The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. We all have an “inner Pharisee.” Whether it’s in our piety and religion, or our schoolwork, or our sports skills, or in friends and social life, it doesn’t matter. We all have areas where we are convinced we’re better than others and we think it’s a shame they don’t measure up. The great temptation is to carry that into our faith so that we somehow get the notion in our heads that we’re not only better than pagans, but also our fellow Christians. We go from desiring God’s mercy to desiring His congratulations. Repent of being a Pharisee!
When Jesus came, He came to be both the best of what you are not and the worst of what you are! Jesus is the one guy who can claim to be better than you at everything: loving God and loving His neighbor. But instead of saying, “I’m glad I’m not like them, Father!” He keeps the Law and lives a perfect life FOR you—to count for you.
But Jesus also takes on your sin. In fact, Jesus is so obedient to His Father, He might pray something like this: “I thank you, Father, that I am like those other men: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, and tax collectors—sinners—so that I can take their judgment on me to the cross and do Your will!” Think about that! Christ was “made to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), that we would become the righteousness of God in Him.
That’s what it means when Jesus says the humble will be lifted up. You are humble. Dead in your sins. Doomed. But you have this one hope and confidence: Jesus has taken your sins away. So put to death your inner Pharisee and pray, “God, I thank you that you have made me like Jesus. Made me Your son in Holy Baptism. Lifted me up by His Body and Blood. Forgiven me all my sins.” That’s our cry for mercy! And Jesus and His gifts are the Lord’s answer. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Praise be to Him who, Lord Most High, The fullness of the Godhead shares; And yet our human nature bears, Who came as man to bleed and die. And from His cross there flows our peace Who chose for us the path he trod, That so might sins and sorrows cease And all be reconciled to God. (Praise Be to Christ, LSB 538:3)