EASTER SUNDAY “He is Risen Indeed”
When we think of Easter we should think of grace. The grace of God is manifested in the gospel. Grace is God’s blessing through Christ to people who deserve His curse. Jesus took our curse and gave us His blessing. God’s entire blessing comes to us in the NT through Christ that is by His grace. Living with the grace of God in our daily living means grasping that every day we deserve God’s curse (Gal 3:10). The essence of the grace of God is seen on Easter when the sinfulness of our sin was given to Christ and when we believe are given His perfect righteousness. Jesus did not become a sinner for us but bore our own sin Himself. God charges our sin to Christ and he pays the debt for us and applies the payment to our ledger sheet. So how should we then live? What attitude best reflects this gospel the essence of Easter’s death and resurrection?
THE SETTING 9
The target of this parable is the self-righteous. A parable is a real life story designed with a lesson in mind. But who are they? They are ones with misdirected self-confidence. They are convinced that based on their own merits, when compared to others they are acceptable to God. The comparison is with the less merited. This person is described in three ways. (1) Certain ones who trust in themselves. This person is pretty confident in him/herself. They are convinced and persuaded that they measure up to the standard. (2) They are confident that they are righteous. They have they missed the mark expected and fulfill the necessary qualifications. (3) From this position they condescending view others with contempt. They despise others they view as not measuring up to the standard as worthless or of no value. This is not a casual attitude.
THE PLAYERS 10
The players in the parable are introduced as well as the occasion that highlights their attitudes being evaluated. Two men go up to the Temple. You are always going up to the Temple from wherever you are in the land. Specifically they are using this occasion to pray. The Temple in Jesus own words was known as the house of prayer (Lk 19:46;Isa 56:7). One is a Pharisee. The other is a Tax collector. The players represent polar opposites in the religious culture of the day. One represents the most pious and the other the most hated. Both of them are engaged in prayer.
THE PRAYERS 11-13
The Pharisees Proud Prayer 11-12
We have the approach of the Pharisee. Five times in his prayer he is the focus in the prayer. The self-righteous person is the subject of this parable—certain ones who trusted in selves and help others in contempt. So the Pharisee does not represent all Pharisees but anyone who has this self-righteous attitude. He stood by himself displaying a confident attitude that he belonged here. That he could make any demands as a personal right. And he began to pray to himself. Let’s analyze the components of his prayer:
1. I thank you God. This is not an unusual start to prayer and customary to begin with a note of thanksgiving.
2. That I am not like other people. Here is comparison for personal benefit. The prayer takes a turn for the worse as he is using it as an occasion for self-admiration.
3. Swindlers, unjust, adulterers. Confident in his own merit before God he compares himself to a variety of unrighteous violators of the commandments—a thief, unrighteous (general category of sinners), and adulterers (the immoral). So he has all bases covered. Notice that it is only public sins mentioned.
4. Or even like this one—this tax collector. Here is contempt on display. Quick to judge confident in his own qualifications by achievement, proud and self confident, his judgmental evaluation is based on outward vocation. Jesus wants us to know that everything is wrong with this. This guy is full of himself—even as he prays in the Temple to God. Isn’t it interesting that in the most spiritual practices we can be the most unspiritual? So far he prays, “I thank you God that I am such a great guy!”
5. I fast twice a week. Here is the reason the Pharisee views himself in a better position in comparison to others. He singles out the practice of fasting twice a week! He has been going above and beyond the Law which only required fasting on the Day of Atonement. But he has done better than that. God must keep notice and just in case I will remind him of it.
6. I pay tithes of all I get. Again, God should to be impressed with him. He singles out another practice for consideration. He gives a tenth of everything he earns including food, herbs, and money. Nothing is missed and he diligently measures it all out to ensure it is tithed. So on this basis he asserts his superiority over all others and especially this tax collector who happens to be praying near the Temple at the same time. He has gone above and beyond the requirements of the Law and God should be impressed with that—especially if God agrees with his comparables!
