Luke 18:1-8: The Persistent Widow

Every so often, you furrow your brow at the paper or glower at the television news. The police arrest an individual for a horrific offense. A jury soon convicts him. After serving time in prison, fresh evidence comes to light, and another judge exonerates him. Whenever we blunder upon such a scandal, we may picture someone helpless, alone, and locked away for an atrocity uncommitted. A man spends years behind bars for a crime he didn’t perpetrate, innocent the entire stretch!

Yet what if you appeared before a magistrate, as in today’s story? Opposite to the person receiving a reprieve, the judge in the parable does nothing! Oblivious to the plaintiff’s cries, untouched by her persistent pleading, this authority shows no heart for doing his job. Will you still confront him with your appeal, or give up and accept your fate?

A widow approaches—her husband dead, a broken woman, and her life in shambles. Forced to take matters into her hands, this survivor barrages her local courtroom with requests. Often, she begs for required help, seeking justice, but this court judge turns her away, stony, heartless, and unyielding. Yet, she won’t give in or stop. At last, he relents, taking the correct course, not from kindness but to be free, to rid himself of her.

With the household wage earner dead, the poor widow needed to endure, vulnerable and among the weakest in society. So, in days of old, the Almighty gave His Law beneath His unblinking gaze, well-considering a widow’s plight. Not forgotten, He brooded over and embraced the needs of widows and orphans. Shorn of their income, God involved neighbor and family, to ensure they didn’t starve and rested strong in sleep. So the commandment went forth to supply the required care and live.

Whatever the woman’s crisis or doom, we can only speculate her problems press hard upon her. Bare of details, little do we behold her backstory or why she approached this judge. Still, she sought help in her leap for justice from an official, able to restore matters if he chose. Does she seek someone with a rampant reputation for not helping for another reason?

Oh, the widow, to burn with such intensity when wanting something! So strong is she, persevering in her persistence! Never giving up, she always keeps going. Such passion, of which Jesus speaks. Don’t succumb to despair or fret over what your friends might assume. Continue to hope and strive.

Yet, a danger looms when we use our words to pester, and prayer becomes a game of gambling chance. On and on, we go until God gives in to our demands. To act this way misses the point of prayer’s vast purpose. The case Jesus creates connects well to what He says in Matthew’s Gospel.

Is anyone here who will hand his son a stone if he requests bread? Will you throw him a snake if asked for a fish? So, if you, who are evil, can give valuable gifts to your children, much more will your heavenly Father grant His blessings to those who ask him! [Matthew 7:9-11]

A judge, who cared not for God nor man, does at day’s end what rings out right, as wicked parents can feed their kids, though they squalor and fight. Greater still will our loving Lord work what is best! This reality dwells at the heart of our faith.

So, do not fear the darkest night, for our God will always give us His light. Listen, He does, keen to those calling in their fright, and He will grant justice to make everything right. Though the feeble world beneath you is shaking, He is the solid rock on which you are standing. Rattled amid life’s ruin and quaking, He’ll not abandon you nor leave you forsaken.

Beyond persistence, this parable urges us to pray, brave based on our beliefs. Ponder Jacob in our Old-Testament reading, grappling with God throughout nightfall. What grit and pluck, refusing to stop until he experienced a benediction. Did the surviving wife not show such boldness, insisting in her solicitation though she bore no command or clout? Yes!

Now, as we contemplate our text, many find themselves in the shoes of the determined widow. Yet, do those among us here spot the judge inside ourselves? A scrubby piece of him, or bigger still, endures in each, eerie in darkness, only caring for itself. Isn’t our default state not to fear God? So rare is the person who values someone more than himself. Often, theologians write of sin as a turning toward self, not living for virtue, more distinguished and better, but for our desires, which bind and fetter.

Countless are in dire need, yet we detour, inattentive and negligent. Why does this problem involve us, we say? No, we shouldn’t become involved. Like this selfish judge, how many only relent when we realize it’s in our best interests?

This woman persisted, despite the injustice she faced. Oh, she could give in or quit, but she trusted instead. Yes, Christ counsels us to be steadfast in the faith, though everything may strike us as lost.

Often, to teach us more, relating to who He is, Jesus uses parables. So, inside today’s Gospel, where do we find Him? In the figure and force of the relentless widow. Distant from Jerusalem, yet nearby His approaching Passion, the Messiah speaks a parable to whomever will learn and embrace what He says. A tale, He tells, pointing to Himself, who is the Way, revealing what He shall do to redeem us on His crucifixion day.

Soon, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and the Chief priests will exploit and connive to convict Christ to an unjust execution. They worry He might strip them of their style and station of living. More, a friend will betray, a loyal disciple denies, and those who loved Him will flee. Beaten beyond recognition, little do they divine His love cannot die, and by His death, He will save us from eternal strife.

Yes, Jesus lived out the unfaltering, devoted trust He described, secure in His Father, who vindicated Him in the end. Faithful, He staggered to Calvary, hanging resolute on the killing cross, praying to His life’s closing breath. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Your Lord always teaches you to call on Him and prevail, trusting in Him whose faithfulness never flickers. Without Him, we are mere drops in an ocean, lost in a vast and oppressive abyss. Yet, our crucified and risen Christ attends to our cries, His light piercing through our foulest night. So, pray because God is righteous, and He absolves His own. Yes, He’ll do this. So do not droop and dishearten.

Still, the judgment He executes isn’t always what we might expect. Oh, He will satisfy, en-flesh, and inflict His justice, though not by the punch of His strength or hand. Through His kindness and compassion, He intercedes for us, giving us His complete and perfect righteousness.

No one can understand God’s doings until they first recognize His suffering devotion and affection. Such love, by His grace, makes the sinner whole and the iniquitous righteous, including the unjust judge and you and me. For your God “takes no pleasure in the wicked man’s death,” and the cross became His ultimate expression of His goodness toward you (Ezekiel 18:23).

Why, prayer is the unabashed speaking of children to their dear Father. Are these not appeals, pleas, and whisperings of intimacy? Are we not His, precious and unforgettable to Him? Yes, and His fierce and brazen wish is for us to nudge close, telling Him of our lives and the longings of our hearts. Once or twice? No, our ascended thoughts, words, and voicings should be an everyday part of our movement and thinking.

Confront how Jesus concludes His parable. “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?” Will He detect a believer’s persistence and reliant loyalty to Him? Can such confidence survive in the face of doubt and adversity? The answer He implies is, “Of course!”

Yes, He will discover a lively conviction and hope in the most unexpected places: In the tax collector who sensed God’s stirrings of grace, who cried from the depths of his soul. So He’ll catch sight of faith’s brightness in the blind man who gazed at the light of His face. Oh, such trust Christ will locate in the littlest child who brings nothing to the table but what he received.

Yet, what of you and me? To us, can God’s Spirit still breathe out such a belief? In us, will this Son seize upon such faith? Do not doubt! For we are a people who stand before our Redeemer, pleading for mercy and grace, relying on Him for our everlasting hope.

Are we able to pray and not die of despair? Yes, and we should prevail on Him in times of disorder and struggle, for we perceive to whom we belong. Do not waste and weary away. “Cast your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Unlike the despicable judge within today’s parable, God wants you to call on Him, you, His beloved child. So, cower not in Christ!

Remember, Jesus is faithful, and His mercies are never-ending. Though we may collapse and plummet, He will hold and keep us still, turning our losses into our eternal gain. Despite our mistakes, God forgives, healing our broken hearts with love. Today, often hidden, lived by faith, in eternity made manifest. Whatever else isn’t grace. So, do not lose heart and pray. Amen.