Sermon for Pentecost 20 – 10.23.22

+20th Sunday after Pentecost – October 23rd, 2022 +

Series C: Genesis 4:1-15; 2 Timothy 4:6-18; Luke 18:9-17

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA


“The Pharisee and the Tax Collector”


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


As a kid I always enjoyed watching Shaggy, Scooby, and the gang set out on their capers, follow the clues, until they finally caught the bad guy. And just about every episode ended the same way: the villain was unmasked.


Jesus is doing something similar in today’s gospel reading from Luke 18. Jesus is unmasking the villain of self-righteousness. Jesus is revealing….


“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt…”


Notice the setup by Luke. Jesus delivers this parable to whom? No one called out by name. No specific group called out. It’s simply addressed… To some who trusted in themselves. If that doesn’t make us squirm a little bit already at the beginning of this parable, it should. Kind of like the old joke…”Pastor, that was a great sermon on humility. I know someone who really needs to hear that.”


“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 


Jesus is setting up the parable. For his first century hearers, the Pharisee is the good guy. Religious. Pious. Admired and respected in the community. And on top of it all he fasted twice a week and gave a tenth of all he had, down to herbs in his garden.


The tax collector, on the other hand, would’ve been seen as the bad guy. He was despised. A sellout. Traitor scum. He paid the tax of his region to Caesar in return for a license to collect whatever he could from his own people.


Now, when we hear this parable, we tend to hear it just the opposite. We imagine it almost like one of those western melodramas. When the pharisee takes the stage. We jeer: Boooo. Hissss. When the tax collector kneels down we cheer: huzzah. And applause.


We think we know who the bad guy, who the villain is. It’s easy. We get it. Jesus is telling this parable to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. We love watching Jesus go after the pharisees. Just listen to how the pharisee prays… I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 


Listen to this guy. I…I…I. It’s a prayer all about him. And he’s so judgmental. He’s so arrogant. He thinks he’s better than everybody else. He’s so proud of doing the right thing all the time. Pharisees are the worst. Thank you Lord, I’m not like them.


Do you see what our Lord has done? By telling this simple story, our Lord has unmasked us. You are the pharisee. I am the pharisee. Jesus speaks this parable against me. He reveals our own self-righteousness and our trusting in ourselves. After all, there are only two places we can really put our trust and faith in…either in ourselves or in Christ. And this was the pharisee’s problem and ours.


And this is what our Lord’s parable does. It unmasks us. It reveals that all too often we place our trust in ourselves, and not in Christ.


The only way to become the good guy in this story is to realize that we are in fact the bad guy. The way of life in God’s kingdom is to realize that we are dead in our trespasses and sin. The way of healing is to realize we are deathly ill and in need of Jesus the good physician. The way to becoming the tax collector is to see that within each of us there is a proud, self-righteous, self-centered, pharisee.


But of course, that’s the point. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…by God, but the one who is humbled by God will be exalted…by God. When we are humbled, it’s God’s doing. When we’re exalted it’s God’s doing. It’s all his doing for us.


So, our Lord humbles us in order to exalt us. He unmasks our villainous sin so that he can clothe us in Christ’s redeeming righteousness. When all we deserve is the judgment of the pharisee, instead, our Lord Jesus gives us the mercy of the tax collector and sends us home justified.


When all we deserved was a guilty verdict, our Lord pardons us. Jesus took all our self-righteous, all the times we’ve trusted in ourselves, every thought and word of contempt for others and he humbled himself unto death on the cross in order to exalt you in his dying and rising.


In Christ, we too, pray the prayer of the tax collector. We pray the prayer of the pardoned sinner. We pray with the tax collector, covered in the mercy and atoning sacrifice of Jesus.


‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’


Remember the location where this parable takes place. It’s the temple. The place of sacrifice. The place where God made atonement for his people. That’s what this tax collector is praying for, not just mercy, but the mercy that comes in the atoning sacrifice for sins. And that is exactly what Jesus gives freely, abundantly, graciously to you in his dying and rising. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, for the pharisee, the tax collector, for you and me. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for all the times you’ve trusted in yourself.


Whenever we come to our Lord’s house, we come before our Lord as pharisees, humbled by his word. And yet, even though we have nothing but empty, beggar hands before God, we leave here as tax collectors.


Today, and every day in Jesus, you go home justified by grace through faith in Christ.



In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

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Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

By appointment only June and July


2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
(253) 922-6977
(253) 922-6977