The Prayer of a Humble Tax Collector 13
Here is a stark contrast to the Pharisee. The tax collector also stands to pray. But his approach is far different than the self-righteous Pharisee. Here he is standing some distance away. Possibly just within the confines of the outer court of the Temple. But the point is that he understands his limitations. He is not in a confident position with any sense of self-righteousness. He remains at a distance. So intimidated he does not even life up his eyes to heaven as he prays. His posture is one of unworthiness as he takes a passive approach in preparation for prayer. But in one final act of contrition before he prays, he is beating his chest. This seems to be an act of grief or contrition over the condition, which brings him to prayer at the Temple before God. There is a note of unworthiness here. The beating of the breast could be an indication that he regarded his breast of heart as the seat of sin in his life and so the act of beating it in grief and sorrow. We can already observe that he does not have any of the cocky perspective e just saw in the Pharisee. His composure is humble and contrite. He then begins his prayer. Let’s analyze the components of his prayer to God.
1. God be merciful to me. Here is a penitent plea for mercy. The word for ‘merciful’ is the same word for propitiate. He wants God to be satisfied with Him by forgiving Him. He is not coming with any merit whatsoever. God is the focus not himself. Mercy and not merit is the basis of the prayer.
2. The sinner. He is actually declaring that from his perspective when compared with others he is the worst of sinners. He claims to be a self-confessed sinner. In reference to himself he makes no comparisons to others. He is only concerned for his own improved spiritual health based on God’s mercy—non-merited non-punishment. This is the exact opposite of the Pharisee and Jesus wants to drive this point home to us. Which prayer does God receive? Which person does God her? Which attitude commends God’s favor?
JESUS COMMENT AND LESSON 14
‘I tell you’ means Jesus is going to make an endorsement. He is going to come down on the side of the one or the other. Someone is going to win and the other loses.
1. Jesus endorses the tax collectors attitude. He explains that the tax collector went back down from the temple to his house after he prayed. Though the subject of the parable is the self-righteous, the focus of the parable is on the attitude of the humble. The tax collector went home justified and the Pharisee did not. He is in a state of having been declared to be in the right. God is the one declaring this about him. He is not declaring it for himself as the Pharisee had done so. God as the subject of the Tax gatherers prayer had turned him into the object of Gods favor. So he received God’s mercy. He went down from the Temple in a state of acceptance. Notice the position in the Temple meant nothing as it obviously had to the Pharisee. It is the position of the heart that is supreme with God. He was vindicated before God.
2. The theological principle is God honors humility. We do have the right to approach God boldly but in humility. Only then can mercy and forgiveness follow. This principle is fleshed out in two ways. (1) Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. Remember the Pharisee. Exalting oneself means self-admiration, comparison for personal benefit, merit-based judgments, judgmental evaluations, competitive achievement, and merit-based favor of God. You can exalt yourself using these methods but God Himself will see to it that you are humbled or made low before Him. There is no justification for this attitude. (2) Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted or lifted up. Here we see God’s openness toward self-declared sinners. Humility before God is what is acceptable to God. This means that we live within the realm of God’s mercy and grace every day. That what we deserve from God is not mercy but we can receive it with an attitude of humility and not expectation or assumption. It means we recognize we do not deserve it! That it is only the grace of God that I can expect His favor in my life.
1. One is not to compare self to anyone in hopes of justifying self before God.
2. The basic approach God accepts is trusting in his mercy not assuming the rite to blessing because of ones activity.
3. Because of gratitude to God for his work of mercy one serve God.
4. The humble do not engage in comparison.
5. The humble are aware that their standing before God is only by mercy not merit.
6. The humble know they are nothing before God.
7. Begin your day ‘God be merciful to me a sinner—not for salvation but general attitude of life. Our default position is performance but we do not seek to obey commands to earn acceptance before God we obey out of gratitude to Him.
On Easter, the lifestyle of humility is the best way to live Easter everyday of the year!