13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven,
How often don’t we feel like this? We sin. We fall. And within us, the Holy Spirit is grieved. And because we are children of God, new creations now destined to be holy as His Son, we are disgusted with ourselves. We are convicted of our sin, and the last thing we want to do is look at God. Our shame, our guilt, it weighs us down, and our fallen nature screams for us to hide from God like Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8). It’s easier to fall back than push forward.
but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
And yet, God is our Father, and He takes our growth and our sanctification more seriously than we ever will. He sought Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:9); he seeks us too until we can do no more than drag ourselves to “the temple to pray” like the tax collector in this parable (Luke 18:10). And then, through our shame and guilt, we break down and cry out for mercy. Not just apologise; cry out, as if it is more important to us than air to breathe. That’s when we learn what the psalmist means: “your steadfast love is better than life” (Ps. 63:3).
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
The result? That beautiful word, “justified” (δεδικαιωμένος in the text). We are put right with God. We are declared innocent; a clear slate; a clear account; no debt.
This is what happens when a person trusts in Christ. This is what the gospel is about. This is what every human being desperately needs, though most live their lives without knowing. But I think this parable speaks to more than our salvation. How can it also not apply to our daily walk with Christ? How can we know God more and more and not be crushed by our sin to the point of breaking?
It’s a blessed time, when we can’t even lift our eyes to heaven; not because of what caused it, but because of what can come after it. Because God can even turn our sins into instruments of His discipleship, and bring forth His glory through them.