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Wrestling with the Word, episode 97: Reformation Sunday, Year C (October 31, 2010) October 27, 2010

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Reformation Sunday

We celebrate the day because on this date, the Eve of All Saint’s Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. But what stands out for us, and what makes this day worth celebrating, is not the hammer and the nail in Luther’s hands that day, but his rediscovery of the meaning of the nails that pinned Jesus to the cross somewhere about A.D. 30.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 97: Reformation Sunday, Year C.


Psalm 46
The hymn about God’s defense of Jerusalem in the midst of chaos calls for a confident faith in the Lord. As Psalm 91 (last week) was a powerful expression of trust from an individual, this psalm demonstrates the same within the community. The imagery of a river in Jerusalem is quite unreal (like the sea battle in Psalm 48), but the divine protection of Jerusalem from attack assures the people and magnifies the Lord’s glory.


Jeremiah 31:31-34
In spite of all appearances to the contrary, God promises that in the New Day to come, God will reconcile the people to himself, even giving them new hearts so that they will not again rebel.

The prophet Jeremiah was called to “pluck up and break down” but also to “build and to plant” (1:10). While much of the prophecies speak of God’s judgment, there are many from the same prophet which promise God’s restoration and forgiveness. Jer. 30:1–31:22 contain poems about the restoration to come, while 31:23 through chap 33 deal with the same theme in prose.

Key Words
V. 31.  hinnē yāmîm bā’îm = “behold, (the) days are coming”:  One of the characteristic expressions to introduce a prophecy about the coming Day of the lord when the Reign of God would be established over all.

V. 31.  wekārattî … berît chadāšâ = “and I will cut … a new covenant”:  The former covenant was the one made by God through Moses at Mount Sinai.  Interestingly, the “cutting of the covenant” actually occurred with the slaughtering of an animal, the sprinkling of blood on an altar and on the people, as the people themselves committed themselves to do what the Lord had spoken (Exod. 24:3-8). That commitment was not long lasting.

V. 32.  hēpērû ’et-berîtî = “they broke my covenant”:  See most directly 11:10; 33:20; cf. also 14:21. We can understand the power and passion of the words from the perspective that the covenant was a marriage and a parent-child relationship, spelled out most clearly by Jeremiah and Hosea.

V. 32.  we’ānōkî bā‘altî bām = “and I was husband/owner/ba`al over them”:  The word ba`al can carry all the above meanings, presumably on the basis that ba`al was the one who fertilizes (the land, thus its owner; a wife, thus her husband). The same words appear at 3:14 (translated “master”) because of the reference to Israel as “children”). YHWH is portrayed in Jer. as husband on other occasions; cf. 2:2; 3:20.

V. 33.  nātattî ’et-tôrātî beqirbām we‘al-libbām ’ektabennâ = “I will put my instruction/law within them, and upon their heart I will write it”:  See. 32:38-41 where the human heart is also God’s tablet and an “everlasting covenant” is mentioned, that is, one which cannot be broken. There also appears the promise of God “with all my heart and soul.” Ezekiel also uses the theme of a new heart so that God’s commandments might be kept (see Ezek. 36:26-27). That same prophet also writes of God’s promise of an “everlasting covenant” which will be “a covenant of peace” (Ezek. 37:26).

V. 34.  kî-kûllām yēde‘û ’ôtî = “for all of them shall know me”:  The Hebrew for “know” here is not intellectual but relational, as at Gen. 4:1; 19:8; Amos 3:2. “Knowledge of God” and “steadfast love” are God’s desires (Hos. 6:6).

V. 34.  ’eslach la‘avônām = “I will forgive their iniquity”:  Forgiveness is a common theme in Jeremiah; see 5:1, 7; 33:8; 36:3; 50:20. Recall also Isa. 53:11.


Romans 3:19-28
In the new time begun with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God freely declares and makes us and all people innocent and free through faith.

