“And he [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect during Jesus’ days on earth. Their religion was a big show. Jesus said of them in Matthew 23:5: “But all their works they do for to be seen of men.”
The Pharisees didn’t care about people. They even said, “But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed” (John 7:49). How would you like to hear a clergyman say something like that? The Pharisees also weren’t close to God at all. In our passage, Jesus said the Pharisee “prayed thus with himself,” (boldface added); not with God. God wasn’t listening. On another occasion, some Pharisees started a confrontation with Jesus. He told them, “Ye are of your father the devil,” (John 8:44) and “ye are not of God” (John 8:47).
Look at the Pharisee’s prayer. He bragged about how he was better than others, and about the religious works he did. James 4:6 says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” Pride is wicked before God, including religious pride. One day, “as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11). It was like, “How can you sit with those people?” Pride shows itself with an unkind attitude toward people. The Pharisees “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”
Jesus answered, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13). Jesus came to earth to call sinners to repent and come to Him to be forgiven and saved. He promised, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
That’s what the publican in our passage did. He saw that he was a sinner with no other hope but God’s mercy. He went to God for mercy and was saved. He “went down to his house justified rather than the other.” That’s how you come to Jesus: as a repentant sinner with nothing to bargain with. Forget the fact that you go to church, or you’re a cop, or you’ve done kind deeds. Don’t depend on your works like the Pharisee did. Good deeds didn’t pay your sin debt. Jesus’ death paid your sin debt. His resurrection is proof of that fact. That’s why Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, is so wonderful.
If you’ve never come to Jesus, trusting entirely in Him to forgive and save you, please do. If you want to see more about how to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life by trusting on Jesus as your personal Saviour, please click, “Helpful Links” on the top menu and then “How Do I Go to Heaven?” on the dropdown menu.
Brian Miller 3/6/2018
Cleveland Baptist Church | 4431 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn, Ohio 44144 | 216.671.2822