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Part of the series: PARABLES OF JESUS
THE PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND PUBLICAN
Victor M. Eskew
A. In our last study of the Parables of Jesus, we looked at “The Parable of the Friend at Midnight.” The primary lesson involved persistency in prayer.
B. Tonight, we want to examine another teaching of our Lord about prayer.
1. The parable deals with the attitude one has as he approaches God in prayer.
2. The parable is referred to as “The Parable of the Pharisee and Publican.”
a. Luke is the only gospel writer who records this parable.
b. It is found in Luke 18:9-14.
And he spake a parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man 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.
I. THE PROBLEM (Luke 18:9)
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.
A. Jesus is known as the Master Teacher. One of the characteristics of Jesus as a teacher was His willingness to address issues in the lives of those He taught.
B. The individuals Jesus speaks to here had two problems.
1. They were confident in themselves that they were righteous.
a. These men believed that all the things they did made them righteous before God.
b. Some people, even within the church, have this problem.
1) Some have long lists of all they do that make them righteous.
2) Others have very short lists: believe in Jesus, attend a worship service each week, and don’t do anything too bad.
c. Titus 3:5-7
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abun-dantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
2. They condemned others.
a. These men compared their lives with others and believed they were above the rest.
b. Their self-righteousness caused them to despise others: sinners, harlots, publicans, Samaritans, and Gentiles.
c. Isaiah 65:5
Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou…
II. THE PEOPLE OF THE PARABLE (Luke 18:10)
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
A. Jesus illustrates this parable with two well-known members of Jewish society.
1. The religious leaders of the day
a. The interpreters and teachers of the Law of Moses
b. The strictest sect of the Jews
2. They heold to the Law, but also held to a body of man-made tradition that was sometimes exalted above the Law of Moses (Matt. 15:1-9).
3. Jesus classified them as hypocrites. Their outward practice was commendable, but inwardly they were corrupt (Matt. 23:1-39).
1. These were the tax-collectors for the Roman government.
2. These men were looked down upon by the Jews as some of the vilest of sinners.
a. They were considered to be traitors because they worked for the Roman Empire.
b. Many of them took advantage of the people, levying higher taxes than what was due and keeping the overage.
c. In Luke 19, we read of Zacchaeus, the chief among the publicans.
1) He was rich (Luke 19:2).
2) The people referred to him as “a sinner” (Luke 19:7).
D. “So when Jesus told this parable, comparing a Pharisee and a Publican, he chosen the two most opposite figures in the entire Jewish community. The one was held to be the best, the most righteous, the most religious, the most holy, the most godly of all men – whereas the other was looked on as the worst, filth-iest, traitorous scoundrel imaginable!” (www.deeptruth.com).
III. THE PETITIONS OF THE PARABLE (Luke 18:11-13)
A. Each man in the parable offers up a pray at the temple. Their prayers, however, are radically different.
B. The Pharisee’s petition: Self-appreciation (Luke 18:11-12)
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess.
1. It is important to note that the Pharisee is trying to enter into the presence of God.
a. This fact alone should have humbled this man.
b. When Isaiah entered the presence of God, he was “undone” (Isa. 6:5).
Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
2. Instead of humility, we see a man going before God glowing with pride.
a. He was proud of his distinction from others.
b. He was proud of his deeds done for God (Luke 17:10).
3. His prayer was empty. His prayer was useless. His prayer was for nothing. Jesus said: He prayed thus with himself.
C. The Publican’s petition: Self-examination (Luke 18:13)
And the publican standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner.
1. The publican realized the awesomeness of the God he was approaching.
2. He also understood his littleness and sinfulness before this God.
a. We see his humility in what he did.
b. We see his humility in what he said.
D. We are a quite surprised by the picture Jesus’ words paint for us.
1. The Pharisee is religious, but arrogant. “God you are fortunate to have me.”
2. The publican is a sinner, but humble. “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
IV. THE POINT (Luke 18:14)
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every on that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
A. Justification before God ought to be the desire of every man.
1. Justification is a legal term. It involves a judge declaring one righteous, that is, not guilty.
2. Psalm 32:1-2
Blessed is the whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
B. One of the keys to obtaining God’s justification involves one’s spirit, his inner man.
…and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
1. …before honor is humility (Prov. 15:33).
2. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3).
3. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).
C. Again, we are surprised at what we see.
1. The Pharisee, the religious man, gets nothing.
2. The publican, the sinner, receives justification from God.
A. God’s willingness to accept our prayers depends on the condition of our heart.
B. The two men of this parable represent two hearts.
The Pharisee The Publican
1. Pride 1. Humility
2. Prayed with self 2. Prayed to God
3. Despised others 3. Despised self
4. Proud of self 4. Ashamed of self
5. Received nothing 5. Received justification
C. As we approach a holy God, let’s do so in deep humility remembering who we truly are before Him (Isa. 64:6).
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.