ROBERT >> A Pharisee, one of those who belonged to the strictest sect of the Jews, one who had the law, who knew the law, who taught the law, or a tax collector, one of the most despised sinners of the day: Which of these two do you think was right with God? Stay tuned. We’ll be back in just a moment.
SINGING> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth,
speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> Today we want to take a look at the parable of Jesus concerning the Pharisee and the tax collector.
This parable is only recorded by Luke, and it’s in Luke chapter 18 beginning in verse 9. Let’s read it together. Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
You see from the reading of this that Jesus spoke this parable to some, as it says here in verse 9, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Don’t you think that’s a fitting description of the attitude of the Pharisees as they are revealed to us in the New Testament?
They looked down their nose at others. They thought they were better than everybody else. Notice how many men are mentioned in the parable of Jesus. There were two men who went up to the temple to pray.
Notice they were going to the temple to pray, which was quite a common thing. At regular hours, they would go and they would pray there, like we read in Luke 1:10 and Acts 3:1 and Acts 10:30.
We see that prayer was a regular thing there at the temple. And you might also notice that they went up to the temple to pray, because it was on Mount Moriah. You always had to go up to the temple when you came into Jerusalem. And then as you’ll notice in verse 14, when the man left, he went down to his house. So here were these two men who had come up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. And I want you to think about who these men were.
The Pharisees, they were literally the separated ones. These were in great number, about 6,000 probably at the time. They were the strictest sect of Judaism according to Acts 26:5. But they were strongly condemned by Jesus. Time and time again, he condemned the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. I want you to notice some of that, because I think it’ll help us in understanding this parable concerning the Pharisees here of Jesus.
Look with me back in Matthew chapter 6, and let’s look at how he speaks about the hypocrisy of these religious people during his day. He says in verse 1, Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. You see, Jesus condemned them for doing what they did to be seen by men. That was their motivation. That’s what they were concerned about instead of their heavenly Father. He said, for example, they’ll do charitable deeds here in verse 2, and they’ll do them as hypocrites do in the synagogues. In the streets they will sound a trumpet before others so everybody can see what they’re doing and know what they’re doing. He went on to say in verse 5 how they would pray like hypocrites. They would be standing in the synagogues or on the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men. And then further he would talk about the way that they would fast. In verse 16, again, it was like the hypocrites with a sad countenance.
They would disfigure their faces so everybody could see that they were fasting. They simply wanted to impress men instead of impressing God by serving him, by doing good for him, by bringing glory to him. No, it was more about themselves than what they could do for God.
In Matthew the 15th chapter, you’ll also see where Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Here we see they were very concerned about their own man-made traditions, the various washings they had before they would eat and those kinds of things.
And notice what Jesus says to them in verse 7 of Matthew 15. “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Oh, they had a great outward show, but really their hearts were not where they needed to be, and they weren’t really worshiping and serving God from the heart, and they weren’t so concerned about his commandments and keeping those commandments as they were about their own man-made laws. And then perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Jesus anywhere in the Bible is seen in Matthew chapter 23, and it was directed towards these Pharisees.
Notice what it says here in Matthew 23:1. “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not.”
Oh, they expected others to keep the heavy burdens, the traditions and the laws they had placed upon them, but they themselves would not help to do it, and they themselves would not even carry out these things the way they should be done. He went on to say concerning them in verse 9 how they loved the best places at the feast, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men Rabbi, Rabbi. You see, they were more concerned about what everybody thought them and impressing others and putting on a show than they were about keeping the commandments of the Lord. As you go on through this chapter, you’ll see Jesus condemn them time and time again, pronouncing woes upon them because of their hypocrisy.
For example, you’ll notice in verse 14, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
Yes, these Pharisees who had been privileged to have God’s law, who had been placed over the people to teach them and to bring them to the Lord, these had turned into hypocrites who were only trying to impress others.
Well, what about the tax collector?
Well, tax collectors worked for the Romans, and they were considered traitors by the Jews. They were classed with the heathen because they were taking money from their own people to give to the Romans, and many times pocketing some for themselves. No wonder they were classed with the heathen in Matthew 18:17. No wonder they were classed with the harlots in Matthew 21:31-32, and with sinners in Matthew 9:10-11 and other places in the New Testament. Yes, when you thought about a tax collector in the New Testament days, you were thinking about one of the most despised of sinners among all the people.
