The Persistent Widow

This is an essay that I had to write for the Georgia School of Preaching. Enjoy.

And he spake a parable unto them to this
end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;  (2) 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither
regarded man:  (3)  And there was a widow in that city; and she
came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.  (4) 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
(5)  Yet because this widow
troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary
me.  (6) 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.  (7) 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto
him, though he bear long with them? 
(8)  I tell you that he will
avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find
faith on the earth?
” (Luke 18:1-8).

            We will begin our examination of
this parable by noticing the context that may not be at once perceived due to
the chapter divisions placed in the text. Jesus’ conversation with the apostles
actually begins in Luke 17:22 and extends through verse 8 of chapter 18.
However, the encounter that sparked the discussion is found in the remarks
between our Lord and the Pharisees who demanded “when the kingdom of God should
come” (Luke17:20).[i]
Jesus responded that the kingdom of God would not come with observation, for
God’s kingdom is of the spiritual realm and dwells within [among] the
individuals (Luke 17:20-21; John 18:36). Jesus then turns to His disciples and
delivers unto them warnings concerning the Destruction of Jerusalem.[ii]
One thing to note is that Jesus warns that they would “desire to see one of the
days of the Son of man[iii],”
but would not see it at the desired time (Romans 13:11). After Jesus finishes
His discourse, the disciples ask for the location of where these things would
occur. Jesus answers in a figure as He often does, and indicates that the
destruction would come upon a place where death (i.e. sin) is found.
Undoubtedly, Luke has recorded a version of the warnings given in Matthew 24
(see verse 28 specifically). Therefore, after warning His disciples that they
would be longing to see one of the “days of the Son of man,” He teaches them
the parable of the persistent widow to encourage them to not faint, but to
continue to look with necks outstretched for the relief from the persecutors[iv].


            Being careful not to “murder to
dissect,”[1]
let us notice, and exegete, the elements found in Luke 18:1-5. The characters
within this parable are a judge, God, a widow, and an adversary. The widow,
tormented by her adversaries, approaches the judge to the point of “troubling
him” in order to receive ἄνεσις.[2]
Eventually, he concedes and “recompenses tribulation” to those that were
troubling the woman (II Thessalonians 1:6). Though persecution had to be
endured, vindication was promised, and rewarded, to the woman. The question
that comes to the forefront of our minds is, “If an unjust judge is willing to assist a widow in recompensing
tribulation, how much more shall God avenge the blood of the martyred saints?”
Hear the call of the saints that were under the alter, “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and
true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth

(Revelation 6:10). The Lord answered back, “Rest
yet for a little season
” (Revelation 6:11). Isn’t it a marvelous thing to
witness the love and compassion that God has for His servants?

            The interpretation and application
of this parable is given by Christ in verses 6-8 of Luke 18. The bearing may be
long, but the vindication and reward is sure! Hear the promise of God: “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily!”
(Luke 18:8). Imagine for a moment that your house is on fire. You call 911 and
the operator says that they will assist you speedily.
You wait and wait, but the relief never comes. 10 years later the house is
rebuilt and you’re enjoying a nice day when you hear sirens in the distance.
Before you can bat an eye, firetrucks and busy firemen are filling your yard.
You inquire, “What are you guys doing here? My house burned down years ago! You
said you would be here speedily” They
reply, “We did get here speedily! We
took the fastest trucks we had.” What kind of relief is that?

            Jesus promised, “He will avenge them speedily!” When,
however, did this vindication come? When did the disciples receive ἄνεσις? From
the context alone we can see that it was “when
the Son of man
” would come (Luke 18:8). This, however, doesn’t answer our
question alone. Was this coming speedily?
Did they experience that relief? Again, we mustn’t forget the context of which
this is in. “Even thus shall it be in the
day when the Son of man is revealed” [v]
(Luke 17:30). This is limited to, as seen in Luke 21, to the generation in
which Jesus was living in. “Verily I say
unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled
” (Luke
21:32). Truly the disciples would and did receive vindication and rest from
their labors within that generation as we will see in the following paragraph (Revelation
7:13-17).

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes:
and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge
in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:  (35) 
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from
the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom
ye slew between the temple and the altar. 
(36)  Verily I say unto you, All
these things shall come upon this generation
” (Matthew 23:34-36).

The
avenging of the blood of the martyrs was a promise that Jesus gave to His
fellow laborers.  Undoubtedly, it is this
promise that kept the apostle Paul persevering through extreme persecution and
heartbreak (II Corinthians 11:23-28; II Timothy 4:10). Paul’s confidence and
expectance of his promised vindication can be heard loud and clear in his heart-filled
letters to the Thessalonians.

Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to
fill up their sins alway[vi]:
for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost
” (I Thessalonians 2:16).

Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to
them that trouble you;  (7)  And to you who are troubled rest with us,
when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,  (8)  In
flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the
gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  (9)  Who shall be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his
power;  (10)  When he shall come to be glorified in his
saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among
you was believed) in that day
” (II Thessalonians 1:6-10).[vii]

Their persistence paid
off!

Footnotes/ Endnotes


[1] The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth
[2] ἄνεσις is used in II
Thessalonians 1:6-7 to encourage the persecuted Christians at Thessalonica that
vindication would come. It literally means “loosening” (i.e. loosening from
persecution).



[i] It should be of no
surprise to anyone that the Pharisees were making such demands. This is not
only due to their attitude of “holier than thou,” but also to the expectation
of all the people as well as the boldness of Jesus and John the Baptizer when
they spoke of the imminent arrival of the kingdom (Mathew 3:2; Mark 1:15)
[ii] What does the Destruction
of Jerusalem have to do with the kingdom of God? When the disciples would see
the signs hinting that the Destruction of Jerusalem was near, they would know
that “the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31). This does not mean that
the kingdom of God had not arrived at the day of Pentecost, for we know that it
did (Colossians 1:13). Instead it has reference to the full supplanting of the
Old Covenant aion by that “which cannot be moved” (Hebrews 12:27-29; Matthew
24:3).
[iii] Notice the plurality of
the “days of the Son of man.” This is in comparison to the “days of Noah” and
the “days of Lot.”
[iv] Persecution was
invariably linked to the events leading to the fall of Jerusalem. See Luke
21:12, 16
[v] The Greek word behind our
English world “revealed” is ἀποκαλύπτω. This word is also the word that gives
us the title of the last book of the Bible: “Revelation.” ἀποκαλύπτω [G601] compared
to ἀποκάλυψις [G602]
[vi] The motif of “filling up
the measure of sin” is one that can be seen time and time again: Matthew 23:32;
Revelation 2:10; Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 18:5-6
[vii] Keep in mind that this
passage is written to real people who were facing real persecution. In fact, it
was the greatest time of persecution ever (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1). The
phrase “glory of his power” is a word for word quotation from Isaiah 2:19.
Jesus quoted from Isaiah 2:19 in Luke 23:30 and John used it in Revelation
6:16. It is a phrase inextricably tied to the theme of the vindication of the martyrs
that would take place at the time that the true sons of God were revealed (Romans
8:18-19; Revelation 10:7).

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