121-119 Luke Chapter 18
Keep on Praying 1-8
As in the parable of the friend at midnight Jesus gives another parable about the need for persistent prayer. The unjust judge was everything that a judge was not supposed to be. (Exodus 23:6-8; Deuteronomy 16:18-20) The judge did not fear God and had no care for people.
In the society of that day a widow did not have a means of support and were helpless. A judge was supposed to be one that would help a person such as this widow. But the widow was not a person of power and she had no money, so the judge was not interested in her. But this widow was not one to give up in her quest. The judge had refused to hear her case but this did not cause her to stop making her request.
Finally the judge agreed to vindicate her against her adversary. The judge did this because the widow had warn him down by her persistence. The widow continued to annoy the judge until he agreed to grant her the request.
We must not misunderstand the point Jesus is making in this parable. Jesus is not saying that God is like the unjust judge who must be worn down by our persistent praying. On the contrary, God is a loving Father who is sensitive to our needs. (Matthew 6:7-8)
The point that Jesus is making is that all real request are persistent. The widow’s need was desperate and she would not give up.
In the Scriptures God is referred to as a righteous judge. (2 Timothy 4:8) If an unjust judge will hear the request of a widow then how much more will the righteous judge hear and answer his people? The point is that God our Father who knows our needs is willing to give supply to them.
The application of this parable was for the disciples during the difficult times during their wait for His return. There would be times of persecution, times when evil people would run roughshod over the righteous. It is in times as those that believers may wonder why God would allow such evil to go unpunished. Their prayers would be for the Lord to come and deliver them, but their prayers may seem to go unanswered. In times like these believers need to be reminded of the need to pray and not lose heart. Vindication may seem to come very slowly but when the time for judgment comes it will be quick.
The parable ends with a question. There is no question about the faithfulness of God but there is a question about the faithfulness of humans. Jesus had already said that the time of His coming would be as the days of Noah. Those were times of general unbelief but not of total unbelief. So His question in verse 8 does not mean that there will be no faith when He returns. The intent of this question was not to raise doubt but to challenge His followers to persevere in their faith in the difficult times that are ahead.
Receiving the Kingdom
The Kingdom of God is mentioned several time in Luke 18:9 to 19:27. Jesus spoke of receiving the Kingdom, (18:16-17) entering the Kingdom, (18:25) and forsaking all for the sake of the Kingdom. (18:29) Luke also records a parable Jesus told to those who “supposed that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately.”
Luke 18:9 to 19:27 highlights a series of contrasts between right and wrong responses to the Kingdom. The Proud Pharisee is contrasted not only with the repentant tax collector but also with the trusting children. The rich ruler is contrasted with the blind man and Zacchaeus. The fearful slave in the parable of the pounds is contrasted with the faithful slaves.
Separated from God by Goodness 9-14
In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector shows us three fatal flaws of the self-righteous. A pompous unrealistic view of one’s self, harshly judgmental of others, and it separates from God. The prayer of the Pharisee was a review of what was wrong with others and a hymn of self-congratulation. His pride was not only fed with the assurance that he was not a sinner but also a recognition that he was better than most people. Only one fast a year was required by the law and that was on the Day of Atonement, but the Pharisee fasted twice a week. The law required a tithe of certain agricultural products, but the Pharisee went beyond what was required.
There is nothing wrong with giving more than what is required, as this is a quality of true dedication. But the Pharisee was crediting himself, not the grace of God. The self-righteous often feel that God is in debt to them and not vice versa. The self-righteous think they have accumulated more merit by going beyond what was required, therefore, he feels this extra merit can be bargained into special favors from God.
The tax collector brought only himself and his need to God. He did not compare himself to any other. He stood in the presence of God and saw himself as he was. He was in godly sorrow for his sins but he believed that God would be merciful to him even as he was a sinner.
Only one of them emerged from the Temple in a right relationship with God. Only one had sought forgiveness and a right standing with God. The Pharisee may not have committed the same kind of sin as the tax collector but his goodness became his worst sin. It had made him pompous and judgmental and it separated him from God.
Receiving from God 15-17
This event is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels. It is explicit in Luke the theme of the larger passage, receiving the Kingdom. This incident of Jesus and the children reinforces the point of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and it also prepares the way for what follows.
The disciple who had a false sense of adult importance would have turned away the parents and their children. They had forgotten the lesson of Jesus earlier about the importance of receiving children. (Luke 9:46-48) Jesus then used this occasion to teach a complementary lesson, the necessity of receiving the Kingdom like a child. Jesus did not explain the qualities that the children had but He may have meant those qualities seen in the tax collector (18:13), the blind man (18:35-63), and Zacchaeus. (19:1-10) Children have less pride and are quicker to let it be known their needs to God than others. They are not as aware of the difficulties and are more persistent in prayers of faith. They have a quickness to respond to the call of Christ with less care of what others may say and little knowledge of the difficulties that the future may bring. Children are the epitome of true faith with their openness and trust in the Heavenly Father.