Now let’s see what these two did, these two men who went up to the temple. They went up to the temple to pray. And notice how they prayed. Look first of all at the Pharisee. Look at the posture that he took when he prayed. It says in verse 11 that the Pharisee stood and prayed. He stood and prayed. Really, the tense of the language there indicates that his recorded prayer, which was quite a short one here, was actually a continuation of a longer one. He was going on and praying. So here he is standing so everybody can see him and going on with many words because he wanted to impress others, the very thing Jesus had earlier condemned as we pointed out in Matthew 6:5-15, going on putting on a show for those around instead of really trying to worship and glorify God.
In fact, look what it says about to whom he prayed. It says that he prayed thus with himself. He prayed with himself. God wasn’t listening to him. He was really just talking to himself, putting on a show for those that were there. It appears that his prayer didn’t reach any higher than just above his head. And who does he address in his prayer?
Well, he addressed his prayer to God. He said, God, I thank you. But does that mean that God accepted his prayer? What did he thank God for? He thanked God that he was not like other men. I’m not like other men, extortioners, he said, the unjust, the adulterers, or even this tax collector. Sounded more like boasting than giving thanks to me. And it also seems the Pharisee was trying to convince himself and others who may have been listening to him. But God knows what we’re really like. We don’t have to convince him about who we are. But you see this Pharisee again was not so interested in what God thought, but what he could get the others to think about him.
What did he say about himself to show that he was not like these other men he claimed not to be like?
Look what it says once again here in verse 12. “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”
He fasted twice a week, he gave tithes of all that he possessed. You see, the law only required fasting on the Day of Atonement. And the Pharisees fasted not only on the Day of Atonement, but they fasted two days a week, on Mondays and on Thursdays. And they let everybody know about it. Again, as we referred to earlier in Matthew 6:16-18, they would disfigure their faces, they would let everybody know, oh, I’m this miserable one who’s been fasting. They gave tithes, a tenth of even the smallest herbs. Yes, the law required tithes. And they were very meticulous about that. But again we see the hypocrisy, because they failed in the greater things of the law.
Look with me in Matthew 23:23. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
The Pharisee believed doing these things, making sure he prayed and he fasted and he was tithing of the very smallest of things even, he believed doing these things made him righteous and it made him better than others. But he failed to acknowledge his sin. He failed to acknowledge his need for a savior. And that’s the big difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Did you notice the tax collector in Jesus’ parable here in Luke chapter 18?
You’ll notice that the tax collector was standing afar off, it says. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone with his prayer. He was embarrassed for himself because of his sinfulness, if anything. And then notice what it said as he was praying there. He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven. It was because of the shame. It was because of the humiliation he felt over his sins.
I think Ezra expressed this quite well in Ezra 9:6. “And I said, O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”
That’s the kind of grief that we ought to feel because of our sins. We cannot overlook them. We cannot just pass them by or try to cover them up. We must see them for what they are. And you’ll notice the man in the parable again there in Luke chapter 18 as he was standing over there and he wouldn’t even look up into heaven, it says that he beat his breast.
Why did he beat his breast?
Again, this was an expression of grief. This was an expression of sorrow.
Look at a couple of passages, Nahum 2:7. “It is decreed, She shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maidservants shall lead her as with the voice of doves, beating their breast. That was the nation of Nineveh. And God would destroy that nation because of their wickedness and because of their evil. And there you see their grief.”
There you see their sorrow, the same thing that was expressed by this tax collector in the parable of Jesus.
Another passage in Luke, look at Luke 23:48. Here the Bible says, “And the whole crowd who came together to that site, seeing what had been done, beat their breast and returned.”
These were those who saw Jesus crucified on the cross. And you see their grief, and you see their sorrow for the one who died for their sins. But then look closely at the words of the prayer of this sinner, the tax collector.
Here’s what he said here in Luke 18:13: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”
. Be merciful to me, a sinner. To be merciful, it has the idea of conciliation, of atonement, of propitiation, and the idea being merciful and making reconciliation for someone.
