9(Jesus) also told this parable to some(A) who trusted(B) in themselves that they were righteous,(C) and treated others with contempt:
We are Guilty of Treating Others With Contempt
This sermon is for those who sometimes treat others with contempt, who sometimes look down on others and who too often fail to empathize with other sinners and instead are tempted to think they are just a lot better than others. If you don’t fall into that category, you can stop listening. However, if you stop listening, plug your ears with your fingers so that everyone knows how much better you think you are than everyone else and how you treat others with contempt and look down upon them when they confess their sins.
Before Eternal Life, We are Judged
This text is about justification – being declared righteous and holy by God. One can look forward to heaven without thinking much about whether they will get into heaven. You and I will be judged. We rejoice because we know what that judgment is because it is the same judgment we hear throughout the Divine Service, “Your sins are forgiven. God is at peace with you. The Lord is with you and not angry.” We are given the gift of not having any doubt about the verdict. However, the one that is looking forward to heaven without hearing these absolving judgments often in church is like one who is looking forward going to court without being certain whether the verdict will be innocent or guilty, going scotch free and receiving the gifts of citizenship or receiving life in prison. The one who enters heaven with debt will be cast out.
Going Home Being Confident You are Justified
You, however, go home justified today – confident of what the verdict will be. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For(M) everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” So, how can we be confident in that verdict? Our text gives us 2 people and 2 answers – 1.) How you aren’t justified and 2.) How you are justified.
The Pharisees is Outwardly Good Compared to Many Others
11The Pharisee,(E) standing by himself, prayed[a](F) thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12(G) I fast twice a week;(H) I give tithes of all that I get.’ This guy looks good and if there is a guy to emulate the way in which to live, he would be one of top on the list. He goes to church (remember the two men are going to the temple), receives the Lord’s Word probably daily and prays often. He’s an amazing tither – very sacrificial. He fasts. He loves his wife and has stayed faithful to her. He keeps himself from a scandalizing life. Those things that we are told not to do – he in fact doesn’t do most of them. Good. There’s a lot to emulate here. He even begins his prayer in a way that we should follow, “I thank you.” He doesn’t begin by saying, “I want. I need. I gotta have.” His funeral sermon would have the phrase, “he was a good man,” often and there would be lots of head nodding.
However, Compare Yourself to God’s Law
However, as he continues his prayer, his heart is revealed. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men. If you want to compare yourself to something, you should compare yourself to God’s Word and not to God’s people. God doesn’t judge on a curve. If others do worse than you, you are still going to be judged based on perfection. God, in the mirror of His Law does not see from a distance so that you can trick Him. It is the make-up mirror, the close up view that reveals that you are an extortionner -you have been greedy, you have intimidated others, been forceful and threatening. You are an adulterer – you have had secret thoughts in your heart through your eyes, you have been too flirtatious or romantic to one who is not your spouse, you have not always been faithful to Jesus, your bridegroom. You have been unjust, unrighteous and dishonest.
He Doesn’t Recognize the Depths of His Sin
When this man hears, “you are forgiven of your sins,” his response would be, “Of course. There’s not that many of them.” When the Pharisee sees the tax collector weeping over his sins, broken because of his guilt and shame, disgusted by his thoughts, words and deeds, and scared of God’s righteous judgment on him, he thinks, “Man. I’m glad I’m not as bad as that guy.” The Pharisees does not weep on that day, but because he does not go home justified, he will weep another day when he is thrown into the pit where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Being Declared Righteous by God in the Temple
Thanks be to God that there is one that does go home justified. 13But the tax collector,(I) standing far off,(J) would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but(K) beat his breast, saying, ‘God,(L) be merciful to me, a sinner!’ He comes with real sins that he realizes are a big deal. He wants to do better. If he did any better the past day, he still realizes he has fallen way short and God gets the glory anyway for any improvement. He realizes that there needs to be something that stands between him and God which is why he has come to the temple – where the lambs were slain and the blood was shed to make he and God at one again. Are you with him?
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world declares this to you today – you have his favor, every debt is paid, you are righteous, you go home justified. When the heart comes weighed down by its sin, it comes hungry to be fed holy food that forgives sin and declares that God is for us, not against us. God’s heart is revealed to your heart today and you go home justified. Amen.