Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896. Unjust Judge and the Importunate Widow, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 17, 2022]. Original source: – Dalziel Brothers.

RCL Year C, Proper 24 (Alternate Readings)
Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 121, II Timothy 3:14–4:5, Saint Luke 18:1-8

Clearly, we are meant to compare favorably Jacob’s all night wrestling match to the widow’s continual demand for justice. Their persistence and their tenacity win the day. Jacob receives a new name, Israel, which means you have contended with divine beings or you have contended with God. The widow receives the justice she should have received long ago. And Jesus explains that God “will grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night.”[1] The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves his people and helps them. “[H]e will quickly grant justice to them,”[2] Jesus declares.

The sure and certain responsiveness of God to his people, who strive with God, however, is not where Jesus leaves the parable. He leaves it not with Jacob or the widow. He leaves it with countless others including you and me. He asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”[3] When Jesus comes again in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, will he find faithful people, like Jacob and the widow, who contend, who strive, and who demand that God be God, that God fulfill his promises to his people?

I do not know about you, but that question, where Jesus leaves the parable, fills me with strength and comfort. That strength and comfort come from Jesus’ and God’s acknowledgment that we are unhappy and fighting for what is right. God knows our struggle, and God blesses the struggle, and promises to relieve us in the end.

You know that Jacob is running from Esau his brother who is angry because he traded his birthright to Jacob and Jacob took it. Jacob must be prepared to fight to keep what has become rightfully his. Similarly, the widow has been wronged, and she must fight for what is right and for what is hers.

The unjust judge, who neither fears God nor respects people, we easily recognize. In him we see all the corrupt and self-serving people who would lead us if we would let them. In him we see also all the laws which protect the wrong people and all the laws which put the innocent at risk. We have endured these circumstances all our lives. God promises us a better world, and we are faithful to God if we demand that he bring it.

In the window above the altar [in a church not far from here] you may see a man holding on for dear life to the cross. There we all are, demanding that God keep his promises to his people. There we all are, and there we all shall be, until his kingdom comes.

[1] Saint Luke 18:7.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Saint Luke 18:8.