Luke pulls these two parables together, showing that the issues are related. There’s nothing remarkable about either one and both are among those parables most easily understood in almost any language.
There was a judge, mostly likely a Sadducee by the description of his character. The most powerless adults in that day were Jewish widows. The nation had long since drifted away from the tribal lifestyle, where clans often lived all in one area. In ancient times, a widow was protected by her local kinsmen. Ancient judges were warned by God to take special care for widows and orphans and not to take bribes. This particular judge care not at all what God commanded, and was quite likely to extort bribes from the unfortunate, and accept bribes from those who already had advantages.
So it’s likely someone was trying to seize her property on one pretext or another, something one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes who tried to keep secret the finer points of the Law from the peasants. So she came and pestered this unjust magistrate, but he turned her away. She didn’t give up. Using the one and only weapon left to a woman in that position, she nagged him without mercy. In the end, he gave her justice simply to get rid of her.
Even the unjust have a breaking point. Is God that difficult with us? If you come to Him as the Judge of all Creation and cry out about some injustice, do you suppose He will turn us away? Granted, it may seem that way when God seems to move at a different pace than us. Still, God is nothing like that unjust magistrate. If the nagging widow can persist with a godless man, why can’t we persist with God?
Someday soon the Messiah would declare His Kingdom, and such injustice will become quite rare. But then, the real question is this: When the Messiah comes to claim His Kingdom, will He find any folks with that kind of faith? You see, that woman had no faith in the magistrate, but she had faith in God. She rested entirely in divine hands; she had nowhere else to go. Her world was the world in which Jesus lived. He didn’t come across that kind of faith very often, yet it was precisely what He was seeking in His ministry.
Indeed, His next parable addresses those who helped to make things so unjust in the first place. Two men went to the Temple at the hour of prayer. The Pharisee smugly thanked God out loud for not making him like all those nasty sinners, to include that publican back in corner. How proud he was!
The publican stood at the back because he dared not come any closer. He cried out to God from a distance, as it were, though keeping his voice soft, seeking mercy for sins he knew all too well from his burning conscience. In other words, he was truly penitent. Jesus said the latter went his way more justified than the former. God pays little heed to the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble.
Do you not see how the faithful widow and the penitent publican are both the sort of people who will be welcomed into the Messiah’s Kingdom?