Beginning at 1:18 Paul set forth the sinfulness of humanity, both Gentiles who live apart from the law and Jews who have the law. All are included because “God shows no partiality” (2:11). Based on the universal experience, it would appear that humankind is in a hopeless state, especially based on 2:5-6.

Key Words
V. 21.  nuni de = “but now”:  the word “now” occurs in an eschatological sense throughout this epistle:  5:9, 10, 11; 6:19, 21, 22; 7:6; 8:1, 22; 11:30, 31; 13:11; 16:26.  Paul’s understanding of time is divided into two periods: the time before Christ came, and the time since Christ.  See also 2 Cor. 5:16–6:2; Gal. 3:23-26.

Vv. 21, 22.  dikaiosynē  theou = “the righteousness of God”:  Also see 25b.  At 1:17 “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith” in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  “God’s word of righteousness” is what brings the world from chaos to order (Isa. 45:18-19), responds to cries for help under injustice (Psalm 7:17), saves the exiles from their bondage (Isa. 46:13), and much more. In the OT “righteousness” (tsedeq or tsedāqâ) is the activity that fulfills the obligations of a relationship, and so the Hebrew tsedāqâ is sometimes translated “saving acts” (1 Sam. 12:7) or “victory.”

V. 23.  pantes gar hēmarton kai hysterountai tēs doxēs tou theou = “all have sinned and keep falling short (pres. ptc.) of the glory of God”:  The expression “glory of God” appears also at 5:2 and 15:17; humanity, all of it, has from the very beginning failed to attain the glory of God (see 11:32). The consequences for the “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5-6) are obvious (see Psalm 62:12).

V. 24.  dikaioumenoi dōrean tē autou chariti = “they are justified/made righteous as a gift by his grace”:  That “justified” is a key to the Epistle to the Romans see its use also at 2:13; 3:4, 20; 4:2; 5:1, 9; 8:30; 10:4, 10. As a law court term it means to be declared innocent and thus made innocent and free, and in the OT the suffering of the Servant of the Lord “makes many to be righteous” (Isa. 53:11). The God of justice who declares the righteous innocent and the wicked guilty (1 Kings 8:32; Exod 23:7; Psalm 82:3; Isa. 5:23; cf. Prov. 17:15) “now” acts out of character.

V. 24. dia tēs apolytrōseōs en Christō ‘Iēsou = “through the redemption in Christ Jesus”: The term appears in documents concerning the release of slaves to belong to another (even to a god). In the NT the term appears frequently: as Jesus’ promise for his return (Luke 21:28; for the coming “glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18-23); as the content of the “new covenant” begun with the death of Jesus (Heb. 9:15); as a parallel expression for “the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7; also Col. 1:14); as the promised gift through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).

V. 25. hilasterion = “expiation” (RSV) or “a sacrifice of atonement”: The term derives from Lev. 16:2, 13-15 where it is used for the “mercy seat” on the ark of the covenant on which sacrificial blood was spilled for making atonement for the holy place.

V. 27.  pou oun hē kauchēsis = “Where then is boasting?”:  For proper and improper boasting see the references at 2:17, 23; 4:2; 11:18. Faith is the opposite of faith that accepts God’s unconditional and unmerited grace. Recall Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).


John 8:31-36
Against all the forces of sin and evil that would constrain us, Jesus Christ, the Truth, came to set us free.

According to 7:2 Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. There he was challenged by some and lauded by others. Some believed, while others, especially the chief priests and the Pharisees, tried to arrest him. In chapter 8 Jesus speaks of himself as “the light of the world” (8:12) and as the “I AM” (8:24).

