Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 38: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.-

Lost to our time and culture but painfully obvious to the hearers of Jesus’ day was the context into which Jesus places the parable, “two men went up to the temple to pray…” It was unheard of for any man to pray standing by himself. A minyan (which literally means to count number; pl. minyanim) in Judaism refers to the quorum required for certain religious obligations, which is ten men. The fact that these men were at the temple praying outside of the sacred assembly meant only one thing. There had been scandal. The fact that they could only pray individually tells us there had been humiliation, dishonor and shame. They had been placed under a ban. They had been excluded because of some public sin. The contrast between the two men and their prayer is evident. One trusted in himself and felt justified to focus on his own merits. The other, by contrast, pleads for mercy. The old song sins, “faith looks to Jesus Christ alone who did for all the world atone, He is our one redeemer.”

In this season of Lent we walk with the Savior observing His passion, suffering and death. For our offenses the Son of Man was willing to suffer in our stead. As we contemplate our need and the Savior’s sacrifice for us may we like this simple man pray the prayer of faith, “God have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

Almighty and everlasting God, You are always more ready to hear than we to pray and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour down on us the abundance of Your mercy; forgive us those things of which our conscience is afraid; and give us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask except by the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved
The source for the requirement of minyan is recorded in the Talmud.
Salvation unto Us Has Come - Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Collect for Proper 25 – Series C - Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis

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