Have you ever had a chance to get the answers to a test ahead of time? While this isn’t particularly ethical in many situations, there are times when we are being taught by someone else, and our goal is to learn, rather than just pass a written test. So, we are given all of the information that we could be tested on, and the goal is to learn all of it.
Some will teach a similar principle when giving a presentation (which, believe it or not, existed before slides, transparencies, and Microsoft PowerPoint!). The idea is that the presenter first identifies what is to be presented (i.e., the point that is about to be made). Then, the main presentation illustrates the target information. Finally, a review of the lesson that was just taught is shared, as a recap.
While there are times that the Bible’s message is complicated, it’s convenient when God’s Word tells us exactly what it is about to tell us. Here, we have a summary of the purpose of the upcoming parable.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Luke 18:1 NIV
When the Bible tells us at the start why a lesson was given, I think that it’s important for us to pay attention. As a result, before we get into the following parable (referred to as “The Parable of the Persistent Widow” in the NIV, and available – with context – in Luke 18:1-8), let’s prepare by remembering exactly why this parable was given to Jesus’ disciples.
- It’s not about making people ask us for something a lot of times, to make sure that they mean it (meaning that we shouldn’t try to be like the judge in this story).
- It’s not about social justice (although justice is mentioned, and God clearly cares for those who are oppressed and hurting).
- What this parable does show, though, is that Jesus’ disciples “should always pray and not give up”.
A commentator [Black, p.295] pointed out that Luke 18 follows on from topics in Luke 17, where Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God, and what appears to be information about the Second Coming (see Luke 17:20-37). Whether some of these events were foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, or the return of Jesus Christ, two things were true: 1) persecution awaited followers of Jesus in the meantime, and 2) the day had not yet arrived.
If the first-century disciples had to go through trials and be patient for the promises of God to be fulfilled, how does that compare to us? Frankly, any level of push-back that we get for our faith in my country is trivial compared to what those in the first century, and those in certain other countries today, experience. For instance, I recently received an e-mail update from a church leader (serving in his own country) whose daughter has been imprisoned by the government for peacefully protesting. Persecution is a real thing, and I think that the more that we learn about those whose persecution is the most severe, the more that we will pray for them, and redouble our efforts to allow all people to follow Jesus.
So, let’s remember what Luke tells us the next parable is about as we go through this passage (Luke 18:1-8). Let’s also remember [as suggested by the same commentator mentioned above] that there were going to be times when the disciples would need to be reminded to remain faithful, through suffering and waiting. We have a clue about what we need to learn here. Let’s not squander that preview!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 29, 2022
- The Lookout, May 29, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.