Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
"Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." (cf. verse 1)
Jesus and his disciples are still on their way to Jerusalem. Before the beginning of today's pericope, Jesus told them about his return. Now he asks his disciples not to tire themselves out in the life of prayer before the goal is reached, that is, if his return is delayed. The exhortation to prayer here is closely linked to the expectation of his return. We must ask ourselves whether the desire for Jesus' coming is really the deepest object of our prayers. Are we really counting on the Lord's return today or tomorrow? For if we really expected it, we would not relax our prayers. But if we put it off thinking that it is not so urgent, we will very easily tire in our prayer.
"There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'" (cf. verse 2-5).
It is because of this risk of weariness that Jesus proposes the parable of the unjust judge. He expresses himself in a very radical way so that what he has to say to us is clear. The judge is deliberately called ungodly, selfish and unjust. He simply does not want to help the widow to claim her rights. He hopes that she will eventually give in, while he keeps rejecting her. Because at that time, a widow was a defenseless and unprotected person, who was actually easy to push away. No one would stand up for her. But this widow does not give in. She keeps coming to him. And now the judge finally agrees with her, lest she hit him in the face again.
"The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them?" (cf. verses 6-7)
In the interpretation of the parable, Jesus now contrasts the unjust judge with the just God. If this unjust judge has already helped - out of fear - how much more will God help his elect to obtain justice - out of love!
It is expressly stated here: the law - so with an article. It is the right par excellence, namely salvation at the return of the Lord. God will bring justice and salvation to His elect. And these elect are a special object of God's concern, for they cry out to Him day and night, i.e. they persevere in prayer. The cry is meant to express the intensification of the request: they do not slacken, but rather increase their demand for the Lord's coming - despite or precisely because of the prolonged delay in answering. So it is precisely when the answer to prayer seems to be delayed that supplication should not weaken, but even intensify.
For us too, this is a recurring danger: we quickly become lax in our requests to God if they are not immediately answered - and as we wish. Jesus gives us a clear answer here: the more time passes, the more we must intensify our prayers and not slacken.
We regularly find that our prayers seem to go unheard. And indeed, God often makes us wait for reasons of wisdom and love. This is not discontent with the "bad" world, but patience with His chosen ones, for this waiting must grow something in us so that God can answer us. At first, our requests are often superficial. It is only by praying with perseverance that we can see if our requests are serious and if we really expect something from God. Just as the widow asks the judge, her people must pray to God with perseverance. And unlike the merciless judge, God never rejects, only sometimes keeps silent to build up trust in the one who asks. And on the basis of this trust and faith, God can then answer in a totally different way from what we may ask. This waiting is therefore a means of purifying our discipleship, it is a development towards spiritual maturity: an immature man will immediately stop praying if his request is not immediately fulfilled as he wishes. The precondition for God's action is faith. The fact that I keep asking is an expression of trust and faith: I trust this God, even if I have inner emotional doubts. I cannot dispel these doubts, but I take steps of faith by continuing to pray and ask. It is this act of faith that is decisive.
"I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily." (cf. verse 8a)
Here the Greek literally says: "I tell you, God will bring them justice with all speed" - so here to there is the article again, it is not just any right, but the right.
With regard to this 'in haste', one might often have the impression that this is not the case, but that, on the contrary, we often have to wait a very long time. But this "in haste" is a divine measure of time, namely with regard to the whole time of waiting in patience. As soon as God can and will act, as soon as my trust and faith have grown, he will act immediately. But he cannot rush into redemption faster than his wisdom and love allow and that is really for our salvation. If he did so too soon, the fulfillment would be too superficial or perhaps even to our detriment. But since we cannot ultimately decide and know this ourselves, we should leave it to his wisdom and love. This is the meaning of this waiting.
"But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (cf. verse 8b)
All that is to come will finally and suddenly come to pass at the end of days. Indeed, it is still about the Lord's return and perseverance in prayer when it is delayed. But this perseverance in prayer applies of course to all our ways of praying and to all that we ask of him. And then that day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly.
But will the returning Son of Man - again, not just any faith, but faith - find faith? Jesus is talking here about the very concrete faith of not getting tired of praying for his coming, the faith that perseveres. This question of the Lord should in fact encourage us not to grow weary in the prayer of faith and not to slacken off. For his question is unfortunately only too justified: "But will the Son of Man, when he comes, still find faith on earth? ∎