps we should pause, however, because Jesus’ story undermines what many of his listeners would have considered to be true religion.

 All Jewish people recognised that they lived under Torah – God’s Law – which is to be found in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Pharisees sensed that, if they were to avoid breaking Torah, they needed to be very clear about what was permissible and what ran the risk of transgression. In their quest for holy living, they sought to keep themselves separate from all who might contaminate them. Furthermore the very design of the Temple sought to segregate those who might be considered 'more holy' from outsiders. From the Pharisee’s point of view, and the point of view of many of Jesus’ hearers, the tax collector was a treacherous outsider.

 A desire to keep ourselves to ourselves can still be evident in many Christian gatherings today as we too can be fearful of those who are different from us or don’t immediately meet with our approval. Jesus is clear that any attempt we make to justify ourselves in God’s presence is actually a blockage to the stream of God’s grace. It’s only when we realise that we’re in constant need of God’s mercy, just like everyone else, that grace can flow.


To Ponder:

  • Pharisees had a genuine concern to live holy lives. What does holy living look like for you?
  • A popular hymn sings that “All are welcome in this place.” Is that really true of your place of worship? How can you make it a greater reality?


Have mercy on me, O Lord. Keep me humble and help me to trust, not in my achievements but in your grace. Amen.

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