In Hebrews 2:17, I want you to see what the Hebrew writer said about this. ”Therefore in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Here we see Jesus Christ as our merciful high priest, the one who made reconciliation with God possible, the one through whom we obtained the mercy of God. The tax collector, that sinner, acknowledges his sin. God be merciful to me, a sinner. And he acknowledged his need for a savior.
God accepted his prayer because it came from a broken heart. Go back with me if you will to Psalm 51:17, a psalm of David, a psalm where David pours out his heart to God, realizing, acknowledging his sin with Bathsheba, having committed adultery, having put her husband to death; and now having taken her as his own wife, trying to hide his sin for so long, now he comes to recognize that he must confess it and acknowledge it before God to find his mercy and his forgiveness.
And so this is what he says in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; these, O God, you will not despise.”
David knew that in his grief, in his sorrow, in his penitence that God would hear and that God would forgive. We might ask as was shown in the parable here, which of the two men, the Pharisee or the tax collector, which of the two did Jesus say went home justified?
Notice what it says in verse 14, “I tell you, this man wept down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Yes, Jesus said that it was the tax collector who humbled himself that was justified. Justified means declared innocent or righteous. When I am justified, it is just as if I’ve never sinned. We are justified by faith according to Romans 5:1. Our salvation from sin cannot be earned by our own doing.
It is by grace through faith. Read with me if you will Ephesians 2:8-10. “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it the gift of God. Not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared for Him, that we should walk in them. So Jesus says it was that tax collector who humbled himself that found the mercy and the forgiveness of God, that found himself made right with God, justified, just as if I’d never sinned.”
You’ll notice in Jesus’ words at the end of this reading here in Luke 18:14, who was it that was going to be humbled? “He said, I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”
When we exalt ourself, when we begin to think that we’re more than we really are, when we try to think that we’re better than everybody else and that we’re not sinful creatures, those are the ones who are going to be humbled.
In Proverbs 16:8, look what the wise man said long ago. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
How many people will be kept out of heaven because of the pride in their heart, who will not humble their hearts?
But who did Jesus say would be exalted?
He who humbles himself will be exalted.
Let me leave you with this passage from 1 Peter 5:5-6, where Peter reminds us of this very thing. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourself to your elders.”
Yes, all of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility; for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself before God today, see yourself as a sinner in need of a savior, and come to Jesus Christ, and let us know here at The Truth In Love how we can help you towards heaven today.
SINGING>> Years I spent in vanity and pride,
caring not my Lord was crucified,
knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
pardon there was multiplied to me;
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan;
oh, the grace that brought it down to man;
oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Mercy there was great and grace was free,
pardon there was multiplied to me,
there my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
ROBERT >> I’d like to thank you for watching the program today. Our interest in our viewers with regard to our program is about eternal salvation. It’s not about money. It’s not about anything like that. We’re interested in your soul. The Bible says that for a person to be saved, they have to first of all believe in Jesus Christ. But not just to believe in him generally; you must believe that he is indeed the Son of God.
He said, “Except you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” John 8:24.
But he also said that a person must repent of sins. And that means to change your mind about your sinful past, to decide to change your action and live for God.
“Except you repent, you will perish,” Jesus said in Luke 13:3.
And the Bible also teaches us that in order to be saved, we have to be willing to verbally confess to others our faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 10:10, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
But even that’s not enough, because the Bible also teaches that a person must be immersed in water to have their sins washed away by the blood of Christ.
Peter said on the day of Pentecost to those who asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” Mark 16:16.
When a person does that, they don’t earn their salvation. That’s just the moment at which the blood of Christ washes sins.
Revelation 1:5 tells us that it is the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins.
And so the preacher says in Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
I hope you’ll study these things for yourself to see if they are so, and I hope and pray that if you have not obeyed the gospel, that you will before it’s eternally too late. If you have any questions or comments or requests, if you need a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you’d like more information about the lesson today, or maybe you’d like to order today’s lesson on CD or DVD or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.
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All our materials, our services are absolutely free of charge. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.
SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven, sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go. When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven,
sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven,
sing the sweetest song of all.