I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis is a baseball town. We love our Cardinals and baseball in general, but as a kid, baseball was too slow for me. I was much more into Blues hockey. The pace of the National Hockey League (NHL) held my attention from the opening faceoff until the final buzzer. I am a big fan of both sports these days and spend more hours than I would like to account for watching and listening to both.
October is this magical month where I get both sports. The NHL is just beginning, and the winner of the World Series will soon be determined.
Baseball is slow. Hockey is fast. Baseball does not have a clock (though we will get to see the pitch clock implemented next season as Major League Baseball tries to accelerate the game a bit). Hockey has three twenty-minute periods, with the average shift of a player lasting just forty-seven seconds at a time. And if the hockey game goes into overtime, it is “sudden death,” which can end in the blink of an eye.
Imagine the Blues are ahead of the Blackhawks by one goal, with two minutes left to go in the third period. Objectively, the final 120 ticks of the clock will take exactly two minutes. It will be the same two minutes for the Blues as it will be for the Blackhawks but consider how each team experiences those final 120 seconds.
For the team ahead, the clock comes to a crawl. Every time the coach or player glances up at the timer, no time seems to have passed. They are holding on for dear life, willing the clock to accelerate. Their emotional efforts have the same effect as yanking on the reigns to get a donkey to speed up; it digs in and comes to a grinding halt.
But for the team behind, the same clock in those moments is racing full speed ahead. The seconds go blurring by and seem to be picking up the pace at every glance. The puck cannot slide across the ice fast enough to keep up with the quickly depleting supply of time draining out of the overhead scoreboard.
The actual time does not change, but our perspective can make it feel long or short, fast or slow, speedy or delaying.
When we had our first child, she was not much of a sleeper (read: she did not sleep through the night for three entire years). My wife and I were tired... all the time. A lady at church shared a saying which was catchy enough in the moment but has since proven profoundly true. She told us, “The nights are long, but the years are short.” Each night felt like it would never end. But just last month that little girl who did not sleep through the night started middle school. I went from not being able to shut my eyes for ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep, to blinking a couple times, and now we are talking about driver’s ed.
Peter reminds us, “Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). Our eternal and omniscient God experiences time differently than we do, even as He entered into time in Jesus.
Our eternal and omniscient God experiences time differently than we do, even as He entered into time in Jesus.
Scripture points us forward in hope to The Day or That Day: The Day when Jesus returns and finally makes all things new. When will “That Day” be? Perhaps today, but perhaps in ten million days. For some, the end cannot come quickly enough. For others, their final breath or Christ’s immanent return will come too soon.
The point of Jesus’ parable is clear enough. The rhetoric is straightforward, “If even this, then how much more that?” On top of it all, Luke tells us exactly what he wants us to get from Jesus’ words: “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Keep praying. Hang in there. If this worthless judge will make sure the status-less widow has things made right because she keeps asking, how much more will our loving Heavenly Father provide for His dear children who cry out to Him? It is a straightforward teaching.
But beyond the content of Jesus’ parable, I am interested in helping our hearers experience the force of it as it relates to our experience of time.
Luke 17:20-37 just told us about the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus then tells this parable and Luke prefaces the parable by telling us the point: Do not lose heart (implying there will be cause and time to lose heart). Inspired by the Spirit, Luke knows it will be tough to wait for our Lord’s return. It is difficult to keep praying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...” over and over again, only to see so much hurt and brokenness in the world.
The parable emphasizes the difficulty of waiting. The woman kept going to the Judge Because she kept bothering him, he finally yields so she would not beat him down by her continual coming. The number of words used to convey duration is quite significant relative to the length of the parable.
On the one hand, Jesus highlights how much greater God is than this judge. But on the other hand, Jesus maintains a certain continuity of time with the parable. “And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them?” Jesus seems to be saying God will not delay. But Jesus also admits the saints are crying out day and night.
Will the Kingdom of God come quickly or slowly? “The nights are long, but the years are short.” Will the trumpet (or buzzer?) sound quickly or slowly? Objectively, it will happen when it happens. The Kingdom will be manifest when the King wills it, and rest assured, He is a good King.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
In our preaching, we can acknowledge the difficulty of enduring in faith and waiting for God’s Kingdom, even as we point them to our gracious God and King and the comfort of knowing that neither our waiting nor our prayers are in vain.
Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Luke 18:1-8.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 18:1-8.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 18:1-8.