I am preaching this summer on the stories of Jesus—the parables. Jesus was a master story teller. People of Jesus’ day were not really any different from people of today in the sense that they related to stories. Jesus took these stories using the familiar things of everyday life in the first century to capture the attention of His listeners.
One of those parables that can be misunderstood is the Parable of the Widow and the Judge or as it might sometimes be called, The Parable of the Persistent Widow as recorded in Luke 18:1-8.
Literally, the word parable means “to throw alongside.” Jesus took these stories and threw them alongside the principles that He was teaching. I’ve always thought these few principles help us to interpret parables.
Basic Principles for Interpreting Parables:
1. Look before and after the story.
We find the point of the parable usually either right before or right after the story. In The Parable of the Widow and the Judge, we actually get both! What is this parable about? Just look at verse 1 and 8.
2. Look for the unusual detail of the story.
We find the point of the parable usually in the unusual detail of the story. And remember, this is the unusual detail in the 1st century setting, not the 21st century. For example, consider the most well-known parable of all—the Prodigal Son. The twist in the story is that the younger son asks for his inheritance before the father dies. If that is not enough of a surprise, we are dumfounded to learn in the story that the father grants the request. The use of this unusual detail is Jesus’ hook to “Come in close and listen.”
In the Luke 18 parable, we must understand that widows had no rights. Widows did not get hearings with judges, and in the rare case that she did, the judge would surely not listen.
3. Look for the point of the story.
We need not press every detail of the story, but rather look for the “punchline” of the story.
So, what’s the big idea of The parable of the Widow and the Judge?
If a judge, who is no respecter of person and does not fear God, hears the cry of a widow, who had no rights or privileges, how much more will a righteous God hear the cries of His Children!
God is not like the judge, and we are not the widow. Will He hear? The answer is a resounding, exclamatory, “YES!”
• Pray with Desperation
The widow was desperate. She had no rights, but she had no choice. Prayer begins at the point of our desperation.
• Pray with Duration
Don’t think of it as pestering God. Here and elsewhere, we are told to pray unceasingly. The context of this parable goes back at least to 17:20. How long are we to pray about a matter? Until He comes!
• Pray with Dependence
Look to the next parable—The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. There’s at least a little bit of Pharisee in all of us.
• Pray with Deep Faith
Here may be the greatest question of all. Remember the context established back in 17:20. “When He comes will He find faith?”
(This post is based on the message “Will He Hear?” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)