Luke 18-19, John 11
God Hears our Petitions
The Unjust Judge and the Widow
The theme of this chapter, as relating to the lesson are regarding prayer and offering petition to God. Jesus has just discussed concepts regarding his Second Coming (Luke 17:20-37). He explains that there will be destruction for those who do not follow him with their whole heart. “Remember Lot’s wife” is a warning to those who would look back to their old existence, rather than keep their face focused forward on following the Savior. The last days would be like in the times of Noah, where some would claim to be the Savior in various locations, but we should not believe it, for Christ will come in glory. In the days of Noah, Enoch’s city was translated or raptured from the earth. As the Flood neared, the last of the righteous either died of old age, or were carried up to the heavenly city of Enoch. God prepared a refuge for the righteous (either in Enoch’s city or in the ark). However, everyone else lived each day as the last: eating, drinking and marrying in a form the seemed righteous, but was only a shadowy apostate version of Christ’s form of righteousness. These were left behind for destruction in the Flood. And in the last days, destruction awaits those who do not await the Lord.
It is in this instance that we compare the unjust judge to the wicked in the days of destruction. He is comparable to the wicked in the days of Noah, the last days before the 2nd Coming, or the days of Christ prior to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD. The judge spent his time eating, drinking and marrying in his apostate way that focused him away from God and towards material pleasures.
He was basically a circuit court judge, traveling from town to town, and only seeing those cases on his agenda. It usually required bribes to be placed on the docket. The widow had two strikes against her: she was a woman, and she had no money for a bribe. She doesn’t want any advantage in her case, she just wants to be heard and to receive proper justice.
Yet, even in his wickedness, he could not stand to listen constantly to the whining demands of the widow. He insisted that he cared not for the things of man or God, since he was a self-made man with no time for fools or deity. He denied the two great commandments: love God and man. Yet, he would grant her request just to get her out of his hair.
Jesus explained that God is righteous and just, and therefore eager to fulfill our righteous prayers in his time and way. He does not ignore the prayers and pleas of the widow, nor anyone else. Given this is tied to the 2nd Coming of Christ, we learn that we must not give up hope and faith, for God will deliver us from our enemies, giving us justice, at the last day (if not before).
The Pharisee and the Publican
Publicans are tax collectors. When the Romans desired taxes to be collected, they would contract out the work to publicans. The publican would add a fee on top of the tax for his work. Many publicans added stiff fees and penalties, some contrary to the Law of Moses. Publicans were often viewed as traitors to Judaism, the Law of Moses, and were despised by Jews in general.
Pharisees were among the main religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They closely followed the teachings of Moses. So strict was their interpretation of the Law, they built a wall of rules around the Torah (writings of Moses) to protect them from anyone looking for loop holes. Pharisaic laws prevented tying certain knots on the Sabbath, as well as anyone healing on that day. Jesus compared the two men.
Who is more righteous: the Pharisee who publicly prides himself in prayer of how he pays his tithes and offerings and does so many other wonderful things for the world to see? Or the publican, who quietly finds a corner of the room, and beats himself on the chest repenting for how wicked he has been?
“14 I tell you, this man (the publican) went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The Blind Man
Not long afterward, along the road to Jericho, a blind man heard the noise of a crowd. When he asked what was happening, someone told him that Jesus was passing by. Here was the man’s chance to receive his sight. He began to cry out for the Lord to have mercy on him and heal him. Some tried to shush him, but as with the widow’s cries to the unjust judge, he only became louder. When Jesus heard his cries, he immediately went to the rescue. Asking what he could do for the man, the man begged for his sight and then received it.
“42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”
Interestingly, we find that it is faith that saves. Had the man not believed in Jesus, he would not have received his eyesight. And without faith, we cannot be saved from hell through Christ’s atonement. Faith leads to repentance, and repentance is the necessary step towards this rescue. Then, the man’s life from here on out would determine what level of glory in salvation he would receive from Jesus. Celestial works receive celestial glory. Telestial works receive a telestial glory (D&C 76, 88).
In Jericho, Zacchæus was the chief publican “and he was rich” (v 2). Obviously a very wealthy and powerful person, yet also greatly despised by most, he sought out Jesus. Being short of stature, he climbed a tree to spot the Lord. Jesus looked up at him and called him to prepare his table, for the Lord would stay with him that evening. Imagine, Jesus staying with a publican! This was a disgraceful thing for any good Jew to do. Wicked people were considered unclean, and publicans were among the most unclean. Yet Jesus had already told the Jews that he was the father of the Prodigal Son, ready to run to the unclean and shunned man as he sought to return to his people and father. Now Jesus would show that he meant what he said, by staying and eating with a man who seemed to be living a wicked life: consorting with Romans and pagans, collecting ill gotten gains from the Jews, and making himself rich off the backs of others.
"7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Scratching the surface and getting to know the man, we see that in reality, he was not the greedy and evil sinner that most people believed of publicans. In truth, he donated 50% of his wealth to the poor, far greater than any tithe of 10%, which the Pharisees might have paid. And when accused of wrongdoing, he went beyond the restitution requirements of the Law of Moses. Instead of paying twice as much, he restored four times as much.
Again, Jesus explains as he did in the parable of the lost sheep and the Prodigal Son, that he has come to rescue the lost.
The Rich man and Lazarus
John 11 (see also Luke 16)
Jesus had once given a parable regarding a man named Lazarus (see Luke 16). In this story, both Lazarus and the rich man he worked for die. Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham, what Latter-day Saints would call Paradise in the Spirit World (the place we await resurrection). The rich man went to the other section of the Spirit World: Prison or hell, to await the resurrection. There he suffered. Lazarus could not pass over the gulf that divided them to assist him. That gulf had not yet been broached by Jesus’ atonement. Only after the atonement was completed could the rich man ever hope to repent and perhaps receive a level of salvation in the long run. Until then, he would have to suffer until his sins were fully paid for.
The rich man asked if Lazarus could return to mortality and warn his brothers. Abraham told the rich man that they had the writings of the prophets, and if they did not believe the prophets, they would not believe Lazarus, even though he were raised from the dead.
This parable becomes an actual account for us. In this instance, Lazarus was dead 4 days. It was Jewish belief that the spirit of the dead remained with the body for three days, and could only be restored during that time. By the time Jesus showed up, it seemed impossible that he could restore life to Lazarus. This is why Mary and Martha both stated that had he come earlier, he could have saved their brother.
But Jesus showed he was more powerful than the former prophets who had raised the dead. Elijah and Elisha raised the dead, but within three days. No one had raised the dead after that time. No one until Jesus. As he had shown in previous miracles, he was not only as powerful as dead prophets or pagan gods in healing, he was more powerful than they all.
Of course, with the raising of Lazarus, the parable and the actual event come together to condemn the Jews. Just as Abraham told the rich man, if Lazarus were to come back to life, his brethren would not believe. Instead of seeing such a great miracle and repenting, the Jews became even angrier. They sought to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. They were worse than the rich man, because they saw an amazing miracle and sought to destroy the evidence (the healer and the healed). The Jewish leaders would also one day die and reawaken in the fiery furnaces of hell. And their only hope of rescue would be from the one they rejected and would slay.
Unjust Judge and widow: http://bible.org/seriespage/unjust-judge-and-persistent-widow
Unjust Judge and widow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Unjust_Judge