After our first two years as missionaries in Russia we were required to come back to the United States and itinerate, that is to speak in churches about our experiences. Before we began our speaking tour Stacy and I had to come up with a Scripture that we were going to use as our basis for what we said about our ministry in Moscow. We chose Luke 18:1-8. Our experiences in Russia were ones that we had never come across before, they were so dramatic and impossible, seemingly impossible, to overcome that we realized that the more we prayed, the more God was able to take the impossible and bring out miracles. Jesus explains what these verses are all about from the very beginning. Look at vs.1. Jesus tells this parable so that people would see the need for prayer and not lose heart if they felt like their prayer was not being answered. Can I get an amen from the choir? Have you ever prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and after an hour, okay, maybe after a week, even for some of us after a few months and even years it seems like God is that cruel judge who doesn’t care? Jesus says that even that cruel judge who doesn’t believe in God and has no regard for humanity will eventually respond if we are persistent enough. How much more will God, who loves us, created us, and calls us His very children, respond in due time? It is a great lesson in patience for those of us wired to expect a response from God immediately. That is not the way that God works.
Jesus’ next moral of the story is centered around vs.14 where he tells us that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. I’m wondering if any events that are happening within the United States right now just might make us think about this verse and how this truth will be carried out. The pride that we see on so many different fronts in our country is staggering. If Jesus were to wander around our country for a few days I am sure that he would say that these verses were spoken exactly for people and situations in which we find ourselves. We have a certain pride about ourselves that is unhealthy. That pride generates a belief that we are self-sufficient and that all we need is ourselves in order to be successful and in order to be the best at what we do. Often times humility is equated with weakness. For Jesus our weakness is found in what we consider our strength. That’s just the way Jesus works and he encourages us to work the same way.
I just noticed the emphasis on vs.15 of infants being brought to Jesus. I had always thought that it was children, but the Greek here in these verses actually says: “Even infants were being brought to Jesus.” Now the rebuke by the male disciples, and that is a key point, male disciples, is probably along the lines of: “Your infants if they are out with the crowds will get all sorts of sicknesses that they should not be exposed to at such an early age.” I’m making this part up, but from my experience of living in a Mediterranean culture like Southern Italy, you learn immediately what the saying means: “It takes a village to raise a child.” We were often stopped on the streets when Rachel and Naomi were infants and given advice on what we should be doing with them from perfect strangers. If it was a little bit windy and we didn’t have a hat on Rachel and we went out for a walk, oh boy did we hear about it. Perfect strangers would nearly accost us on the street telling us what bad parents we were for not putting a hat on her head.
This played out every single time that we went out with our infants. Every person in that congested town of Portici felt like they were the rightful parents of any child that they might happen to come across. The generations of advice and insight into child rearing would be poured into the unsuspecting and helpless parent who just might be crossing their paths. By the end of it, we were a little tired and we would pretend that we didn’t understand what they were saying and just say some words in English. Then they were much more forgiving because foreigners didn’t know anything anyway, so how could you expect this foreign couple to know what was good for their child. Maybe, just maybe, the disciples were rebuking the parents because obviously their infants should not have been exposed to the chaos that surrounded Jesus. Well, Jesus was not so sure. He blessed them.