Chapter breaks bother me. In fictional literature, chapter breaks change a scene. They may even move the story up a decade. But in scripture, chapter breaks don't always change the story. Probably the best example of a chapter break that does major harm to the meaning of the writing is found in I Thessalonians 4 and 5. That chapter break has led many down a false path of understanding, but alas, that is not a discussion for today.
Let's talk about the persistent widow. Have you heard of her? Her story is found at the beginning of Luke 18 (hint, hint - chapter break). Verse one says, "Now He was telling a parable to show that at all times they oughts to pray and not to lose heart."
If I was reading this as a new idea or a new storyline, I would think, "Oh, this is just Jesus' advice for when life gets hard."
The story goes on to describe a judge who did not fear God nor did he respect the people he served. A certain widow repeatedly contacted him for legal protection from her opponent. Now we don't know what the issue was - we only know she did not have a husband to battle this opponent, therefore the widow was calling upon the judge to defend her. The judge ignored her pleas but over time she wore him down. Finally he said, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out."
She wore him down and got what she so desperately needed - protection.
Jesus then goes on to say, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?"
Okay, point taken. If we really want God's ear, we have to pray day and night.
But you have to admit, the "crying day and night" is rather interesting. What would make the elect cry day and night? They would really, really have to be distressed, don't you think?
Now, we could just stop there and make the simple application that we have to really be bothersome when we pray and God will eventually give in. Is that what He wants us to know?
Well, just to check ourselves, let's read another verse: "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Whoa. That verse is kind of a game changer, don't you think? Why did Jesus throw in something about His return? What does that have to do with anything?
Context, context, context. This actually is the end of an end times discourse by Jesus. The problem is that it started in chapter 17 and when we see the number 18, we assume that it's a new thought. In this case, 18:1-8 should have been attached to chapter 17.
In chapter 17, Jesus describes His return in a few ways:
- like lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to another (v. 24)
- like the days of Noah, where people were not even paying attention until it was too late (v. 26,27)
- like in the days of Lot, where once again there was no concern but daily life will be suddenly interrupted by his return (v. 28-30)