Friday, November 7, 2014

Jesus loves us! A look at Luke 18

Let's take a look at the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

[Luk 18:1 KJV] And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
[Luk 18:2 KJV] Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
[Luk 18:3 KJV] And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
[Luk 18:4 KJV] And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
[Luk 18:5 KJV] Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
[Luk 18:6 KJV] And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
[Luk 18:7 KJV] And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
[Luk 18:8 KJV] I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Jesus is telling us to keep on praying. Our judges today show no respect to God, and indeed seem to despise Him. And so it was back then. And yet, that poor widow kept at it until that judge gave in. Now if a crusty old atheist judge can be persuaded, how much more a loving Father God who cares for us? Pray on!

[Luk 18:9 KJV] And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
[Luk 18:10 KJV] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
[Luk 18:11 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:12 KJV] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
[Luk 18:13 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:14 KJV] 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.

Back in Jesus' day, a publican was somebody who was a tax collector for the Romans. The publican would purchase the rights to a territory from the Romans, and the Romans in exchange would demand a flat amount from the publican. The publican, though, was free to collect as much as he could over that amount, and keep the difference. Publicans were hated. This publican in Jesus' parable knew what he did. I have heard that the publicans were not even allowed into the temple, they were hated so much. This might explain why it says in verse 13 that the publican was standing afar off.

The Pharisee was also praying, but it says in verse 11 that he was praying with himself. God wasn't honoring his prayers, the old pharisee was just beating the air with his prideful self-assessment. His prayers were bouncing off the wall and falling on the floor.

"God be merciful to me a sinner", said the publican. Seven words. And those seven words rose up to the throne of God, and were received as a sacrifice of the heart. The publican's words were honored, that man went down to his home justified, and two thousand years later, we're reading about it still.

I heard somebody say that maybe this publican was Zaccheus, the tax collector who Jesus visits. We do not know, but it could be. What we do know is that this publican said more in seven honest words from the heart than the Pharisee did, and that God heard those words.

[Luk 18:15 KJV] And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when [his] disciples saw [it], they rebuked them.
[Luk 18:16 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:17 KJV] Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

While you can defend the Bible from a historical perspective, or an archaeological perspective, if you want to believe in Jesus, you just got to believe in Jesus. Jesus doesn't care about how much money you got, or how smart you are, or how famous you are. You have to believe like a child. Believe in Jesus.

[Luk 18:18 KJV] And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
[Luk 18:19 KJV] And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none [is] good, save one, [that is], God.
[Luk 18:20 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:21 KJV] And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
[Luk 18:22 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:23 KJV] And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
[Luk 18:24 KJV] And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
[Luk 18:25 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:26 KJV] And they that heard [it] said, Who then can be saved?
[Luk 18:27 KJV] And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

We don't know much about this rich ruler. Was he a political ruler or a religious ruler? We do know he was wealthy. Now wealth alone did not make him a bad man, but Jesus could tell this man had his priorities in life all mixed up. He wanted Jesus as a side dish, not the main course. Jesus never condemned the man, either. He told the man to get his priorities right. Yet the man when faced with that decision found himself in a dilemma. Imagine a drowning man trying to swim for safety while hanging onto a suitcase full of gold. You got to make a choice.

[Luk 18:28 KJV] Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
[Luk 18:29 KJV] 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,
[Luk 18:30 KJV] Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Jesus is promising that those who do follow Him will have more than they could possibly have on their own, and they will have it in this life. He clearly did not mean they would have more money for a following of the lives of the apostles show they didn't end up wealthy. In fact, all but John ended up martyred. The wealth they had in this life and the life to come was a wealth of relationship with God. And really, which would do you better, a relationship with God, or some extra money?

[Luk 18:31 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:32 KJV] For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
[Luk 18:33 KJV] And they shall scourge [him], and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
[Luk 18:34 KJV] And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

These guys did not understand, but they obeyed. And so it is with us. You might not understand everything in the Bible, but if you know to follow Jesus, you know plenty.

[Luk 18:35 KJV] And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
[Luk 18:36 KJV] And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
[Luk 18:37 KJV] And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
[Luk 18:38 KJV] And he cried, saying, Jesus, [thou] Son of David, have mercy on me.
[Luk 18:39 KJV] 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.
[Luk 18:40 KJV] And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,
[Luk 18:41 KJV] Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
[Luk 18:42 KJV] And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
[Luk 18:43 KJV] And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw [it], gave praise unto God.

This blind man put into practice what Jesus talked about with the widow and the judge. The blind man didn't get to do much reading, but he had heard about Jesus of Nazareth and knew that Jesus was for him. This blind man was crying out for Jesus, and no doubt he looked pretty hopeless to passers-by. The townspeople told the blind guy to shut up, but he pressed on all the more.

And the blind man's request, doesn't it sound like the publican's prayer Jesus mentioned earlier? Yes it does. "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me." This blind man apparently didn't have anything holding him back from believing in Jesus; Jesus simply asked the man what he wanted. And the blind man did not spend a lot of time flattering Jesus, he got right to the point; he wanted to see. And Jesus' response? "Done!" And just like that, this guy can see. Imagine going from being blind to the first thing you see being Jesus. Now that would be a grand experience indeed.

The rich ruler could have had the same experience, but apparently he preferred his blindness over seeing Jesus. The little children, they didn't have anything holding them back; they loved Jesus and Jesus loved them. The publican, he just wanted God to be merciful to him a sinner.

God be merciful to me a sinner.
Lord, that I may receive my sight.