And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: (Luke 18:9)
Luke calls this (Luke18:9-14) a parable, but it is unlike many of the parables Jesus told wherein He would draw an illustration from real life experience and make a spiritual application. In this case, it seems that Jesus was commenting on something He had observed, perhaps on more than one occasion. The Greek word for “went up” (v. 10) is anébeesan, and it is in the aorist tense, indicative mood indicating that this is something that is certain or realized that took place in the past. His listeners were “certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (our text).
Two men went up to the temple to pray (v. 10). One was a Pharisee, admired and respected by all who listened, and the other was a hated publican, a tax collector viewed as a traitor to his own people. The Pharisee assumed an arrogant posture – head and hands raised up toward heaven, praying in a loud voice so that all could hear; the publican assumed a dejected posture away from public scrutiny – head bowed in humility, he beat his chest in deep remorse, praying in whispered tones. The proud Pharisee recounted his excellent attributes as if to remind God of how fortunate He was to have him as a son compared to the loathsome publican. The repentant publican could offer nothing but to beg for God’s mercy.
“Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick;” Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 1:17). The trouble with the self-righteous is that (in their own mind) they have no need for God or a Savior. Often, they think that God needs them! Speaking of the publican, Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified” (v. 14). If we want to be justified in our prayers, we should take a lesson from the publican.