Key Words
V. 31. elegen oun ho ’Iēsous pros tous pepisteukotas autō ‘Ioudaious = “Then Jesus said to those who had come to believe in him”:  The perfect tense of pisteuō appears here as it does elsewhere in John’s Gospel at 3:18; 6:69; 11:27; and 16:27. Only in this verse is the Greek verb translated “had believed,” giving the impression they once did believe but believe no longer. At 3:18 the verb is “have (not) believed.” At 6:69; 11:27; and 16:27 the word indicates present faith and is translated not with “had” believed but with “believe” or “have believed.” Therefore, Peter said to Jesus, “we have believed and have come to know … (6:69). Martha said, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,…” (11:27). Jesus said to the disciples, “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father … (16:27). In all those passages, the verb is in the perfect tense.

The verb tense at 8:31, therefore, does not imply that the listeners once did believe but believe no longer or that they once believed but now doubt their belief. The real problem lies not in the tense of the verb but in the context. The statement about “the Jews who believed in him” is a logical follow up to verse 30: “As he spoke thus, many believed (aorist) in him.” The problem is that immediately following verses 31-32, the responders seem to be not those who have come to believe in him but those who did not come to believe in the first place and in fact who were prepared to kill him. It is that group’s reaction and action that culminates in their attempt to stone him in verse 59.

V. 32.  kai gnōsesthe tēn alētheian kai hē alētheia eleutherōsei hymas = “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”:  One must allow the possibility that “knowing” here has the same intimate sense as in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Further, in John’s Gospel “the truth” and Jesus seem to be identified as one and the same (1:14; 14:6; 18:37-38; cf. v. 36.

V. 36.  ean oun ho huios eleutherōsē, ontōs eleutheroi esesthe = “if the son makes you free, you will be free indeed”:  When one considers Galatians 5:1, one wonders whether Paul might not have had an effect on the author of this Gospel, since “freedom” is not a major theme in the synoptics.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 96: Lectionary 30 (22 Pentecost), Year C (October 24, 2010) October 19, 2010

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Lectionary 30 (22 Pentecost)

One of the last, if not indeed the final, message Martin Luther wrote in his deathbed was one of his most profound and succinct expressions of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “We are beggars, that is true.” As he lay dying, Luther anticipated what it would be like to stand before the Almighty and Enthroned God. What could he offer to escape the well-deserved judgment of God? What can any of us offer that would compensate for our lives as rebels against God’s honor? Our lessons for this Sunday steer us along several related courses as we make our pilgrimages through life.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 96: Lectionary 30 (22 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 84:1-7
The psalm belongs to the category of Zion psalms and was probably used by, and for, pilgrims who were entering the temple for some festival like the Feast of Tabernacles. Particularly striking is the awe the pilgrim experiences after longing for this next visit to the temple where the Lord was present in a particular way: seated as King on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The worshiper finds comfort in observing the birds fly here and there within the Temple structures, acknowledging that even they find security and comfort in the near presence of God.  As for the pilgrims “dwelling” in the precincts during this festival time, they express their blessedness in song. Strikingly, even though the journey to Mount Zion was filled with physical challenges and with some fear, the pilgrims experienced along the way the blessings still to come—watering holes filled by the “early rain.” They even increased their strength on the journey rather than became weary, because they knew God would appear to them in Zion.


Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Because the people of Israel had so dishonored God by their infidelities with other gods, the Lord rejects their lament and their confession and continues toward the judgment of the city and land.

In Jeremiah’s day, the people of God in Israel and in Judah experienced tragic times. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and so God’s promise of the land came to a crushing disconnect. While the Assyrians controlled Judah for the following century, other countries were vying for control of the land. Egypt defeated and controlled the land for a few years, but in 605 B.C. the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians, and Judah now belonged to Babylon. In 597 B.C., Nebuchadrezzar’s armies crushed an uprising and carried leading citizens off to Babylon as exiles. In 587, the Judeans revolted again Nebuchadrezzar again responded, this time destroying the temple and the walls of the city, besides carrying off more people to exile. During this entire period, the Lord seemed to have reneged on promises: the land, the Davidic dynasty, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem. In the process, God appeared to have abandoned the covenant with the people of Israel. The laments from the people rose to heaven, and so did those of Jeremiah whom God had called as a prophet to “pluck up and to break down” (Jer. 1:4-10). It is possible that 14:1—15:21 reports a dialogue between God and Jeremiah who speaks both his own words and those of the people: Jeremiah speaks in 14:2-9, 13, 19-22; 15:10, 15-18; God speaks in 14:10-12, 14-18; 15:1-9, 11-14, 19-21.

