The Pharisee and the Publican
It is easy to compare oneself to others and to find cause to think of them as less pious; for this is the fallen nature of man. And this is the Pharisee's flaw. Indeed he not only did so, but he made of it a religious exercise! But he did not go to his house justified, nor shall anyone who trusts in himself. It is the publican, who despaired of himself and loathed himself who was justified. He called himself the sinner, comparing himself to no one but only casting his eyes downward in shamed and self-disgust. Yet his cry for mercy was full of confidence in the sacrificial blood of another, as must also be the cry of every Christian. We plead only Jesus' blood, and find confidence only in him to approach the throne of grace. Thus we kneel at the altar, in token of our awareness that we are shameful, and there we receive the very sacrificial blood that we need, Christ's blood, given and shed for us. And thus, and only thus, do we go to our house justified. Sermon for Trinity XI.