Today, the Lord Jesus presents a parable to us- the story of a judge and a widow.
The widow is persistent in her pleas to the judge that justice be done and she receive what justice demands is rightfully hers. The judge, is worn down by the woman’s persistence, and finally gives in to the widow’s pleading. The judge gives the widow what she wants.
What does this mean?
Preachers, usually and rightly, cite persistence in prayer as the meaning of the parable. In this interpretation, the judge is understood to be an image of God and the widow an image of ourselves. The lesson being that if your heart desires something, don’t give up, for God, after much pleading might, like the judge in the parable, ultimately be willing to give us what we want-if we demonstrate by our incessant pleading our heart’s desire.
Yet God in Christ is not a pagan god like Zeus who might be manipulated by our pleading. Prayer is not an incantation that can be used to secure a result in our favor. Prayer is not meant simply as means of securing favors but of discernment and preparedness for mission. It is through prayer than our sincerity as disciples is purified and redeemed.
Another way to understand the parable is to reverse our understanding about the identity of the widow and the judge.
The widow in the parable is actually an image for God and the judge is an image of ourselves. In our pride we appoint ourselves to great authority over ourselves and this world and in doing so respect “neither God or man”. We make ourselves the judge and our judgments bear themselves with tremendous weight, ruling on all matters significant and insignificant. We are in charge. We are in control.
We declare that it belongs to us to decide the meaning and purpose of our own existence, indeed the meaning and purpose of the universe itself. We elevate our opinions and desires to ultimacy and while making ourselves the judge, decry any and all attempts to be judged ourselves.
The widow is like God, presenting herself to us in Christ, as seemingly small and insignificant, yet powerful in his persistence that we change. Christ is relentless in his insistence that rather than doing what we want, we give him what he wants. If he cannot convince us to change by persuasion, he will change us by his persistence. He won’t give up. He won’t give in. It is Christ’s will that we be saved. Saved from what? Saved from ourselves.
The justice that God accomplishes is our conversion, the changing of our hearts and minds in such a way that we are willing to give our lives over to him and accept from him a new way of life. Justice is served in this way because in surrendering ourselves to God, we return to him what rightfully belongs to him- our very lives.
God persistently called for our conversion through the prophets and at the right moment, came into the world himself in Jesus Christ and called to us directly- remember the words of God in Christ at the beginning of his public ministry: “Repent and believe”.
But will we change? Will we repent?
Christ leaves these questions unanswered, for he grants us the freedom to accept or refuse his persistent summons. But he insists that more important than our freedom is the decision we make. Will we give to him what he asks? Will we return to him what rightly belongs to him? When he comes to us, what will our answer be?
Further, Christ makes it clear that the moment will come when his persistence pleading for our conversion will end, and then the widow will become the judge and we will come face to face with the consequences of our refusal to repent.
Will Christ the judge find us capable of the act of faith necessary for conversion?
Or will we persist to the end in our refusal to repent? Now, not later, is the time to repent and believe.