Also read: Psalm 51:1–3; Matthew 5:17–20; 9:10– 13; and 10:1–4.
1. A Pharisee, either of the school of Shammai, or Hillel, praying at the temple in Jerusalem, boasting really, that he was better than others due to his good deeds.
2. Noticing the tax collector, a Jewish man who worked for the corrupt Roman government and thus was despised by his fellow Jews, was also present at the temple praying.
3. The Pharisee gives thanks while standing, and likely with eyes open and hands lifted up, that he is not like others, especially the tax collector he could see also praying. (We are reminded that Matthew, one of Jesus’ chosen apostles, had been a tax collector.)
4. The tax collector, standing “far off” does not look to heaven, rather he beats on his chest, a kind of self-punishment, and has nothing to commend himself to the God he worships.
5. All he can manage to say is “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” (This becomes the inspiration for the oldest prayer found outside the Bible, which reads, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”)
6. Jesus now lets it be known that this turncoat robbing tax collector left the temple “justified,” that is, forgiven of his sin, while the Pharisee was not forgiven.
7. Jesus then concludes the parable with incredibly dramatic declarations.
8. The proud and self-righteous Pharisee will be “humbled,” that is, brought down thus not in heaven upon his death. The verb humbled is a perfect passive indicative and means he was acted upon or judged.
9. The humble and repentant tax collector will be “exalted,” again a perfect passive indicative verb, meaning God saves him and not due to anything he did or did not do.