Text: Luke 18:1-8
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Waiting is not much fun. No one, at least no one that I know, likes waiting. It is especially hard to wait for something that is very meaningful to us. The longer we wait the more and more we start to think that whatever it is that we are waiting for might never happen. As a fan of the Edmonton Oilers I know this feeling all too well. The Oilers have not been a good hockey team for a long time. It has been 10 years since the last time they were even a little bit competitive with the other teams in the league. For 10 years fans like me have been waiting for something to cheer about, but I am not that optimistic. If ten years of miserable hockey have taught me anything it is that I should not trust my team to figure it out and get any better. At the same time, deep down inside I know that it has to happen someday. Someday they will get better. I try to convince myself that it really is just a question of when. It’s not an “if” question, but a “when” question. When will it finally happen?
Jesus wants us thinking this same way about His return in our Gospel reading today. It is not a question of “if” Jesus will come back, but a question of “when.” Talking about His return in our Gospel reading today Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth.” I want us to consider a little bit this morning what Jesus is talking about here. We’ll start with that first part, the “when the Son of Man comes” part, and then we will get to the second half, “will He find faith on the earth.” But first, it is about the certainty that we have knowing that Jesus will come again. It is a question of “when” not “if”.
Having said that, it is not a question of “when” in the sense that we sit here and try to figure out when Jesus is coming. That is not for us to know, Jesus tells us that quite clearly. Instead, this “when” is a cause of certainty for us. Jesus is coming again, this we can be sure of. Jesus reassures us of this because He knows full well that His disciples (ourselves included!) will struggle through the ages wondering and even doubting if Jesus is ever coming as time just keeps rolling along. Every day that passes and does not see the return of our Lord is another day when people start to wonder if it is ever going to happen. This is nothing new, it has been going on for 2,000 years. But Jesus gives us these words, “When the Son of Man comes…” When. He is coming. Even though He seems to delay and linger and we don’t see Him coming Jesus wants us to know that He is still coming.
And for us that is good news; for us, God’s elect, His chosen people, the Children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus coming again is the best news that we could ever hear. Because Jesus isn’t coming again to destroy us. He is not coming again to hurt or harm us in any way. He is coming again to rescue us and save us from this fallen, sinful, broken world that we now live and struggle in. He is coming again to finish what was started when He rose from the dead. Jesus was the first-fruits, the first to rise from the dead, and He is coming again that we who believe in Him might rise with Him into eternity. He is coming to vindicate us, give us justice, and save us from our adversary the devil and from death. This is the hope that Jesus sets before us today.
This hope is what Jesus is talking about in the parable about the widow and the unjust judge that Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading. He tells us about this widow who comes day after day to the judge asking for justice against her adversary. Someone has wronged her or taken advantage of her and she wants justice. She comes day after day asking him to do something, but He does nothing. He doesn’t care about this widow because he doesn’t care about God or about people. He just doesn’t care. But finally, after this woman has come and hassled him day after day he finally gives in. He finally decides that it will just be easier if he helps her out and gives her the justice she is looking for. So, he gives her justice. He punishes her adversary and gives her the justice she was looking for.
If an unjust judge who does not care about God or about people will eventually, after much hassling and pestering, give justice to this widow, will not God give justice to His people? Will He not save them from their adversary? Of course He will. God will save us and give us justice. He will deliver us from our adversary. Who is our adversary? The devil, this world full of sin that we live in, and even the sin that lingers in our own hearts. God will deliver us from all these adversaries. He will deliver us from evil. When the Son of Man comes He will save us from sin and death by raising us to new life.
With this hope in front of us Jesus begs us not to lose heart. Just like that widow who pestered the judge day after day, Jesus invites us to pray to God every day for deliverance from this world of sin. He will answer those prayers. This persistent widow reminds me a bit of the first dog that we had when I was a kid. When my brother would try to practice piano she would come up and stick her nose right under his hand and bump it so that he would make a mistake. She would keep doing this until he got up from the piano bench and got her a treat from the cupboard and then she would go lie down until she was ready for another treat. Jesus calls us to be persistent like this in our prayers. To trust that He is coming again and to pray that it would happen soon so that we can be saved from our adversaries. He promises us that He is coming and urges us not to lose hope and to be persistent in our prayers because it is a question of “when” not “if.”
But even with this promise doubt still lingers. As we deal with our adversary, the devil, every day and the consequences of sin we can start to wonder if this deliverance is ever going to come. Or maybe as the delay goes on and we don’t see Jesus coming back we just start to forget about it altogether. Maybe it has just drifted out of our minds and we don’t think about it anymore. Sometime I wonder if that is the situation in churches today. Do we really truly believe anymore that Jesus is coming again?
That brings us to the next part of our verse and what Jesus says to us today, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth.” Jesus is coming, that is certain, but when He comes will He find faith on the earth? Will there be faithful people who believe in Him? This ought to be a scary question for us. Especially as we see churches everywhere shrinking and less and less people bother to go to church on Sunday. When Jesus comes again will there be faithful people on this earth? Notice, Jesus does not say “Will there be churches?” but, “Will there be faith?” There will be churches, churches will still exist, but will the people in those churches be faithfully looking forward to the coming of Jesus? Will they be eagerly waiting and praying for the deliverance that Jesus promised? Or, will they have given up hope? Will they have forgotten about this promise from Jesus altogether?
Those are tough questions and if we take Jesus seriously and our faith in Jesus seriously then they should also be questions that shake us up a bit. Will there be faith on the earth when Jesus comes back? If it were up to us the answer would be no. You and I cannot cause faith to exist in our own hearts let alone cause faith to exist in the rest of the world. We can’t, by our own reason or strength, believe in Jesus or come to Him and we can’t cause other people to believe in Jesus either. Human hearts and minds are sinful, they cannot believe or understand who Jesus is, they can’t choose to trust in Him or believe His promises, sinful hearts can’t choose to have faith or keep the faith that they have been given.
But it’s not up to us, it is up to God and His Holy Spirit. And He has given us what it needed in order to keep this faith that He has given to us. He has given us His Word, signed, sealed, and delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus. His Word that speaks life into our dead bodies and forgiveness into our guilty hearts. His Word that speaks faith into us. And He knows that doubts and questions that assail us, so for the times when words don’t seem like enough He gives us something more. In bread and wine at this communion rail He gives us the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus so that we can taste and see that the Lord our God is good. And, finally, He gives us prayer so that we can call out to Him in our distress and know that He will hear and that He will deliver us on the day when Jesus comes again.
Jesus is coming. That’s a “when” not an “if”. And when He comes He will find faith on the earth because as long as God’s Word is taught and read there will be faith. The Lord will bring to completion the good work that He has begun in us and that will happen on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ, the day when He comes again. And so, knowing that our Lord is coming to save us, let us always pray and never lose hope. Amen.