Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
18 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
It’s easy to read this passage as Jesus trying to reassure the disciples after a particularly harsh lesson in the previous chapter. In Luke 17: 20-37, Jesus has warned them of the second coming of Christ and the Kingdom of God, with some particularly harsh truths. For example, the final verse in the chapter before today’s passage is Jesus saying: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'' Pretty heavy stuff.
I imagine Jesus then looking around at the scared, pale-faced disciples and realising they might need some TLC. So, in a short but punchy parable, he describes the story of a judge who doesn’t fear God and how if an unjust judge grants someone justice, then why do we sometimes feel like God (who is intimately vested in our lives and wellbeing) can’t or won’t do the same? It’s an excellent use of juxtaposition. Every teacher is, by nature, a good storyteller. After all it’s the most effective way of conveying information. In just a few short sentences Jesus manages to make what can be a complex idea of faith and persistence, very simple, for the disciples then, and for us in the 21st Century. I particularly love:
“I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
Isn’t that just amazing to hear from the actual Son of God? This reassuring message from Jesus just washes over me as I read it. We’re not just going to get justice, it’s going to happen quickly! Praise be.
Like every good storyteller, Jesus finishes his narrative on a poignant note, and it really sticks with you after reading. He asks the disciples:
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?.”
It really sounds like a genuine, heartfelt question. We know from the Bible that it breaks God’s heart when his children don’t believe in him. We can hear this in Jesus’ question. He’s showing his disappointment that so many people blessed by God, refuse to believe in him, even though all God wants in return for all the wonderful things he does for us is for us to just have faith. When you read through the Gospels, you find that people of genuine faith were few and far between as Jesus travelled around Israel.
There are a few select moments in Jesus’ life when the incredibly knowledgeable, intelligent teacher side of him seems to give way to his more human side, like when he is overly stressed or tired. Think of when he is exhausted after preaching to a huge crowd for days and gets frustrated at the disciples for waking him up during a life threatening storm. Again, he rebukes them for not having enough faith, much like in this passage. It seems to be a recurring theme with him. These intimately human interactions littered through the Gospels are just so fascinating from a human viewpoint. Jesus got frustrated and angry just like we do, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, he always turned it into a valuable lesson for those close to him. What could our relationships look like if we did the same?
Ruairí Ó Brolcháin
Ruairí is Welsh born. Irish by the grace of his parentage. A business school drop-out who now studies English and Creative Writing in UCD. He loves writing short stories and even poetry, if he’s feeling particularly artsy. When he’s not in the library procrastinating over assignments he can be found at home binge watching Netflix series that he’s already seen several times before. Known locally as a chocolate connoisseur and renowned mocha drinker.