“And he said a parable to show that they must, (it is God’s will), always pray and not grow weary …” (Luke 18:5)
Mr. Reitzel was a crusty old character on the end of Frederick street, halfway through my route. In the days when paper-boys collected for subscriptions, he made me work for my money. It took three to four persistent rounds of knocks on his door to get him to come to open, even when he was in the front room. He would manage to look abashed and with a grunted oath complain “that I was making him look cheap in front of the neighbors.” I learned! When I was persistent, Mr. Reitzel would pay me. (In the end, I suspect he may have even liked me … a little.)
The unjust judge, (Luke 18:5) complains that this widow will “hypopiazei” me, (often translated: “wear me out”) with her coming. It seems that a literal translation is “give me a black eye with her coming up unto the end.” We’re not supposing that this unjust judge was scared of a cranky widow, but then again…maybe?
This makes my head spin! In this parable the unjust judge is compared to God and we are urged to be persistent like the widow. It seems incongruent for me to see these characters representing who God is and who we are called to be. Thus my question:
Are we really being encouraged to direct our prayers towards God with “black-eye intent?”
For the moment, I will push all of your “spiritually inappropriate” buttons and answer, “Yes, this is exactly what God wants.” Go back with me to Mr. Reitzel. His personal will made it “necessary” that I remain persistent. I suspect that Mr. Reitzel was surreptitiously trying to build my 10-year- old character as a young businessman. But of course Jesus has an end-game in his teaching as well.
… they must, (it is God’s will), always pray and not grow weary …,” and in addition there is this closing statement which further reveals God’s purposes.
“when the Son of man comes, will he even find “The Faith” on the earth?
Now that we’ve ripped off the spiritual sweatpants that may entangle you and been challenged to “put on the gloves,” let’s operate from Jesus’ intent: it is His will that we pray, … always. We gain some added clues as to what we should be praying about from the immediate context around this verse.
Just prior to this section Jesus teaches about the coming of the kingdom of God. We are to pray, recognizing that his coming is considered imminent:
(Let your kingdom come and reign!)
In spite of me
To my neighbors
In my family
Even to my enemies
Of course God is worthy of our trust, see verse 7: And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
He will not be delaying.
He will give vindication/ justice in their prayers and quickly.
We can trust God’s timely answers.
We know he values his reputation.
He sent his Son, at just the right time.
His son “set his face like flint” to Jerusalem: (blood-bought redemption).
Resurrection in three days, as promised. Sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost,
He promised his disciples, (promises us) that he will send his Spirit to remind us of everything that he has said.
Jesus used an unlikely comparison in this parable to drive his point home, “pray, try and black-eye my reputation!” Two not so exemplary figures are used in this parable. It feels a bit awkward. Maybe he is telling us he’s not done using the unlikely. (Maybe he will in an unlikely way use us!)
Even though the judge seems not to care about God or his reputation with men, it appears that his reputation does matter! Likewise the woman is not shy about potentially “blackening” the judge’s reputation and surprisingly she comes out the winner in this confrontation.
There is a primary way Jesus is different than the unjust judge. He admits that CARES ABOUT HIS REPUTATION as the promise keeper!
God’s gracious intent from since Adam sinned has been to reverse the fall.
We know that this is not just his will for those who are already gathered, but for those he desires to be his own.
And so Jesus, God’s son is the one who calls his people to “pray with black-eye intent.” This is not a new phenomena!
Jacob wrestled with God at Peniel
Moses intercedes for the Israelites, “blackening his eye” by counting on him keeping his promises: “What will the nations say?”
Aaron and Hur aid Moses in a posture of prayer while Joshua fights the Amalekites.
Jesus himself prays with such intensity that he sweats drops like blood.
When the Son of man come, will he even find The Faith on the earth?
The will of God is that The Faith would be found as God’s people pray. The picture presented in this parable is awkward and intense.
The blood of the lamb was not shed for people to attempt to be his followers.
This blood was shed to reconcile the world to God. We carry this kingdom message and call upon God, like Moses did, to be consistent to what he has promised.
Do you sense what Jesus is challenging, his people to do here?
We can: “Pray with black-eye intent!”