Jesus tells three parables. He welcomes children. A rich young ruler. He contrasts possessions and the kingdom. He heals a blind beggar.
The parable of the persistent widow is very famous. There are two main interpretations. The first is familiar to almost all Christians. But it teaches terrible lessons about God and prayer. There is a much better interpretation, although it is not well known. It teaches great lessons about God and prayer.
VERSE 3. A widow was in that city, and she often came to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’
VERSE 4. He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God, nor respect man,
VERSE 5. yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.’ ”
she will wear me out. Almost all Christians think that the widow represents us Christian believers. The unjust judge, they imagine, represents God the Father. Their conclusion is that he ignores us.
They conclude that it is up to us to nag God without ceasing. Eventually, God the Father will get sick of them and begrudgingly grant their request.
- Represents: God the Father
- Moral character: capricious and unjust
- Action: ignores us
- Represents: us believers
- Moral character: Humble and persistent
- Action: Must nag God the Father
This interpretation has a lot of problems:
- It teaches a bad lesson about the character of God. It says he is unjust.
- It teaches a bad lesson about prayer. It says God ignores prayer.
- It teaches works-righteousness. Only if we annoy God long enough will he answer our prayers.
- It reinforces an unwanted cultural stereotype that women nag men.
This interpretation needs to be set aside. There is one that is far better:
To our knowledge, this interpretation originated with Sister Barbara E. Reid. As of this writing, she is a Professor of New Testament Studies and the Academic Dean of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
Here it is. The widow represents God the Father. The unjust judge is us. God keeps nagging us to do the right thing. Hopefully, we will eventually give in.
- Represents: us believers
- Moral character: capricious and unjust
- Action: We ignore God the Father
- Represents: God the Father
- Moral character: humble and persistent
- Action: must nag us
Listen to … the unrighteous judge. This can be puzzling. It seems to equate God the Father with the unjust judge.
VERSE 7. Won’t God avenge his chosen ones who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them?
crying out to him day and night. This can also be puzzling. The lesson seems to be that God the Father only listens to us if we nag him non-stop.
VERSE 8. I tell you that he will avenge them quickly. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
will he find faith on the earth? When Jesus returns in glory at the end of time, will you be living by faith?
VERSE 9. He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others.
VERSE 10. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.
VERSE 11. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
prayed to himself. The pharisee prays to himself.
God. The pharisee addresses himself as God.
VERSE 12. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’
VERSE 13. But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
God, be merciful. God is primarily known by his mercy, as we see in verse 38 below.
me, a sinner. To sin is to violate God’s will for us. It harms our relationship with God. We all have missed the mark and sinned. Here are the verses we’ve found »
VERSE 14. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
VERSE 15. They were also bringing their babies to him, that he might touch them. But when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
VERSE 16. Jesus summoned them, saying, “Allow the little children to come to me, and don’t hinder them, for God’s Kingdom belongs to such as these.
This is a very famous saying of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is most widely known in the King James Version:
KJV translation. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Allow the little children. The Lord Jesus Christ welcomes all children:
Matthew 19:14. But Jesus said, “Allow the little children, and don’t forbid them to come to me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like these.”
Luke 18:16. Jesus summoned them, saying, “Allow the little children to come to me, and don’t hinder them, for God’s Kingdom belongs to such as these.
VERSE 17. Most certainly, I tell you, whoever doesn’t receive God’s Kingdom like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.”
receive God’s Kingdom like a little child. Many people try to gain the kingdom of God by their own achievements. But we are called to receive the kingdom of God like a child would: as a gift.
VERSE 18. A certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Good Teacher. This man is trying to flatter Jesus.
VERSE 19. Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one: God.
VERSE 20. You know the commandments: ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ ‘Don’t murder,’ ‘Don’t steal,’ ‘Don’t give false testimony,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”
VERSE 21. He said, “I have observed all these things from my youth up.”
VERSE 22. When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Sell all that you have. Many people try to explain this away. They spiritualize it. That is, they say we do not need to sell anything. Rather, we should have an attitude of detachment.
distribute it to the poor. If there is any doubt as to what Jesus is commanding, he clarifies it. After we sell ALL that we have, we are to distribute the proceeds to poor people.
Mark 10:21. Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.”
VERSE 23. But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was very rich.
VERSE 24. Jesus, seeing that he became very sad, said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into God’s Kingdom!
How hard it is. In our day, many Christians see rich people as their heroes. But Jesus sees it differently. It is very difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
VERSE 25. For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.”
VERSE 26. Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”
VERSE 27. But he said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
VERSE 28. Peter said, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
VERSE 29. He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for God’s Kingdom’s sake,
There is no one. Blessings will happen for every person who fits the criteria:
who has left. This blessing is for those who have left their homeland and traveled to a new cultural milieu to proclaim Jesus Christ. That is the essence of the Gift of Apostle.
VERSE 30. who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.”
receive many times more. These people will receive some blessings during the days of their earthly lives. Not all blessings are deferred until after death.
and in the world to come, eternal life. After they die, these people also receive the gift of eternal life.
VERSE 31. He took the twelve aside, and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written through the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be completed.
VERSE 32. For he will be delivered up to the Gentiles, will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit on.
he will be delivered up to the Gentiles. Jesus will indeed be handed over to the Roman Empire to be executed.
On the third day, he will rise again. We are not aware of any other person in world history who predicted their own resurrection.
VERSE 34. They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they didn’t understand the things that were said.
VERSE 35. As he came near Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the road, begging.
VERSE 36. Hearing a multitude going by, he asked what this meant.
VERSE 37. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
have mercy on me. God is primarily known by his mercy, as we saw in verse 13 above.
VERSE 39. Those who led the way rebuked him, that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “You son of David, have mercy on me!”
VERSE 40. Standing still, Jesus commanded him to be brought to him. When he had come near, he asked him,
What do you want me to do? What the blind beggar wanted was obvious. Yet Jesus requires the man to ask. The Lord Jesus seems to want people to ask. We are to speak our requests aloud. If we do not ask, we will not have:
Proverbs 1:28. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me;
Proverbs 8:17. I love those who love me. Those who seek me diligently will find me.
Wisdom 7:7. For this cause I prayed, and understanding was given to me. I asked a spirit of wisdom came to me.
Mark 9:32. But they didn’t understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Luke 18:41. “What do you want me to do?” He said, “Lord, that I may see again.”
James 4:2-3. You lust, and don’t have. You murder and covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. 3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Your faith has healed you. The Greek word for “faith” is πίστις (“pistis”). It means faith, belief, trust, confidence. It is always a gift of God. It is not something we drum up on our own. It is God’s work, not ours.
Since faith is a gift given to us, it can be referred to as “ours.” People call it “your” faith. Yet it remains God’s achievement within us and not the slightest bit our own.
Hebrews 11:1. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV translation)
VERSE 43. Immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God. All the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.