Jesus said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.”
Jesus says that’s what God is like. Not like a widow who persistently goes looking for justice. Not like a bailiff dutifully following orders. Not even like a stenographer observing and recording every little detail of a trial.
God is like the unjust judge.
Jesus is saying to us here, in ways both strange and captivating, that God is willing to do for us what we need for no other reason than the fact that it will get all of us off of God’s back.
Jesus spins the tale and we are left with the bewildering knowledge that God is content to fix all of our mess even while we’re stuck in the midst of it.
In other words: While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.
There are few sentences in scripture as unnerving and beautiful as that one. It’s beautiful because its true and it includes all of us. But it’s unnerving precisely because it includes all of us!
We might like to imagine that God is waiting around hoping to dispense a little bit of perfection like manna from heaven if we just offer the right prayer or rack up the right amount of good works.
But Jesus’ story about the unjust judge screams the contrary. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Do you think it makes the least bit of difference to God whether or not you are right, or if your case is just? Truly I tell you, God isn’t looking for the right, or the good, or the true, or the beautiful. God is looking for the lost, and you are all lost whether you think you are lost or not.”
Jesus tells this parable as Golgotha and the cross get clearer and clearer on the horizon. The cross is God’s mercy made most manifest. Just like the unjust judge, God hung up the ledger-keeping forever while Jesus was hung up on the cross. The cross is God, as the judge, declaring a totally ridiculous verdict of forgiveness over a whole bunch of unrepentant losers like the widow, like me, and like you.
The cross is a sign to all of us and to the world that there is no angry judge waiting to dispense a guilty verdict on all who come into the courtroom – there is therefore no condemnation because there is no condemner.
The old hymn has it right: “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine; alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine, bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own!”
Thanks be to God.