|The Pharisee and the Tax Collector via Google Images|
In preparation for worship this Sunday, read Luke 18:9-14. In this reading, to whom is Jesus speaking? What is the prayer of the Pharisee? In contrast, what is the prayer of the tax collector?
May the following excerpt from Albert Nolan's book, Jesus Before Christianity: The Gospel of Liberation help you imagine the radical nature of Jesus' teaching in this parable.
It is difficult for us to imagine the shock with which the parable of the publican and the Pharisee must have been received. The Pharisee is depicted as an exemplary man of religion. He does even more than is required of him by law: he fasts twice a week. There is no suggestion that he was a hypocrite. He does not take the credit for his own virtue; he thanks God for it. The publican or tax collector, on the other hand, although he asks God for mercy, makes no attempt to mend his ways and to make restitution for all the money he has [likely] stolen.
Jesus' verdict on these two men must have sounded outrageous. The sinner is pleasing to God and the virtuous man is not. Why? Because the sinner did not exalt himself as superior to men like the tax collector...[The Pharisee lacked compassion.] Without compassion all religious practices and beliefs are useless and empty...
...The piety and good works of the dutiful religious man made him feel that God was on his side. He did not need God's mercy and forgiveness; that was what others needed. The sinner, on the other hand, was well aware of his desperate need for mercy and forgiveness and of his need to change his life...I find it particularly interesting that in the end, both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in need of the same thing but in different ways and for different reasons. What they both needed most was the love of Jesus.
As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday. Until then, may the Lord bless you and those you love.