The Pharisee And The Publican

Luke 18:9-14  And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

This is a parable, but in my mind; I have almost ascribed it as being real.

I.    There is no record of exactly who Jesus was speaking to.

A.  Because Jesus used the Pharisee and publican as an example, it would seem he was speaking to neither of these groups.

B.   There is no problem with Jesus using either group as example even if they were present.

1.   In Matt. 23, Jesus spoke directly to the Pharisees, calling them snakes, and robbers of widows.

2.   Jesus spoke directly to Zacchaeus, calling him a child of Abraham before he made that confession.

3.   Jesus always spoke the truth about all peoples.

C.   I do not believe that Jesus was saying that all Pharisees were lost and all publicans were saved.

1.   He is using the Pharisees as an example of people who trust in their own works of righteousness as a means of salvation.

a)   Whoever Jesus was speaking to, it was well known to them that the Pharisees believed they were better than others.

b)   The Pharisees themselves, however, were blind to how other perceived them.

c)   It is interesting to note that the Pharisee believed he was much better than the publican, but he was much worse.

d)   The Pharisee believed his intentions were good, honorable, and God honoring.

2.   He is using the publicans as an example of people who do not have any good works of their own to trust for salvation.

a)   Whoever Jesus was speaking to, it was well known that the publicans were a hated and despised group of people.

b)   The publicans were (more than likely) blind to how others perceived them.

c)   It is very interesting to note that the publican believed he was much worse than the Pharisee, but he was much better.

d)   The publican believed his intentions were bad, dishonorable, and wicked.


II.   The publican is a "tax-farmer", a collector of public revenue.

A.  A publican is a political office created by the Romans to help collect taxes in the provinces. Actually, the title "tax collector" is more correct than the older term "publican" in referring to the lowest rank in the structure.  In New Testament times people bid for the job of chief tax collector and then exacted the tax plus a profit from the citizens. Most of the offices were filled by Romans, although some natives got the bids.

B.   In the parable of the two sons going into the field, Jesus placed the publicans and the harlots in the same category.

C.   Jesus was accused of eating with and befriending them (Matt. 9:11).

D.  Jesus spoke this parable to certain people who were trusting in themselves that they were righteous enough to go into heaven of their own acts, and despised others who they considered unable to live such righteous lives as themselves.

1.   There have been those in every generation who believe they are not like others.

a)   They believe their are more righteous than others.

b)   They believe their way of doing things is the only way to do things, and those people that don't do things like they are doing them aren't doing them correctly.

2.   The generation we are living in is no exception.

a)   Those are those "Pharisees" still alive today.

b)   They believe they are better than everybody else, and that everybody else would do good if they would look up to them and their righteousness.

3.   Acts 26:5 - Paul was a Pharisee, and the only way he receive salvation is to become like the publican.

a)   Paul said the Pharisees listening to him knew this was so, if they would only remember and testify of this fact.

b)   Phil. 3:4-7 - If anybody could have confidence in the flesh, it was Paul, who was a Pharisee, but those things that were gain to him, he counted as lost to God.


III. Similarities between the Pharisee and the publican.

A.  Both went to the temple to pray.

1.   The Pharisee.

a)   The temple was a place he was familiar with, but he wasn't familiar with the God of the temple.

b)   He went to the temple to tell God how good he was, just in case God didn't know.

c)   He went to the temple because the building reinforced his "feelings" of religion.

2.   The publican.

a)   He wasn't exactly familiar with the temple, not traversing its corridors often.

b)   He went to the temple because he knew this was the earthly dwelling place of God.

c)   He intended to get in contact with God, not just go to the temple.

B.   Both prayed.

1.   The Pharisee.

a)   The Pharisee's prayer was to himself, as he believed he was a god unto himself.

b)   His prayer didn't reach unto heaven, although he "felt" it did.

c)   He was sure God would hear him because he did all sorts of good things.

d)   He didn't realize he did good things for bad motives.

e)   He literally asked God for justice, not mercy.

2.   The publican.

a)   He prayed directly to God, but didn't thank Him for anything.

b)   He had nothing to be thankful for.

c)   He recognized himself a sinner before God.

d)   He asked for the mercy of God.

e)   Mercy is what a person asks for when they realize they are guilty and are standing before the judge, and they know the judge can righteously condemn them to an everlasting hell.

C.   They were both of Adam's race.

1.   They both had the seed of sin within them.

2.   They were both on the way to hell when they went to the temple.

3.   The Pharisee was still on the way to hell when he left the temple, but the publican was bound for heaven.


IV. Differences between the Pharisee and the publican

A.  Their station in life was different.

1.   The Pharisee held what he considered to be a valued, high position.

2.   The Pharisee didn't know that others considered his religion of no value.

3.   The publican knew he was despised, but his condemnation came from within, not from without.

B.   Their acts were different.

1.   The Pharisee did what he thought God wanted him to do, and this made him proud.

a)   The Pharisee had many "wonderful" works he said he was doing for God.

b)   These included;

(1)  extortion - He believed he wasn't using his position for personal gain, even though he also believed that his personal righteousness, which he gained though his position, made God smile on him; therefore he was an extortioner.

