Monday, November 12, 2012

Reflections on Luke 18

    Luke 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jesus told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up:
  2. In a town there was once a judge who didn't fear God or care about people.
  3. In that same town there was a widow who kept going to the judge and saying, "Make sure that I get fair treatment in court."
  4. For a while the judge refused to do anything. Finally, he said to himself, "Even though I don't fear God or care about people,
  5. I will help this widow because she keeps on bothering me. If I don't help her, she will wear me out."
  6. The Lord said: Think about what that crooked judge said.
  7. Won't God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night? Won't he be concerned for them?
  8. He will surely hurry and help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find on this earth anyone with faith?
  9. Jesus told a story to some people who thought they were better than others and who looked down on everyone else:
  10. Two men went into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
  11. The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there.
  12. I go without eating for two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all I earn."
  13. The tax collector stood off at a distance and did not think he was good enough even to look up toward heaven. He was so sorry for what he had done that he pounded his chest and prayed, "God, have pity on me! I am such a sinner."
  14. Then Jesus said, "When the two men went home, it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored."
  15. Some people brought their little children for Jesus to bless. But when his disciples saw them doing this, they told the people to stop bothering him.
  16. So Jesus called the children over to him and said, "Let the children come to me! Don't try to stop them. People who are like these children belong to God's kingdom.
  17. You will never get into God's kingdom unless you enter it like a child!"
  18. An important man asked Jesus, "Good Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?"
  19. Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? Only God is good.
  20. You know the commandments: 'Be faithful in marriage. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother.' "
  21. He told Jesus, "I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man."
  22. When Jesus heard this, he said, "There is one thing you still need to do. Go and sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower."
  23. When the man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.
  24. Jesus saw how sad the man was. So he said, "It's terribly hard for rich people to get into God's kingdom!
  25. In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom."
  26. When the crowd heard this, they asked, "How can anyone ever be saved?"
  27. Jesus replied, "There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything."
  28. Peter said, "Remember, we left everything to be your followers!"
  29. Jesus answered, "You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or wife or brothers or family or children because of God's kingdom
  30. will be given much more in this life. And in the future world they will have eternal life."
  31. Jesus took the twelve apostles aside and said: We are now on our way to Jerusalem. Everything that the prophets wrote about the Son of Man will happen there.
  32. He will be handed over to foreigners, who will make fun of him, mistreat him, and spit on him.
  33. They will beat him and kill him, but three days later he will rise to life.
  34. The apostles did not understand what Jesus was talking about. They could not understand, because the meaning of what he said was hidden from them.
  35. When Jesus was coming close to Jericho, a blind man sat begging beside the road.
  36. The man heard the crowd walking by and asked what was happening.
  37. Some people told him that Jesus from Nazareth was passing by.
  38. So the blind man shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!"
  39. The people who were going along with Jesus told the man to be quiet. But he shouted even louder, "Son of David, have pity on me!"
  40. Jesus stopped and told some people to bring the blind man over to him. When the blind man was getting near, Jesus asked,
  41. "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see!" he answered.
  42. Jesus replied, "Look and you will see! Your eyes are healed because of your faith."
  43. Right away the man could see, and he went with Jesus and started thanking God. When the crowds saw what happened, they praised God.

    The central truth given in chapter 18 lies in the account of children being brought to Jesus and is expanded on in Jesus' explanation to His disciples of what was to happen to Him. Other accounts in the chapter demonstrate man's false reliance on the wrong things for entry into the kingdom.

    Verses 15-17 tell of infants being brought to Jesus for His touch. When His disciples rebuked the people for bothering Jesus in this way, Jesus told them that "Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." No doubt it was the simple acceptance and total dependence characteristic of a child to which Jesus referred. These qualities, He was saying, are necessary in all of us if we are to enter the kingdom of God. Simple acceptance of God's provision for our entry through Jesus and total dependence on this provision.

    Immediately following this account Jesus explained to His disciples what was to happen to Him in Jerusalem. He was to be "handed over to the Gentiles, and He will be mocked, insulted, spit on; and after they flog Him, they will kill Him, and He will rise on the third day." All of this, He told them, is "written through the prophets." Thus, when they witnessed Jesus' arrest, the mocking, the flogging, and the crucifixtion, they were to understand that things were not going terribly wrong, It was all just as God had told the prophets it would be. It was God's provision for our entry into the kingdom. It is this provision in which we are to demonstrate faith and reliance as little children.

    In the parable of the prayers of the Pharisee and tax collector Jesus pointed out the reliance of many people, in particular the nation of Israel, on things other than God's provision. The Pharisee in the parable relied on his own righteousness - fasting, tithing, and being better (in his view) than the tax collector. By contrast, the tax collector humbled himself before God and placed himself at God's mercy.

    In another account Jesus was approached by a wealthy ruler who asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Also a reference to entering God's kingdom. Though this man seemed more humble than the Pharisee in the parable, he too seemed to depend on his own righteousness for entry into the kingdom. It may have been that this man would have been persuaded to follow Jesus when told that this was required to "inherit eternal life," but Jesus added a caveat that exposed his main problem - his dependence on wealth. Jesus told him to sell all he had, distribute it to the poor, and then follow Him. But the man coveted his wealth too much to do this. To this point he may have assured himself of acceptance by God due to his wealth and a mistaken perception that it was an indication of his special standing with God. But Jesus burst this bubble and the man went away sad.

    The chapter closes with an account of a blind man who asked Jesus for healing. His inability to do anything except to call out to Jesus for help and his total faith in Jesus to heal him demonstrated the way in which we must all enter the kingdom.

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