He told this next parable against those who trusted in their own righteous standing and despised others.
“Two men,” he said, “went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, one was a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed in this way to himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like the other people-greedy, unjust, immoral, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax-collector stood a long way off, and didn’t even want to raise his eyes to heaven. He beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am.’ Let me tell you, he was the one who went back to his house vindicated by God, not the other. Don’t you see? People who exalt themselves will be humbled, and people who humble themselves will be exalted.”
In looking through books on my shelves this week, while inspired by Jesus’ words in Luke 5 on new wineskins, and thinking of conversion and regeneration of heart, I came across A Theology of Luke and Acts by Darrell Bock. And I noticed that I had gone through the section on “Repentance” highlighting many parts of it. Re-reading them, I was reminded of why I highlighted these parts in this section, for they are wonderful reminders.
Reminders of truth, such as these are, like my friend Mike says, “like a chiropractic adjustment.”
I shall share them with you now:
It means to “change one’s mind,” but in its Lucan usage it comes close to the Hebrew verb for repent, which literally means “to turn, turn around.”
So repentance is a reorientation, a total shift of perspective from where one was before repenting.
To repent includes an awareness that as a sinner one has an unhealthy relationship with God that needs the “medical attention” of the Great Physician. Repentance involves recognizing that a person is spiritually sick and impotent, unable to help oneself. Repentance is turning to Jesus for spiritual healing, for treatment of one’s heart and life, for one knows that only Jesus can give “the cure.”
So the sinner who repents to receive salvation comes to Jesus, knowing that only he can heal the relationship to God and deal with sin and its consequences.
Faith in Jesus is where the process ends, but to get there, a person changes his or her mind about sin and God and turns to God to receive the offer of salvation through Jesus.
This response is wrapped up in the ideas of repenting and turning, just as repenting and turning are wrapped up in faith. One who turns to God follows in God’s way and produces fruit.
Deeds are the natural, expected product of genuine repentance.
There is no bargaining, only the seeking of mercy. That humble reliance is a change of perspective, and it reflects the essence of repentance…the tax collector rests on God’s mercy.
In referring to himself as a sinner, the tax collector makes no comparison to others, unlike the Pharisee. The tax collector is concerned only with improving his own spiritual health, and he knows the only way to do so is to rely totally on God’s mercy.
In summary, Luke sees repentance as a change of perspective that transforms a person’s thinking and approach to life. It applies to Jews and Gentiles. It summarizes the appropriate response to the message of Jesus and the apostles. Bringing forth fruit is a natural outgrowth of repentance. Just as a good tree brings forth good fruit, so genuine repentance produces change in one’s life (Luke 6:43-45).