Key Words
V. 7. YHWH ‘aseh lema‘an šemekā = “O, Lord, act for your name’s sake”: The call on God to act for lamenters on the basis of his own identity is common in such laments (see Ps. 25:11; 31:3; 143:11). The expression will return in v. 21.

V. 8. miqwēh yisrā’ēl mewōšî‘ô be’ēt tsārâ = “O Hope of Israel, its Savior in time of trouble”: Throughout the Bible the people of Israel expressed their hope in the Lord (see v. 22; Ps. 39:7). Here, however and elsewhere (17:13; 50:7) their hope is the Lord. As for the title “Savior,” the root of the word means “wide, spacious” and seem to point to freedom from confinement (see Exod. 3:8).

Vss. 8-9. lāmâ = “why?” The question is typical of laments as people struggle with the apparent absence of God during their tribulations. See, e.g., Ps. 10:1; 22:1 (Heb. v. 2). Another common word for the same interrogative (maddûa‘) appears at v. 19.

V. 9. kegibbōr lō’-yûkal lehôšîa‘ = “like a hero who cannot save”: This ridicule against the lord will one day fly in their faces when God comes to take the exiles in Babylon home (Isa. 50:2).

V. 9. we’attâ beqirbēnû YHWH = “But you (are) in our midst, O YHWH”: The conjunction can mean “and,” “but,” or often “yet.” The expression often appears in psalms of lament in the midst of the questions and complaints; see Ps. 22:3, 9, 19.

V. 20. kî chātā’nû lāk = “for we have sinned against you”: The same confession appeared in v. 7.

V. 22. magšimîm = “that bring rain”: The word serves two purposes here. First, it appears to connect this lament with the setting described in 14:1, namely, that this word of God came to Jeremiah “concerning the drought” (see vs. 2-4). Second, the people had spent centuries idolizing Baal, the Canaanite god, as the fertility deity who brings rain. That devotion now lay at the heart of their rejection by YHWH.


2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Having finished the race and fought the good fight, the author/apostle faces an imminent death fully hopeful of the prize, “the crown of righteousness,” and thankful for the Lord’s loyal presence throughout his mission to the gentiles.


Luke 18:9-14
Against those who feel they are righteous in God’s sight, God declares righteous the outcast who brings before God only his confession about his own unworthiness.

The first eight verses of the chapter deal with the importance of incessant prayer to God.  Now appears this parable stressing the importance of approaching God in humility and asking for mercy. The emphasis on Jesus at prayer is again indicated to be a mark of discipleship.

Key Words
V. 9.  tous pepoithotas eph’ heautois hoti estin dikaioi = “those who were convinced about themselves that they were righteous”:  The lawyer in 10:29 tried to “justify himself” by asking Jesus to identify his neighbor. At 16:15, Jesus told the Phatisees “who were lovers of money, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others.” The use of dikaios here paves the way for the contrast made by the Pharisee about the “unjust” (adikoi) in v. 11 and for the judgment made by Jesus at the conclusion (dedikaiōmenos) in v. 14.

V. 10.  anebēsan eis to hieron = “went up to the temple”:  Pilgrims always “went up” to the temple because of its height on the summit of the mount (see Ps. 24:3; 121:1; 122:1-4).

V. 10.  proseuxasthai = “to pray”:  The author of Luke-Acts begins his book with the people and  Zechariah at prayer in the Temple (Luke 1:8-13) and virtually concludes with Paul at prayer over Publius who lay sick (Acts 28:8).

