Today: [Luke 18] In This Life and the Life to Come: In chapter 18 of Luke, Jesus speaks about prayer and the subject of recompense to those that follow Him. A certain ruler meets Jesus and is invited to sell all and give all, but he cannot bring himself to do it. The disciples, on the other hand, have indeed left all, and Jesus promises them recompense not only in heaven but on the earth as well. Is it wrong to expect to receive the blessing of God here on the earth? Are we not to be content to suffer (as some allege) in Jesus’ name? In this chapter, we clear up the misconception of the poverty mentality many believe is a necessary aspect of following Christ.
[Luk 18:1-43 KJV] 1 And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? 9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. 15 And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when [his] disciples saw [it], they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. 18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none [is] good, save one, [that is], God. 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they that heard [it] said, Who then can be saved? 27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. 28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. 29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. 31 Then he took [unto him] the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge [him], and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. 35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. 37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, [thou] Son of David, have mercy on me. 39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, [Thou] Son of David, have mercy on me. 40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw [it], gave praise unto God.
In chapter 18, we find the parable of the unjust judge. Jesus gives it as an encouragement to prayer, that men ought “always to pray and not to faint…” The word faint there means to be “utterly spiritless, to be wearied out and exhausted.” How many times do we hear that coming out of our mouths? “I’m tired… I’m exhausted. I don’t think I can take more of this…” Dan. 7:25 tells us that the enemy’s strategy against us is to “wear out the saints…” We all look to God as our defense against such things. Let us remember that Luke 17:20 tells us that the kingdom of God (righteousness, peace, and joy) does not come with observation. It is an error to sit passively in a demanding situation, wondering why God’s promises are not happening in our lives. We are looking to God, but Jesus tells us that the antidote for being faint, without heart and exhausted, is found in the practice of prayer, praying always. The apostle Paul makes the following statements about prayer from the Amplified Bible:
[Eph 6:17-18 KJV] 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
[1Ti 2:8 KJV] 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
What do we pray about according to the instruction of these verses? We are to pray about what makes you mad and pray about what makes you doubt. Why do we pray? We pray because God promises to hear from heaven and act on our behalf. Prayer is not an exercise in futility. Prayer is the catalyst for change, initiated in the spirit, and made manifest in our personal lives and the lives of others.
Jesus goes on to speak of an unjust judge who had no regard for anyone but himself. The judge is very aloof and uncaring, but he defends a widow in a legal matter because she incessantly continued coming to him in her need. What is this telling us? Jesus realizes that even the saints would be tempted to believe that God is uncaring, distant, aloof, and not disposed to answer our prayers. Rather than correcting the misperception, He instructs that even though there is a wrong idea that God is not disposed to answer us, if we will persevere in prayer, our answers will be forthcoming. Do you realize what Jesus is saying? We tend to think that our doctrine must be correct, our prayer must be doctrinally correct, and our attitude towards God must be proper, or answers will not come. Jesus, in giving this example, is saying that even though a person has an entirely wrong idea about God, he or she will get the answers they seek if they persevere in prayer. For Jesus, the question is not whether God will answer, but whether there will be in the earth at the end time men and women with enough faith to ask Him those things that we require. When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? He is not looking for church buildings or mission boards. He is looking, searching, and seeking for those who will by their continual prayer life, give Him something to work with, even our faith.
Continuing the subject of prayer (v. 10), Jesus speaks of two men going to the place of prayer. One man, a Pharisee, expresses thanks to God for what he sees as his separated life and the fact that he has (in his opinion) nothing in common with extortioners, the unjust, adulterers, or even a publican nearby who is also praying. The publican, however, does not rush into God’s presence, but stands a far off, not even lifting his eyes and asking God for mercy. That one word, “mercy,” spoken in prayer, has been for me the one prayer that I found most effective when I am under assault and feeling desperate. The Pharisee, on the other hand, is reminding God of his good works, his standard of holiness but will go down to his house unjustified and unanswered because he depended upon himself rather than throwing himself on the clemency of God as the publican does.
In verse 15, Jesus is asked to bless several infants that are brought to Him. The disciples protest and rebuke the mothers, but Jesus silences them. Suffer the little children to come, Jesus insists for us such is the kingdom of God. Can you imagine Jesus taking an infant in His arms and looking around at His disciples, declaring that unless we become as a little child, and receive the kingdom as a small child receives the breast to be nourished, we shall in no wise enter heaven? How freely does an infant nurse? Their trust is implicit. They have a need, and their trust is complete and without pretense. This is to be our trust toward our heavenly Father, who loves us far more than the best mothers among us love their children.
