Disciples Wrestle with God

Luke 18:1-8

18 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Today’s lessons take us down an interesting path about our relationship with God. Not only personally but also as a group, a community of believers seeking to find God’s will in our lives and our relationships. One of the greatest things about the series The Chosen is we are given a glimpse into the personality of Jesus. In this rendering Jesus is a playful person who loves to have a good time. This is uniquely displayed in our lesson from Luke today. Jesus starts the lesson with a parable, but it is also a joke for the people of that day.

We are still in the section of Luke’s gospel in which Jesus is traveling. He is going from Galilee to Jerusalem. The country to the city. And as he is going, he runs into folks, some asking questions, some wanting to be healed and sometimes, we get snippets of conversation. That is today’s lesson. Luke tells us that Jesus is going to tell them about prayer. Now he picks two extremely opposite people to bring together in this story. A widow and a judge who has no faith.

The widow we know is one who has no standing in the world. The poorest of poor, no income, injustice is her companion. She is treated with contempt and a drain on society. Widows are also supposed be taken care of according to Torah law. Both the widow and the orphan are mentioned 23 times in the Old Testament in regards to encouraging people to look out for them. Luke in his two-volume set Luke and Acts has six stories about widows including this one.

The judge is a ruthless man and has no fear of God. He cares for no one and really has no desire to please anyone. He might be a little off like Matthew in our show or someone else who might be on the autistic spectrum and struggles with showing emotions. He is not going to be persuaded by someone who has no standing like a widow. It is a joke to think that these two would ever come together in the same room. Only Jesus would put these two opposite characters together.

The widow appears before the judge in the court– day in and day out demanding justice from her accuser. The actual accuser and issue of the day is not important to Jesus, it bogs down the joke. Picture a person sitting on a raised dais with people coming before him some represented by lawyers others just shouting from the crowd and this is where the woman is yelling at the judge. He says that she has worn him out and gives into her. But the phrase worn me out is like a boxer who has been wore out from being punch drunk. The wore out phrase is better translated she has hit me in the face. Now do you see a widow an old woman hitting a dignified judge in the face. Maybe even with her purse? Its hilarious and would never happen, yet the judge gives in.

The teaching part is now if this crusty old guy will give in to someone who is persistent how much more will someone, namely God, be willing to act quickly upon the behalf of the disciples. Now the conclusion may be whatever I ask God for, God will give it to me. “Not so fast my friends” as Lee Corso says. God will give justice Jesus says. How do we know what justice is? It is like the wrestling match between Jacob and God.

Story of Jacob…

This is one of the times that we wallow in the mystery and the ambiguity to remain in the story. Sometimes we do not need to have everything laid out and proven to us. Was his hip broken or dislocated, did he walk forever with a limp, did he have crutches. All of that takes away from not only the story but leads us to believe that we need all the answers. When we are dealing with a being that is more than we can comprehend how can we get everything answered? The struggle, the limp, is a metaphor for our lives and our ongoing relationship with God.

When we go back to Luke’s story sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that God is going to give us whatever we want if we just ask. Jesus says that God will grant justice to those who pray day and night. Our definition of justice and God’s definition of justice might be two opposite ends of the spectrum. When we make it all about us, we find ourselves wrestling with God.

When our prayers are “answered” life is good and God is a loving God. We all know of people who have prayed for things like health, jobs, homes, cars, personal and material things. When those things do not happen, our logic tells us that God either hates us or to the other extreme does not exist. This is the moment of wrestling. God is like the parent who knows what is best for the child. Christmas gifts, pets we had to bring home, friends we run around with, all those things we knew we needed yet, our parents said no. Looking back they said no for good reason. God is our loving parent.

Thomas Long writes “We must admit we have wrestled with God and encountered God in deeply personal and life-changing ways— when yearning, fighting, clawing for an outcome different from the reality unfolding before us, when arguing that God’s justice differs from our sense of fairness, when debating the advantages of advancing our will instead of God’s will. Experience proves that God is not afraid to contend with us. God welcomes our engagement. We will not outwit God. We cannot triumph over God. We can be thankful that God always is gracious and God is patient with us.” Amen.

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