Sometimes Jesus’ parables are difficult to understand. But Luke gives us the meaning of the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge. We ought always pray, and never lose heart.
A Shameless Judge and a Helpless Widow
The characters are caricatured. A judge who neither fears God nor respects men is only moved by self-interest. But a widow, the epitome of helpless weakness, can offer him nothing. Nevertheless, she moves him to act on her behalf by pestering him unceasingly. The amazing thing is that Jesus commends her action as an appropriate way to approach God, even though God and the unjust judge share nothing in common. Whereas the judge is only moved by selfishness, God sent his only Son to die for sinners. And the Son of God humbled himself to take on human flesh and become obedient, even to death on a cross. This God will all the more hear and respond to the pleas of his chosen people. Yet we are still encouraged to bug him with constant prayer.
It is shameful that Jesus has to tell us to pray. Children do not need to be instructed to ask for things. And they don’t need to be instructed to be persistent in their asking. They are naturally annoyingly persistent. So why is it that we must be encouraged to pray? Why is it that prayer is so hard for us? God desires to give his children good things. But he wants us to pray for them. He tells us to bother him, persistently, impudently even (Luke 11:8).
That is true generally, as Luke 11: 5-8 shows. But Luke 18:1-8 has a particular prayer in view. The king is about to enter Jerusalem, and the focus of this section of Luke’s gospel is the coming of the kingdom. At the end of chapter 17, Jesus told his disciples that the days were coming when they would long to see one of the days of the Son of man. They will be anxious for his coming because they will be suffering, and will long for relief. And now Jesus tells them a parable to encourage them, not only to look for his coming, but to persistently request it, and not to lose heart during the delay.
Suffering Drives Us to Our Knees
If we are not praying for Jesus to come, it is probably because we are not suffering. But that would be tragic. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Suffering is the lot of every true believer. All who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). And suffering is the pathway to our inheritance (Romans 8:17). If we are not desperately longing for relief, it is probably because we’ve become comfortable with the world, rather than having our righteous souls tormented by the depravity of this age. Rather than saving ourselves from this crooked generation (Acts 2:40), we’ve settled down in Sodom. That is exceedingly, tragically dangerous. Remember Lot’s wife! (Luke 17:32).
Take Heart, You Have an Advocate
Like the widow in Jesus’ story, we have nothing we can offer to God. But unlike the widow, we are not without an advocate. Jesus promised us that he would not leave his disciples as orphans (John 14:18). And God declared that we are no longer be widows (Isaiah 54:4-5). Our Lord and Savior is sitting at the right hand of our Heavenly Father, interceding on our behalf. And he has given us another advocate in the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). So we should never lose heart.