Endless, joy filled,
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. â€œTwo people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.â€
This is one of those parables I refer to as the beautiful parables. They are a direct offer of hope. Today, and over the next two weeks Jesus offers His faithful special hope.
Hope is a verb; it is, as my high school teachers would say, an action word. It is something we engage in and do particularly as Christians. Hope is more than just desiring, longing, dreaming, or being optimistic. Hope is a confidence that what has been promised will in fact occur. It will happen. There is no might, or may, or maybe. As scripture tells us, it is yes and Amen. Jesus reminds us to let our confidence be known by our yes and no â€“ really believing what we say is true because we are backed up by God Himself. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Assurance and conviction is that inward and outward steadfastness in what we know to be true.
Dr. David W. Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics writes that â€œHope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.â€
The plain opposite of hope is despair. More than despair alone, it is the false illusion and confidence in things that cannot be backed up.
Do we trust in government? There is surely no promise there. Maybe there are some ideals (originally founded upon scripture), but still no guarantee. Do we trust in our good works alone? So many are deceived in thinking that good works are enough â€“ that they will somehow be remembered and acclaimed beyond the memory of the next couple of generations. They are deceived for they sill be forgotten. None of these things are backed up by an everlasting promise.
Christian history is filled with the witness and words of those who had to face apparent hopelessness. They were confronted by war, poverty, personal failure and dreams unfulfilled, sickness, and death. We sit here in Godâ€™s presence and wonder whether we can hope, whether we dare hope and have confidence. Jesus answer to us is: Yes!
Christians who get this know that when they are down they will be raised up. They know that when they sin they will be forgiven. They know that nothing here and now is more powerful than what God has promised us. They simply know it â€“ not so that they become arrogant but so that the hope they have might be spread through their joy. The tax collector found that joy.
Endless, joy filled hope is what God has given us in Jesus. It is for those who see in these beautiful parables the truth of His promises.