One thing I've noticed as I've read through Luke's gospel this time is how often Jesus tells designer stories. He targets a specific audience. The mark of a true teacher...He doesn't have a canned message that He repeats verbatim irrespective of the context...He knows his audience and knows what they need to hear. The story that Jesus tells beginning in the ninth verse of the 18th chapter He told specifically to be heard by a group of people who were
confident of their own righteousness
That has got to be the definition of ugly. And Jesus wants them to see it. Beyond that, He wants to turn their definition of beautiful on its head. Two guys praying. One a pastor...ok, let's say missionary...that's a little closer to home. The other an abortion doctor (worse, I think he may even have been a Democrat). The missionary confidently looks God in the eye and, with a straight face, thanks God that he is being used of God to reach the lost. Speaking of the lost, he expresses his profound gratitude that he's not like them...especially not like that lost guy over there with so much blood on his hands. Special section of hell for him.
As per Jesus' habit, He turns everything on its head. The righteous dude, despite his Mdiv and impressive list of evangelical credentials (a copy of which he presents to his Creator) isn't righteous at all...and it's the unrighteous dude that ends up able to stand in the presence of the Holy God. What gives? The abortion doctor sees no righteousness in himself, and unable to look God in the eye, he hangs his head in shame and, clinging to his pebble of faith, pleads,
God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Just a few words, packed with meaning...and beauty. Words that the pharisee writing these words needs to utter much more often. The amazing thing, and it almost seems criminal in my evangelical worldview, is that the abortion doctor
went home justified before God.
It's the 'missionary' that God rejects.
Lord, strip me of my confidence in my own righteousness. Have mercy on me, a sinner.