(2)  unjust - He believed he was just before God, and didn't realize he was unjust.

(3)  adultery - He believed he was pure in his flesh, even though his mind was corrupted.

(4)  He looked down on the publican, despising him, because the Pharisee thought his acts made him a better person than the publican.

(5)  He fasted twice a week.  Fasting was supposed to be a time when a person was so close to God in prayer that he would forget to eat.  Fasting was not supposed to be done like the Pharisees, who set a time, then disfigured their faces so everybody would know they were fasting.

(6)  He gave tithes of all that he possessed.  Giving tithes is never wrong, but Jesus stated in Matt. 23:23 that it is also never right to omit the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy and faith.  It is always wrong to compare the amount we give with the amount others give.

2.   The publican cheated people, and he knew his earthly possessions had been gained under false pretensions.

a)   The publican had nothing to do with the Pharisees, except to collect their taxes.

b)   The publican ran with a different crowd, who were also sinners and knew they were sinners.

C.   Their hearts were different.

1.   The Pharisee never realized his outward righteousness wasn't enough.

a)   Outward acts will never justify a person before God.

b)   Outward acts will never cause the heart of a person to be cleansed.

c)   The heart can only be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

2.   The publican realized that inward righteousness was acceptable to God.

a)   Inward righteousness will work it way out to the flesh.

b)   Inward righteousness will cause the acts of the body to be correct, and acceptable before God.


V.  Some points about the parable.

A.  The word "despised" doesn't mean to be hated, it means to be set at nought, contemptible, to be esteemed less than oneself.

B.   The Pharisee.

1.   He stood, showing his rebellion against God and His commandments.

2.   The standing of the Pharisee seems to be prominent in the story.

3.   Zech. 14:12 - And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

4.   Rom. 14:11 - For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

5.   Phil. 2:10,11 - That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

6.   Rev. 20:12 - And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

7.   The lost continually stand before God, not realizing His omnipotence, nor His total control over them and their individual situation.

a)   They fail to recognize His sovereignty over them in salvation and judgment.

b)   That doesn't stop God from judging them in righteousness and truth.

C.   The "good" works of the Pharisee.

1.   He thought he was God.

a)   He called himself God.

b)   He prayed to himself, calling himself God.

2.   He didn't believe he was like other men.

a)   There is none good, no, not one.

b)   There is no difference, Jew or Gentile, all are under the condemnation of sin.

c)   He said he was not an extortioner.

(1)  An extortioner is a person that uses his position to gain favor.

(2)  This Pharisee was an extortioner because he was using his position as a Jew and what he believed to be good works to gain favor with God

d)   He said he was not unjust.

(1)  He was looking at what he considered righteous deeds of the flesh, but didn't see the inward wickedness of his own heart.

(2)  In verse 14, Jesus said the publican was justified and the Pharisee wasn't.

e)   He said he wasn't an adulterer.

(1)  In John 8:3-11, the Pharisees brought a woman to Christ who they said had been taken in the very act of adultery.

(2)  All of these Pharisees were convicted by their own conscience that they were also guilty of adultery, so none of them could cast the first stone at the women.

f)    He said he wasn't like this publican.

(1)  I believe he said this with a slur in his voice that reflected the pride in his heart.

(2)  In truth, the Pharisee wasn't like the publican.

(3)  The publican knew he was a sinner and the Pharisee didn't.

D.  The publican stood.

1.   His standing doesn't seem to be the prominent way we look at him.

2.   The fact that the publican is standing is overshadowed by the fact that he stands afar off from the temple.

3.   The publican didn't attempt to get close to the temple of God, the symbol of God's presence.

4.   Instead, he wanted to get close to the God of the temple.

E.   Other acts of the publican.

1.   He wouldn't lift up his eyes unto heaven.

a)   He had no "righteous" deeds to bring before God.

b)   He realized there was nothing good about him.

2.   He smote upon his breast.

a)   He beat himself upon his chest as a symbol of his great grief toward God because of his utter and complete sinfulness.

b)   It wasn't his outward act that caused him to be justified before God.

c)   His outward act was a reflection of his inward grief and sorrow of heart.

3.   He prayed what many call the sinners prayer.

a)   His praying didn't save him.

b)   Praying won't save you - Jesus saves.

c)   Many believe if you will pray the "sinners prayer", you will be saved, but this isn't so.


VI. The end result.

A.  The Pharisee returned home exactly the way he came.

B.   The publican returned home justified before God.

1.   He will have to gain justification before men day by day as he changed his lifestyle and lives for God.

2.   He now has an eternal home in heaven.