Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

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