Luke 18: 9-14 The Pharisee And The Publican CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
The Audience addressed by this parable was the self-righteous crowd. They trusted in themselves that “they were righteous.” To illustrate their true unrighteousness Jesus compared a Pharisee to a Publican. Observe:
Confident Approach – “he stood and prayed thus with himself” – you can tell by the publican standing afar off that this Pharisee is standing front and center – as a preacher said, he is of the generation “that are pure in their own eyes, and is not washed from their filthiness,” Prov 30:12 – he has forgotten the exhortation of Prov 25:6-7 which says, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen” – this man would not humble himself to be in the presence of sinners.
Conceited Appreciation – “God, I thank thee” – he really had very little for which to be thankful because he had done all that he was about to say himself – he was a grateful man but his prayer was so weighed down with pride that it could travel no higher than his head – in his prayer he presented no request for grace and so he received none – he sounds like a conceited actor or athlete thanking “God” for his talent and then receiving the accolades of his own accomplishments
Condescending Arrogance – v.11-12 – as he recounts his achievements, he reveals that he thought of himself as a good man “not as other men” – an honest man “not an extortioner” – a just man “not unjust” – a moral man “not an adulterer” – an honorable man “not a publican” – a temperate man “fast twice in the week” – a generous man “give tithes” – as a result of his opinion of himself which was formed based upon the character of his religious conduct, he despised others [v.9] – as a man said, he despised the publican, not because of his hatred for sin, but because of his spiritual pride and imagined moral superiority – had he truly understood and hated sin, he would have recognized sin in himself and his prayer would have been much different
Consequential Abasement – “everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased” – he exalted himself and so the Lord couldn’t – God resisteth the proud but giveth grace unto the humble – his idea of religion was not unmerited grace bestowed upon an undeserving sinner but rather the merits of favor with God based upon the observance and practice of a list of moral and ritualistic duties – now if you don’t have anything more than a list of sacraments and weekly, monthly, or yearly duties to show for your ‘faith’ you have no better religion than this self-righteous, unjustified, abased Pharisee – you may be a good citizen but you are still a lost sinner in need of the mercy of God
Humble Expression – “standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven” – this poor sinner recognized the great moral distance between God’s character and his own – he may have gone up WITH the Pharisee but he didn’t go up LIKE him – he stood afar off from God but, thank the Lord, God didn’t stand afar off from him – he understood the principle of humility – in 2 Chr 12:12 Rehoboam had been attacked by Shishak “And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the LORD turned from him, that he would not destroy him altogether: and also in Judah things went well” – Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up
Heartbroken Exclamation – “smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” – in smiting his breast he made it clear that no amount of outward righteousness could merit God’s mercy; his trouble, as ours, was in the heart – Mk 7:21-22 for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness – the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – he knew the problem was that he was a sinner – no matter how you view salvation in either testament, no one gets saved apart from the mercy of God – and the mercy of God is extended based upon the condition of the heart – “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe IN THINE HEART that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved,” Rom 10:9
Heavenly Expectation – “God be merciful to me” – this poor publican didn’t go up to the temple to say some prayers, he went up to pray – to have a personal dealing with a personal God – he needed mercy and nothing short of that would do – he knew that “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” Tit 3:5 even before Paul wrote it – the Pharisee went up to fulfill a religious man’s obligation; the publican went up to enjoy a lost man’s privilege – Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need
Honorable Exaltation – “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” – Prov 21:21 “he that followeth after righteousness and MERCY findeth life, righteousness, and honor” – and he found it with the Lord – as Charles Inglis wrote, he knew who he was [a sinner] – he knew where he belonged [afar off] – he knew how he felt [ashamed] – he knew what he needed [mercy] – he knew from whom to get it [God] – and he knew when he got it [this man went down to his house justified]
Conclusion: no one here, not even God himself, cares what you have accomplished or how good you think you are in your own estimation – the only concern on anyone’s heart today should be mercy – the Pharisee thought he was righteous and so rejected mercy; the publican knew he was unrighteous and so requested mercy – how will you come before God today, as a conceited, arrogant, unregenerate Pharisee or as a humble, heartbroken, soon to be regenerated publican – if you come as the latter you can go down to your house justified and be exalted in due time – 1 Pet 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time – how will you come? Will you come?