Luke 18:1-8

Friend in Need and Widow and Judge
"A Friend in a Need and the Widow and the Judge" by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.


As to the historical setting of this text, we quote Arndt: "If the evangelist narrates events in chronological sequence, we have to think of Jesus as speaking this parable on the way to Jerusalem, probably in the region of the Ten Cities east of the Jordan. But on this nothing can be affirmed with certainty."

Luke alone records the account in verses 1-8. There is an obvious connection to 17:20-37. Hard days lay ahead for the disciples, 22. They would be tempted to follow false Christs, 23. The Christ must suffer and be rejected by His people, 25. The world will go on in its sinful, impenitent way, until the end, 26-33. The sin of man will attract final judgment like a cadaver attracts vultures and eagles. Under such circumstances Christians are tempted to grow weary. Lest they grow weary, Jesus spoke this parable.

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Jesus has been speaking with the disciples since 17:22. Constant prayer life is the opposite of growing weary or tired. What Jesus is speaking of is endurance as opposed to apostasy. Note the passages noted at Romans 12:12 on the theme of enduring prayer.

Luke 18:2 He said:  "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men." 

Note the symmetry of verses 2 and 3. In verse 2 note that "God" and "man" are placed before the participles for emphasis. "A very godless man who had great contempt for everyone." This judge, like the unjust steward, Luke 16:1-8, is thoroughly worldly. Jesus' parables are always so very human.

Luke 18:3  "And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'" 

The widow is pictured to us as a defenseless woman. She kept coming, this is constant and repeated action. We secretly admire her convictions. She does not want to get revenge, but rather to secure her rights. The widow was convinced of the rightness of her own case. Obviously she was in some kind of trouble because her adversary was attempting to harm her or take something from her in an illegal way. But she stood by what was legal and right and persisted in her claim to the judge, despite his very worldly character.

Luke 18:4  "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men," 

But he refused. "For some time" indicates simply that the judge truly tried the patience of the woman. Furthermore, it anticipates what he says of himself in this verse. Soliloquies are frequent in Luke's Gospel, in the parables.

Luke 18:5  "yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" 

"Yet" means "at any rate." The particle is thrown in to give the true reason. The reason was not found in the rightness or wrongness of the case, the reason is that the widow is bothering the judge. He doesn't want this trouble. He will do what the law required him to do, to take the part legally of the injured or threatened party. Now comes an interesting negative purpose clause, his sole reason for acting the part of a responsible judge.

"Wear me out" means literally "give a black eye." Here it is metaphorical. The judge decides to take her part legally because she was giving him trouble. He decided to take her part legally lest she would "blacken his name." Whatever, he was afraid for himself, of harm being done to himself. Because he own personal ease, comfort, and well-being is threatened. The whole soliloquy shows the thinking of a shrewd worldling.

Luke 18:6 And the Lord said,  "Listen to what the unjust judge says." 

"Listen to what the unjust judge says." The judge is moved by no consideration of fear for God, concern for man, or for concern for doing that which is right and just. He is moved only by threats to his own comfort and well-being. HE IS THE VERY OPPOSITE OF WHAT GOD IS LIKE. And that is what Jesus intends in this argument from the lesser to the greater, or, as someone has called it, an argument from the worse to the better.

Luke 18:7  "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?" 

"And" could be translated "but." "But God, won't He bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?" Of course He will. And there's another question in this verse. Here are some translations of this very difficult verse: "Will he delay long over them?" "Will he be slow to help them?" "Will he keep putting them off?" Will He delay long over them?" "Is He slow to help them?"

The answer to this second question in verse 7 is, of course, an emphatic "no," as the next verse shows. The argument is a masterpiece. If this helpless widow by her sheer persistence and conviction that her cause was a just one, could cause this judge, the very epitome of injustice, to plead her cause and vindicate her, how much more will not God take the part of His very elect who cry to Him night and day?

His elect. That is their cause. Read John 10:27-29; Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Peter 1:3-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. Election is the purest Gospel, the assurance to the believe that his entire justification and sanctification were caused only by God's grace in Christ from eternity, not dependent in any way on the individual's works or faith. All the commentators here quote 2 Peter 3:9 as a parallel passage, especially with reference to the verb.

The unbeliever misunderstands all this. He thinks that God does not care and finally gets the idea that God won't judge. But let that person beware! Likewise, the believer, because of many trials and tribulations, the devil, the world, and his own flesh, may being thinking that the Lord is slow to help. But that is only the Christian's own view. And it is a mistaken view. Look at the next verse.

Luke 18:8  "I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" 

"I tell you" denotes Jesus' divine authority. Not only will Jesus take up their cause but will do it quickly, speedily. It doesn't look like it from our point of view. But that's what our Lord says. Read Romans 8:28-29 again. On the one hand, the author of these notes does not want to underestimate the grief which a Christians must sometimes suffer. Look, for example, at the world of The Lutheran Hymnal #528. Or think of the Book of Job. Or read Revelation 6:10, quoted by many commentators at this point. but Jesus assures us that we will get justice, and that, speedily. From our point of view it may seem long. But from His point of view it is speedy.

"However" is a strong word. This speaks of the second coming of Christ. "Faith" here means saving faith. This sentence does not mean that Christ will find no believers when He comes again, for we know from Scripture that He will. It is Law, for all of us to examine ourselves as to whether we have saving faith.

Lenski: The questions is to stimulate us all to keep on crying as the elect until the Son of man appears.

And this question shows us what this parable is really all about. What caused the widow to persist in coming to the judge? Her conviction that justice was on her side. What causes a Christian to endure to the end? The conviction that god is for him in Christ Jesus and that this has been so from all eternity. That is the true saving faith. Only the true saving faith can cause a person to cry to the Lord day and night, constantly, as did David in his many Psalms in which he cried to the Lord.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 68-70. Used with permission.

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