Read Luke 18:9-14
Though the focus of these meditations will be on the Gospel of Mark, with a smattering of Johannine passages, we begin with an encouraging and comforting word from Luke. The story of the Pharisee and publican is found only in the third evangelist’s presentation of the Gospel, and the compilers of the lectionary recognized the importance and relevance of this parable to our day of penitence. And for our study it is a word that relates well to the message of Mark and his personal experience. Mark, as we shall see in the coming weeks, experienced a severe breaking. He came up short in the eyes and expectations of a man he admired and wanted to emulate. Later, however, he experienced the fruit of humble repentance.
In the parable of today’s lesson, Jesus contrasts two men, and two attitudes. Luke says, “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves…but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Mark fell short in his first attempt to evangelize, but under the tutelage of Barnabas and Peter, he humbled himself, and threw himself on the mercy of God. God redeemed and restored him. Jesus’ words in the parable could well have been uttered over Mark: “…this man went down to his house justified…”
On this Ash Wednesday we are reminded that God is infinitely merciful. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our sins from us” (Psalm 103:12). And for those who humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, they will be exalted, they will go down to their home justified.
There is no one more fervently rooting for us to succeed than Jesus Christ. He died that we might live. And as we shall see in the readings from John this week, He is continually making intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.