Jesus told a story about two men who came to the Temple to pray. Luke recorded what Jesus had to say in response to relgious elistists who seemed to get perverse pleasure in their discrimination (18:9-14). As usual, Jesus used a twist – the good guy became the bad guy, the bad guy turns into the good guy. Role reversal was a common method Jesus used to get His point across – see the story in Luke 10 about the Good Samaritan or the story in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus.
One thing we should learn the older we get – humility. The older I get the more I realize how little I really know. The leaders Jesus met that day could have used a dose of humility. The Pharisee in the story spent more time telling God how fortunate He was to have a guy like him than acknowledging his own need for God. In fact, it was pretty clear that he really didn’t need God at all. That kind of pride is revealing and destructive. The Pharisee got what he wanted, I guess. He got noticed.
The other man in the story was agonizing over his unworthiness. He couldn’t even lift his head toward heaven. The words he spoke tell us a great deal about his honest self-appraisal: “O God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever thought that no one could be lower than you; that God couldn’t possibly love you? He did. He threw himself on the mercy of God.
How does God respond to our confession? Grace. We’ll never do anything to make Him love us more or less. The Pharisee put on a good show … somehow I don’t think God was impressed. The self-righteous religious expert needed grace, too. I just don’t think he realized it. Pride will do that to you.
Pastor Mark Wilbanks