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The Long Wait

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

It seems that we spend much of our life waiting.

Waiting started when we were children. We waited for holidays and outings. We waited for that next birthday. And the time we spent waiting passed so slowly; it seemed as if the anticipated day would never arrive.

As adults we may no longer want time to pass so quickly. If anything, we would probably like it to slow down a bit because we never seem to have enough time.

But still we find ourselves waiting: we wait in line at the store; at work we wait for a raise or promotion; we wait for a vacation or retirement. We wait for troubles to pass, for pain to subside, for injuries to heal, for burdens to be lifted.

As we wait, we also pray. And the help for which we pray can seem to be a long time in coming. To help us endure the wait and not give up, Jesus has given us the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8).

The woman in the parable was waiting for justice. She had an adversary who was taking advantage of her. Her wait for justice must have been a long and difficult one. She had to make visit after visit to a judge who was not at all sympathetic. He considered her a nuisance and turned a deaf ear to her appeals. He would not grant her petition for justice “for a while.” Yet he finally acted on her behalf—just to rid himself of her annoying presence in his courtroom.

By this parable the Lord would encourage us “to pray and not
lose heart.” 

In our waiting and praying we are not dealing with an unjust judge who does not care about us but we are coming to a heavenly Father to whom we are most dear for the sake of His Son Jesus who shed His blood for us. He will surely give us the help we need, even though He “bears long” with us.

Jesus ends this encouraging parable with a question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” He reminds us that our waiting is not just for some desired blessing or for relief from some vexing trouble.

What we are really waiting for is Christ’s promised Second Coming. That is when we will finally experience the fullness of the blessings of our redemption and fully enjoy our standing as God’s children. That is when we will finally have every burden lifted and be freed forever from all pain and sorrow.

It is the wait for His coming that is the long one. It has been a long wait for the Church; two thousand years have passed since Jesus told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2,3).

And it is a hard wait, for we have to endure the taunts of scoffers who say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).

The wait for Jesus’ coming is so long and so hard that He asks whether at His return He will find any at all still waiting for Him.

The answer to Jesus’ question is surely “yes.” The wait will be long, but Jesus has given us the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament. Through these the Holy Spirit sustains our faith so that we do not lose heart but continue to look for Jesus’ coming.

And knowing that Jesus lives and reigns at the Father’s right hand, we also continue to pray and wait confidently for His help.