Jesus then responds (v. 18) to a particular ruler among them who inquires what is necessary to inherit eternal life. Jesus corrects the man for calling Him good, saying there is none God, and that is God. What is happening here? The ruler is attempting to flatter Jesus, and Jesus is having none of it. Instead, He rehearses the decalogue, the ten commandments. The ruler responds that he has kept these from his earliest youth. There is in Christian scholarship suggestion that this young ruler is either Saul of Tarsus, or Barnabas mentioned in the book of Acts as a traveling companion of Paul. Whatever the case may be, Jesus instructs the man that the only thing left to him is to sell all, distribute to the poor, and follow Him. Is Jesus speaking literally? Surely, He only asks ten percent? Isn’t that what we are constantly reminded of from our pulpits? The case for tithing upon examining what Jesus says about it is much less emphasized, not in favor of lesser benevolence but a repeated exhortation throughout all four gospels that we should leave all, forsake all, give ALL and come follow Jesus. This is not taught among us because 1.) it would not be accepted, and 2.) there is little faith among us to think that we could survive such a radical commitment to Christ. Remember this, that Jesus is not advocating a life of poverty. Giving all, selling all to follow Jesus is not about impoverishment; it is about empowerment to serve. Not everyone can hear this statement, but those who can realize that this degree of rendering up to God does not lead to poverty, but supply, abundant supply beyond all human reckoning.
When the disciples see how Jesus answers the rich young ruler, they are incredulous, asking who then can be saved? Jesus replies that the things that are impossible with man are possible with God. Are you with God? If you are with God, then it is going to be reflected in your liberality when it comes to natural things. Jesus speaks of the camel going through the eye of the needle. This statement or turn of phrase is not original with Jesus. Jesus was not the first person known to have said this or used this term “eye of the needle…” The earliest mention of it comes from the Babylonian Talmud in reference to the mysteries of God relating to the interpretation of dreams and visions. There is a dispute among scholars regarding the translation of this statement in the synoptic gospels. George Lamsa renders the verse, “it is easier to thread a needle with an anchor chain than for a rich man to enter heaven…” Regardless of how you read it, the message is clear; you cannot engage the things of the kingdom if you are living a life so full of yourself as this rich young ruler. If this man was Barnabas or Saul, we could be thankful that in due time the words of Jesus had their effect and brought the man to the foot of the cross.
This subject of sacrifice and destiny is of interest to the disciples, and they press Jesus with their questions. Peter observes in v. 28 that they have left all and followed Jesus. Have you left all to follow Him? I have heard ministers in the pulpit comfort their congregations, saying that this only applied to the disciples, the apostles of the lamb, but surely not to the ordinary people sitting in the pew every Sunday morning. Is this true? If you study the lives of the first-century church, you will find there are little and no examples of men and women who did not ultimately face life’s circumstances that required them to uproot, relinquish and sacrifice all solely for the purpose of walking out and living out their faith.
Today we hear timid preachers and prophets demand that we should never prophesy about the making of such sacrifices, but this is contrary to the word of God. Regardless of our age or station in life, walking with God and living out our faith is a demanding proposition, but the promise of God (v. 29) is that we will be recompensed not only in heaven but on the earth, in this present time. For Kitty and I, we have given all, liquidating all but a few scant possessions you could put in a five-gallon bucket, all to follow Jesus. We left our home; we sacrificed the fellowship of our children and relatives. We endured the scorn and outright hatred of those closest to us, all in pursuit of the will of God for our lives. We can, however, report back that not only do we know there is recompense for us in heaven, but for all, we have suffered the loss of God has amply and beyond measure returned to us many times, in the love relationship we have with many spiritual sons, daughters, brothers and sisters and parents in the Lord. When you make a full commitment to Christ, you will get more than riches in heaven, even though those who claim to be super-spiritual will say it should be enough to look to eternity for reward. That is not scriptural. That false piety is in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus. We are repaid not just in heaven after we die but on the earth. To expect any less is to settle for far more than what Jesus died to provide.
Jesus then (v. 31) gathers the disciples and turns His face toward Jerusalem where, He informs them again as He has on multiple occasions that He will there be delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, spitefully entreated, spit upon, scourged and put to death. The disciples, so eager to understand riches in heaven and on earth, are very dull of hearing when it comes to the expectation of Jesus’ death, burial, and yes resurrection. They asked Jesus many questions about many things, but when He spoke in this manner, they were strangely mute, as though the dread of what was coming, in seeing Jesus suffer so was impossible for them to think of or fathom.
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