Jesus is the Son of Man
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
All right, let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 18.
So, this section of Luke, the last few chapters, has been a long section of teaching by Jesus. There has been some travelling involved and a few miracles sprinkled in, but Jesus has mainly been talking and revealing truth to all those who would listen.
He has been addressing and teaching the Pharisees. He has been addressing and teaching the disciples. And he has been addressing and teaching all of those who were around and could hear him, those who were curious and interested.
And Jesus has been teaching about some very specific things. However, He has especially been teaching that the things that we all know to be true and that we all expect to happen and so on, they are all going to take place in ways that we don’t expect.
2 weeks ago, we looked at the Kingdom of God and Jesus showed that it will not manifest itself when or how we expect it to. Last week we saw Justice. It won’t come easily or naturally here in this world. But it will come eternally, granted by God. We also are reminded that not all who grant some justice in this world are actually on Gods side in eternity.
This week we see the parable of the Pharisee & the Tax Collector, where Jesus flips on its side our expectations and assumptions of righteousness, self-righteousness and salvation.
So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 18, verse 9 through 14. As usual, ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I cannot encourage you enough to grab your preferred translation and follow along as we read the active and living word of God.
Luke 18:9-14, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luke writes:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 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 the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word
Now, the good news first. For the second parable in a row, Luke tells us up front, what the meaning and the purpose is. Despite outward appearances, outward behavior and out loud words, some trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated anyone else with contempt.
Two men went down to the temple to pray, or up more accurately. The closest thing today would be that two men went to church. Two apparent believers. Two very different men. But only one looked the part. One Pharisee. One Tax Collector.
One, the Pharisee, looked the part perfectly. He was put together. He was a family man. He was successful. He knew the right words to say. He knew the right things to offer. He knew to acknowledge God’s power and authority.
And so, he prays. And on the surface, at the beginning, it sounds legit and proper. He starts by thanking God for all the great things about himself.
“God, thank you. Thank you that I’m not like all the other sinners out there and in here. Thank you that I’m not a Tax Collector. That I’m not an adulterer. I’m not a drugee. Thank you, God that I’m, not a Republican or a Democrat, depending on your views. God, thank you I’m not a city dweller, or country folk depending on where you live. Thank you, God, that I’m not black, white, red, yellow, whatever race we aren’t. Thank you, God, that I’m not like anyone that I’m not like and anyone I don’t like… Thank you that I’m not like Joe over here in the next pew.
And he lists out all his commendable attributes and works. He fasts twice a week. The Old Testament only commanded 1 or 2 days a year. He tithes on everything. And not just his net income, but gross as well. He is saying all the things about himself. He says I 5 times in this prayer to God. He is saying. God, I hold myself to an even stricter standard than you do! So, thank you that I am so good!
The Pharisee was giving verbal affirmation to God’s power and his ability and responsibility. But his Words reveal the truth of what he thinks. There is no acknowledgement of any of his own unrighteousness. No repentance or confession of sin. As Luke told us at the beginning, the Pharisee was trusting in himself to be righteous.
Intellectually he knew. He knew that it was because of God. He knew the rules to follow. He knew the words to say. He knew when to raise his hands during worship. He knew when to say Amen during the sermon. He knew where all the books were located in the Bible. He knew all the Sunday School stories. He knew his favorite book, favorite, character, favorite verse. He knew how to fit into the culture of the church and how to play the part of a disciple of Christ.
But he was focused on himself. He lacked love for people that were not him. He compared himself to others who were not as good as himself. And he was contrasted in this parable with the second guy.
The second guy didn’t look the part. He was dirty. He wasn’t dressed up. He wasn’t taking the right position. He wasn’t giving thanks to God. His profession was inherently dishonest. It included extortion and it is entirely possible, and even likely that he extorted and collected taxes from the Pharisee that he is being compared to here. He was not a lovable loser who was down on his luck. He was not designed to be a sympathetic character.
He either didn’t know or didn’t care about the language of the church. He didn’t know or care about the form. He didn’t know when to raise his hands or say Amen. He didn’t know how to play the part.
And none of that mattered.
The tax collector cried out to God.
Have Mercy on me!
I am a sinner!
I don’t deserve your grace, but I ask anyway.
He didn’t look at anyone else. He didn’t compare himself to anyone else, better or worse. Just he and God. And the Words matched the heart.
If someone were a first-time visitor, or a passerby, only one of these two would appear to be in Gods good graces. Only one of them would appear to have few, if any, vices. Only one of them would appear to have many commendable attributes. Only one would appear to be saved, and to be righteous and to be dedicated to God.
However, God says in 1 Samuel 16, For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Jesus shows us in verse 14, in a reversal of expectations and assumptions, that it is the second man, the tax collector, is the one who would enter into the Kingdom of God.
Two men. One is justified, one is not. The one who is justified is the one God chooses, not the one who man chooses. The one who leans on and depends wholly on God’s grace for salvation.
Here is the thing. The second one knew he was a sinner and threw himself on the mercy of the heavenly courts. The first one knew that it was God’s power, but he thought that God gave him the power to save himself, to be good enough to be saved. The second knew he had no ability, God given or not to do anything to be saved.
These two views have historical names. Monergism and synergism. Synergism is what the Pharisee was falling into. God saves, but he does so with out help and our permission and he gives us the ability to do it. We work with in conjunction with God regarding our salvation.
The second of those, monergism is the one the tax collector was praying on. That is salvation by the grace of God alone. God chooses. Man has nothing to do with our salvation. We contribute nothing. I refer back to the Jonathon Edwards quote, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that makes it necessary.”
Salvation by grace alone to the glory of God alone.
This is what the Bible teaches, and I think very clearly.
Jesus, in the last line of verse 14, he repeats what he also said in Luke 14:11, For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And because he repeats it, it is something that he wants to make clear. It is extra important. When the Bible says something once, that is enough. If the Bible says something once, that is not a valid argument for ignoring, that it was only mentioned once. Once, written as the very Word of God itself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God himself, is enough for something to be true and accurate and sufficient.
But when something is repeated, it is purposely being emphasized and we would do well to bear that in mind.
Now, as we look at the Pharisee and the tax collector, we see that Jesus focuses on the heart and the humility of the tax collector over the moral goodness and obedience of the Pharisee.
Now, this is not to say that the tax collectors’ sins didn’t matter. In fact, just the opposite. See, it doesn’t work to speak our sins out loud and they go away. But rather, God tells us that it is our heart, it is the desire to be rid of sin that shows us our heart. It is the hatred of our sin and what it does to God. It is the desire to turn away as fast as possible and run as far away as possible from our sin that shows us our heart.
It is a factor of abiding in Christ instead of abiding in our sin. It is recognizing who we are and who God is and not mixing them up. And that’s what we recognize right now with communion. We recognize and remember what Christ has done and what he has accomplished for us.
And so, we remember. Constantly, regularly. We do it every first Sunday of the month. We remember and we know that we are in his hands because we have responded by faith to his death on cross and resurrection. God grace poured out on those covered with his blood, the blood of the lamb, come to take away the sins of the world. He instead he spares us from the wrath of God.
He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Before he did this, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.
We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Luke’s Gospel records the Last Supper, and he writes of Jesus telling his disciples in chapter 22, verses 19& 20: He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after super, he took the cup, saying, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.
First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.