The Unrighteous Judge vs. The Persistent Widow.
We often think of this parable, which is an important part of our Armenian Lenten tradition, in terms of the Unrighteous Judge. This, the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, is in fact therefore called the Sunday of the Judge.
What I would like to do however, is to focus rather on the second very important figure in the parable. This person is the Persistent Widow. The widow would’ve been considered a marginalized and an unimportant person in the community.
While the Widow according to the rabbinic law was unable to inherit the wealth of her deceased husband, the scriptures state, concerning the social justice of religious life among God’s chosen people, that there should be both communal care for “the orphan, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12) and a warning not to oppress a widow or an orphan. “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their cry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans (Exodus 22:21-3).”
In the parable, one can understand that his very offense must have likely occurred. We learn that the widow urges the judge to avenge her against her adversary. The judge who is not interested in what he considered her petty plea, because we was not concerned with the divine mandate and warning, ignored her and her petition, as “He neither feared God nor did he regard the people.” This shows his arrogance, lack of mercy, and his disregard for God’s word and authority.
What the widow does is very enlightening for us and is the basis of the benefit of this parable for our own spiritual piety. She persistently badgers the judge to hear her case. One has to imagine that Jesus’ implication is that she is genuine in her plea for justice is suffering the consequence as a real victim of some abuse and or neglect. It gets to the point where the judge is so fed up with her persistent pleas that he decides that he’ll hear her case, not to seek justice, but so that he might once and for all be done with her. Our Lord contrasts the evil and selfish desire of the unrighteous judge with the loving and merciful desire for the salvation of his people.
God, who is the righteous judge, is quick to hear the petition of His people for the sake of His only begotten Son for whom he offers his life and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that the ancient Hebrew text of the old testament scriptures refer to the throne of God as “the judgment seat” (Ezekiel 43:13-15), where the official Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, uses the word “hilastarion”, which translates into the mercy seat. The Greek and therefore also the Armenian translated from the Greek Old Testament, captures in its meaning and context the ideas include atonement, redemption, sacrifice, propitiation and forgiveness.
Saint Paul in the letter to the Romans expounds on the meaning of God’s mercy by stating for the believer and the one who trusts in Christ as “… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God Himself hath set forth to be an expiation through faith in His blood” (Romans 3.24-25).
As we know, Lent is a time for strict preparation in order to receive the great benefits of the revelation of Christ our risen Lord who died on our behalf and rose from the dead for our redemption and salvation.
So too does the church invite us into a deeper relationship with God, being more vigilant in the persistence of our prayers and petitions for His mercy, Through Christ our Lord to whom is befitting glory dominion and Owner together with His Father and the Holy Spirit now and always and onto the ages of ages, Amen.