V. 11.  houtos ho telōnēs = “this tax-collector”:  Tax collectors appear regularly in the Pharisees’ lists of “sinners”:  see 5:30; 7:34; 15:1; 19:2-7.

V. 11.  harpages … moichoi = “robbers … adulterers”:  Listed on either side of the general term adikoi = “unrighteous”; these two groups describe persons who transgress God’s commandments, at least two:  Exod. 20:15 and 14 respectively.

V. 12.  apodekatō = “I tithe all that I get”:  The Torah instructs tithing at Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:12; Deut. 14:22-27; 14:28-29. The patriarchal role model is Jacob (Gen. 28:22).

V. 14. dedikaiōmenos = “having been justified”:  The passive indicates that God is the subject of “justifying” and thus emphasizes that any claim to be dikaios = “just(ified)” or “righteous” on one’s own is in error. For the declaration of righteousness or innocence in its profound theological sense, see Isa. 53:11 and Romans 3:24.

V. 14.  “everyone … exalted”:  The same words appear at 14:11 to conclude Jesus’ instruction to the guests at the banquet about seating arrangements;  for OT background, see Ezek. 21:26.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 95: Lectionary 29 (21 Pentecost), Year C (October 17, 2010) October 5, 2010

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Lectionary 29 (Pentecost 21)

The title for this series of podcasts is “Wrestling with the Word.” Thanks to Google Alerts, I have learned that the expression occurs in many conversations regarding just about any issue in the world. In this series, however, the “word” is specifically God’s word. Here we wrestle with biblical texts as God speaks through inspired witnesses of biblical times about the intimate involvement of God in creation and in history. Those whose writings came down to us wrestled, as we do, to determine how God comforts us and accuses us as we live out our lives in God’s world. In the face of the challenges in their day, the biblical writers announced God’s identity and grace, God’s hiddenness and judgment, God’s will and action, God’s pleasure and displeasure. To accomplish their proclamation, they wrestled, as we do, with nothing and no one less than God. While we do not have the opportunity that Jacob had to wrestle with God at a river, God does invite us to a wrestling match. It happens in our prayers that enable us to trust in God and stand firm against all the odds.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 95: Lectionary 29 (21 Pentecost), Year C.


Psalm 121
While the original purpose of this psalm is not certain, its beauty and comforting expressions give it a place of favor among devout people of all times. The first verses introduce the psalm as a dialogue. Verse 1 comes from the lips of a person about to begin a journey. The speaker looks to the mountains ahead, awesome to behold yet full of potential danger. An imminent journey across and through their heights causes the worshiper to ask about the source of “help” or “strength” on the way. Unlike the answer to a similar question regarding wisdom (Job 28:12, 20), the response here provides the traveler hope and promise: “help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). Whoever speaks that answer—either the worshiper or a priest—the following verses appear to flow from the lips of a priest. The journey itself is often assumed, therefore, to be the homeward trip from the temple in Jerusalem following a pilgrim’s required visit.) It is also possible that the setting takes place outside the home of the pilgrims as they set out for the temple. In that case, the answer might come from a Levite.) In any case, the Lord who will be the “help” will remain constantly alert to keep the traveler from harm (vss. 3-4). YHWH will protect and guard the pilgrim, even from the blistering sun and the mysterious moon (vss. 5-6). Even beyond the immediate journey, the Lord will maintain such diligence on the worshiper’s behalf in every place and at all times.


Genesis 32:22-31
As Jacob returns home to meet his brother Esau, God wrestles with him and changes him to equip him for the reunion.