Rich and Poor
Throughout Luke’s Gospel, a reversal of worldly fortunes characterizes entrance into, or exclusion from, the Kingdom of ‘God. Mary announced that God would lift up the poor and humble and bring down the rich and powerful (1:52-53) Jesus at Nazareth announced that the Gospel is “good news for the poor.” (4:18) He pronounced blessings on the poor and hungry and woes against the rich and satisfied. (6:20-25) This was a reversal of the conversational wisdom, which held that God had blessed the rich and cursed the poor.
A number of Jesus’ parables severely warn against the dangers of riches. “The Parable of the Rich Fool” (12:13-21) reveals the consequence of storing up treasures on earth instead of having a rich relationship with God. “The Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus” (16:19-31) shows the eternal cost of ignoring the poor and helpless while enjoying the good things in life. The rich man who had asked Jesus the way to eternal life was devastated when Jesus said he must sell all that he had and give to the poor. (18:18-30)
Who are the poor in Luke’s Gospel? Are they the physically poor or those that are poor in spirit? Almost certainly it is both. The physically poor, who have very little, are naturally dependent on God for their needs. The rich and powerful are likely to be self-sufficient, forgetting their need for God. It is impossible for rich men to enter God’s Kingdom as long as they trust in their riches to get them there. (16:25-26) God accepts those who put their faith in Him alone.
The Rich Young Ruler 18-23
All three Synoptic Gospels to us this about the rich young ruler. Matthew tells us he was young. (Matthew 19:22) Luke calls him a ruler. (18) He wanted to know how to receive eternal life which means he wanted to enter into the Kingdom of God. He seemed to believe that he could receive eternal life by his goodness.
Verse 19 does not mean that Jesus was not good but that he was challenging the rich ruler to see his goodness as superficial. This rich ruler had the same kind of confidence in goodness as the Pharisees had.
Jesus knew that the rich ruler’s life had been wrapped up in his prosperity. This was the source of his pride, the nourishment of his employment, and the bases for his security. His prosperity was his religion, it was his god. Jesus saw that a complete renunciation would free him to follow Jesus in the way of life abundant and eternal.
Riches and the Kingdom 24-27
The ruler rejected the gospel of Jesus and gave occasion for Jesus’ statement about the difficulty of a rich man entering the Kingdom. The analogy in verse 25 was to be taken seriously.
Jesus had shocked the disciples by what he had said. In the days theology wealth was the sign of God’s favor. If the rich man could not be saved, then who could?
In Verse 27 we get to the heart of the issue of receiving the Kingdom. In the human perspective salvation is an impossibility not only for the rich but for any person. Salvation means rescue or deliverance. The plight from where we need to be saved is one that we cannot deliver ourselves. We cannot be righteous enough, religious enough, or rich enough to save ourselves individually or collectively. The only way that a person can be saved is by the grace and power of God.
Forsaking All for the Kingdom’s Sake 28-30
Peter pointed out to Jesus that he and the other disciple had forsaken all to follow Him. Jesus then assured Peter and the others that any sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom would be more than repaid.
This is not a bargain that assures greater returns or that the motivation in following Jesus is what you will get out of it. It does mean that those who follow Jesus will gain more than they will sacrifice. (Philippians 3:7-8) This would be something that someone would see in retrospect or through the eyes of faith. If the rich ruler had seen this he certainly would not have clung to his worldly possessions rather than follow Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus followed up with the statement that rewards are gifts of grace and not occasions for pride. (Matthew 20:1-16)
Jesus’ Willingness to Forsake All 31-34
Jesus again told His disciples of the events that would happen in Jerusalem. The context of these verses teach that discipleship is not motivated by self-seeking but by self-giving according to the will of God and for the good of others.
The best example of one who forsook all is Jesus. This is the way of the cross that He had chosen and that He called others to follow. To receive the Kingdom you must receive the King. If you receive the King then you must follow Him on the way to the cross. This point was explained many times by Jesus but only later did they understand.
Faith that Will Not Give Up 35-43
According to Mark the blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. (Mark 10:46) The blind man was a striking contrast to the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler wanted sternal life, but he was unwilling to forsake his possessions in faith and follow Jesus. The blind man saw more clearly than the rich ruler that he had nothing to lose but his blindness. He would not let anything keep him from Jesus. Jesus heard him and answered his prayer. He not only received his sight but he followed Jesus.
The blind man called Jesus the “Son of David” a common Jewish name for the Messiah. Ordinarily Jesus would not accept such a title. Still he honored the man’s prayer. Only later would His disciples understand what He had been telling them. That He was the King that had come to suffer and die on behalf of others.