1. The Pharisees’ Prideful Prayer – There is No Salvation in the Strength of Man (vs. 9-12) – In the Pharisees’ prayer, he exalts himself to God and over others. He compares his strengths to the weakness of others to justify in his mind his righteousness. He was boasting about his strength in comparison to the people around him. The point is: God was not impressed with his strength, and even today He is not impressed with our “strength.” The idea that someone can trust themselves for righteousness is contemptible to Christ. Righteousness is only given by God as a gift.
2. The Prayer for Mercy – Weakness is the Way of Salvation (vs. 13-14) – The Pharisee goes to the front of the temple to offer prayer to God with eyes lifted to heaven. The tax collector on the other hand does not go down front. He even does not lift his eyes to heaven. He sees himself so low and unworthy that he cannot worship like everyone else. He sat in the back and beat his chest. The beating of the chest was an outward expression of his sorrow for his sin and acknowledgment of God’s righteous anger towards his actions. In Christ, our sins are not just covered they are done away with. Our sins are no more. When God sees us He does not see us in our sins. When God sees us, He sees us in the righteousness of Jesus.
3. Christ Will Exalt The Weak (v. 14) – J. I. Packer says “In our society strength, at least imagined strength is applauded and weakness is thought of as a defect. We like to have the idea that we are strong. For Christians, weakness should be a way of life. Yet most of us try desperately to be sufficient on our own, and we resent our limitations and our needs.” We don’t have to become something else to worship. We do not have to pretend to be strong. We can only worship when we lean into our weaknesses because our weaknesses display the greatness of God. Jesus showed in this parable that projected strength is a true weakness. Real strength is embracing your weakness and living a life of dependence upon Christ.