"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector." Luke 18:10
In His parables, Jesus often places two figures side by side to show contrast. Sometimes, as we all know, such opposites are found in the same family. Jesus spoke of two sons, the one saying yes to the father’s wish but failing to act on it while the other first said no, then changed his mind and obeyed. In another parable, the prodigal son who repented and returned home and his resentful brother are similar opposites.
The Pharisee and the publican are two distinct types. The Pharisee typifies those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everybody else. Their self-trust was based mostly on what they were not – not crooks, adulterers, or the like – as well as on self-chosen deeds that exceeded God’s requirements. Inevitably their church going was a cover-up, and their prayers were long recitals of gilded vices passing for virtues.
The publican represents Christ’s type of person. It is not that our Lord approves of cheaters, such as most publicans were. The emphasis is on repentance, on a change of heart and mind, not on who the person is. Also of a penitent Pharisee Jesus would have said: He prayed humbly for God’s mercy, he received it, he went home with the peace of God. That was the life story of Saul the Pharisee, who, after his conversion, believed in the Crucified One as Savior and bore witness to Him.
With the believing publican we, too, can go on our homeward journey and sing for joy because God has forgiven us in Christ and given us a new lease on life.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord God, for forgiving all my sins through Your Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died to save me. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)
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