Isaac and Rebekah gave birth to twins. The first to emerge was called Esau, but close behind, hanging on to his brother’s heel, was Jacob. Rivalry between the two ensued because Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah loved Jacob. The story of Jacob eventually buying Esau’s birthright for a bowl of lentil soup is well known (Gen. 265:29-34). Also familiar is the report of Jacob’s disguise (with Mom’s assistance) to resemble his brother and their deception to have vision-challenged Isaac bless the second son instead of the first (Gen. 27). At this point Rebekah advised her younger son to leave town and live for a while with her brother Laban the Aramaean. On the way Jacob spent the night “at a certain place” where he received the vision of the mound on which the angels of God ascended and descended. There the Lord appeared to Jacob and promised to bring him “back to this land” (Gen. 28:10-17). Working for, and plotting against Laban, Jacob left years later with two of Laban’s daughters and a considerable amount of his wealth. Our story occurs the night before Jacob will meet his brother accompanied by 400 men.

The Story
As we have it, the story has developed through many layers of oral and written traditions. Perhaps at its most basic level, the story is a legend about contesting a nocturnal river demon before crossing the river. While that kind of tale is strange in the Bible, something similar appears in the story of Moses at Exodus 4:24-26 where “the Lord” met Moses on his journey “and sought to kill him.” There also the villain seems to have been a nocturnal demon who eventually became “the Lord.” Likewise, here in our story, no identity is given to “the man” who came to wrestle until just before daybreak “the man” announces to Jacob that he has spent the night striving with God (v. 28).

The Names and Places
Names: While in our usage, names basically identify us, in ancient societies names more closely resembled identity. People did not have names so much as they were their names. When confronted by beings possibly divine or angelic, people asked for the names. Moses offered the request subtly (Exod 3:13), while Manoah was more blunt (Judges 13:17). People could gain access to (perhaps even control) if they knew the divine being’s name.

Jabbok: The Jabbok River is a tributary that flows into the Jordan about 15 miles north of the Dead Sea. The Hebrew word for the river (yabbōq) sounds quite similar to the word for “wrestle” (’ābaq), and the word play is rather obvious as the reader moves from v. 23 to v. 25. Unfortunately, this verb for “wrestle” appears only in this passage.

Jacob: The stories included in the Jacob traditions offer several interpretations for the patriarch’s name. One tradition bases his name Ya‘aqōb on his grabbing his brother’s “heel” (‘āqēb) at their birth (Gen. 25:24-26; see also Hos. 12:4). Another connects his name to a verb for “cheat” (‘āqab) which he richly deserves, according to Esau, after cheating him twice. According to the pattern for naming in the Bible, the patriarch’s handle would likely have been something like Ya‘aqōb-El = “May God Protect.”

Israel: If the word sārâ = “strive, persevere” is indeed part of the name, Yisrā’ēl would probably mean “May God persevere” rather than “You have striven with God and prevailed.” But the tradition that the patriarch’s name developed from this story is attested in the 8th century B.C. prophet Hosea: “in his manhood he strove with God (sārâ ’et-’elōhîm); he strove (sārâ) against the angel and prevailed” (Hos. 12:3-4). Hosea considers Jacob’s striving with God as one more example of his wickedness. However, if the campfire stories of Genesis prevail, Jacob “the cheater” has now been changed to Israel, “the one who persevered against God/God’s angel.”

In addition to changing Jacob’s name to Israel, however, the story serves to identify the two names as one and the same. While the name Jacob usually refers to the patriarch, the name is used also, especially in poetic literature, for the nation Israel. Likewise, while Israel is usually the name of the nation, the name also occurs sometimes for the patriarch. With that flexibility of terminology, it is not always apparent in a given passage whether either name describes the patriarch or the nation. A narrative or poetic reference to the patriarch Jacob might be an allusion to or description of the nation’s experience.

Peniel: The name of the town appears as Penuel in a non-complimentary story at Judges 8:8-9 17. Our story explains the name Penî’ēl on the basis of Jacob’s words: “I have seen God face to face …” (v. 30).


2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
In times of persecution and stress, the author exhorts his reader (Timothy) to stand firm in the faith he learned from his childhood (from his mother and grandmother) and to regard the written scriptures (the Old Testament) as the source of faith for salvation in Christ Jesus.

Whether the author of the epistle was Paul or, more likely, an anonymous disciple in the second century, the inspired scriptures mentioned in 3:15-16 can only have been what we call the Old Testament. The New Testament, as we know and call it, did not yet exist. The writings of Judaism, however, were the Bible of Jesus and the early church and were considered “inspired” on the basis of various criteria toward the end of the first century A.D. They served even early Christians to provide the equipment “for every good work” and to encourage them “to be persistent whether the time if favorable or unfavorable” (4:2).


Luke 18:1-8
Encouraging his disciples to pray constantly and not lose heart, Jesus assured them of God’s response to their petitions by telling the parable about the widow who hounded a judge until he vindicated her in a court case.

Still on the fateful journey toward Jerusalem (beginning at 9:51), Jesus has been preparing his disciples and his adversaries for what would happen. Through his teaching and by engaging  in dialogue over their questions, Jesus used many parables in this section of Luke’s Gospel. In the previous chapter, he dealt with the disciples request for an increase of faith, healed the 10 lepers, and responded to the Pharisees’ question about the timing of the kingdom of God. Now he addresses disciples on the faith-driven life.

Key Words
V. 1. pros to dein pantote proseuchesthai autous = “concerning the necessity of praying always”: One of the major emphases in Luke’s Gospel is prayer. Jesus sought temporary solitude “on the mountain” in order to pray (6:12) and at “the Mount of Olives” he prayed that God’s will be done (22:41). At the request of the disciples Jesus taught them to pray (11:1-5) the prayer that included “Your kingdom come” (cf. 17:20-37). He instructed his disciples to pray for strength when the times of tribulation came (21:36) and commanded them to pray that they not enter into temptation (21:40).

V. 2. kritēs tis … ton theon phoboumenos kai anthrōpon mē entrepomenos = “a certain judge … who neither feared God or had any concern for people”: The lack of fear of God and concern for people reveals the judge as the exact opposite of the two great commandments (Luke 10:27). This description of the man might be the reason why Jesus refers to him in v. 6 as ho kritēs tēs adikias = “the judge of unrighteousness.” Recall that in Luke 16:1-9 the master commended “the dishonest steward” (ho oikonomos tēs adikias) for his prudence.

V. 3. chēra = “a widow”: Throughout the OT, widows, along with orphans and sojourners, are specifically named as the most vulnerable and who by God’s command are protected by laws. YHWH actually “executes justice” for those people (Deut. 10:18; see Ps. 68:5) and forbids lawmakers from perverting justice due to them (Deut. 24:17). God summons the people of Israel to advocate in courts of law for the widow and condemns them for failing to do so (Isa. 1:17, 23). Elsewhere in Luke Jesus condemns the scribes for robbing widows of their houses (20:47) and uses another widow as an example for disciples (21:1-4). The failure of the judge in our case to delay executing justice for the widow (Deut. 24:17) would qualify him for the title “judge of unrighteousness” (v. 6).

V. 7. ho de theos ou mē poiēsē tēn ekdikēsin tōn elektōn autou tōn boōntōn autō hēmeras kai nyktos = “And will not God perform vindication of the elect who cry out to him day and night?”: The comparison between the “judge of unrighteousness” and “God the righteous judge” is interesting. Jesus’ point is simply: If an unrighteous judge who cares nothing about God or people can vindicate the widow because of her incessant pleading, how much more will the God of righteousness respond to a petitioner’s persistent cries for help! After all, YHWH consistently proves to be one who hears the laments (cries for help) from the oppressed; see Exod. 3:7; Isa. 41:17). Because of that reputation, YHWH graciously invited the laments of the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, and all oppressed and afflicted person. Here Jesus repeats the invitation through the teaching of this parable.

V. 8. “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth”: The faith described in this passage is the trust and confidence that God will respond to prayer.