THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

The Appropriate Responses to Jesus' Second Coming
Luke 18:1-43

. INTRODUCTION

One of the neatest contributions people have made to the Bible is that of chapter/verse division. Before people started dividing the books of the Bible into chapters and verses, they would say: "As it is written in Isaiah . . ." or "As it is written in Genesis . . ." Well, there is a lot of material in both Isaiah and Genesis; you would have to read through a lot of the material to find some of the passages in these books. With chapter and verse division it is so much easier to locate a scripture passage.

HOWEVER, chapter and verse divisions do have their drawbacks. When the Guttenburg press divided the Bible up into these different categories, they sometimes divided a verse right in the middle of a sentence (Eph. 1:4 & 5). At other times they would insert a chapter division right in the middle of an important event (for example, John 8 continues the thought of John 7). Luke 18 is an example of a major thought being disrupted because of an ill-advised chapter division.

At the end of chapter 17 Jesus dealt with the issue of His second coming. Chapter 18 begins with the topic of prayer. Two unrelated subjects, right? Wrong. In Luke 18:1-30 Jesus is dealing with the appropriate responses to the fact that He is going to return. Prayer (18:1-8) and being saved (18:9-30) are the 2 most important appropriate responses to the fact that Jesus is going to return. Right at the end of the section on prayer Jesus ties in prayer to His second coming by writing "Will the Son of Man find any one faithful at His coming?" The first section on prayer then instructs the Christian to pray during the time before Jesus' return so that he will persevere to the end, while the next 3 stories (the Pharisee/tax collector, the story of the babies, and the story of the rich young ruler) stress the vital importance of us being saved when Jesus returns.


PRAYER AND THE SECOND COMING (18:1-8)

In the previous section Jesus has informed us that after a long interval He will return to consummate His kingdom. As we shall study in Luke 21 (also Matt. 23 and Mark 13), His people will go through a period of great tribulation and suffering before He returns. Will Christians go through the Great Tribulation? We will discuss that later; however, we do know that Christians should expect to go through trials and sufferings before the return of Christ. How are we to respond during this time of suffering? By praying! Jesus offers the story of the unrighteous judge and the oppressed widow to motivate us to pray during the time between Jesus' first and second comings.

The following is very important if you are going to understand the purpose of this parable on prayer. That Jesus is stressing the sufferings of Christians during the time between His first and second comings is seen in that the woman who represents God's people is oppressed. She is seeking justice at the hands of the judge against her opponent. This reminds us of the cry of the Christian martyrs beneath the altar in heaven who pray that God bring justice upon those who persecuted them (Rev. 6:10). This is not just a parable to encourage us to pray; it encourages us to pray because of the sufferings we endure in the interval between Jesus' first and second comings.

A widow who is being oppressed approaches a judge and asks him for protection from her opponent. Now the judge neither fears God nor cares about his fellow man. In other words, he violates the most critical elements in our relationship to God: love for Him and love for neighbor, the 2 greatest commands. As a result the judge refuses to help the oppressed widow. The widow though does not give up. Instead she decides to persevere until the judge comes through for her.

The judge then comes to realize what he's up against. He realizes that she is not going to leave him alone until she gets vindication. He decides to vindicate her, not because she is right and he cares for her, but because he knows she is going to wear him down if he does not relent. As a result, the judge decides in the woman's favor, providing her protection from her opponent. Jesus' point to the parable is that if a wicked judge will vindicate the righteous widow because she perseveres in approaching him, how much more will our loving Father vindicate His children who persevere in prayer.

Notice that Luke says that the Father will speedily vindicate His children if they persevere in prayer. This does not mean that once we pray the Father will instantaneously answer our prayers. Rather He means at the right moment, whenever the Father moves to act, He will move swiftly. It is at that point that we see how God has been moving all the pieces of the puzzle into place so that He can act the most effectively for His people. Too often either because we quit praying or else because we decided to take matters into our own hands, we short-circuited what God was doing.

I liked the illustration Milton gave the other night of the British attack at Gallipoli in WW1. The British were attempting to take a strategic location at Gallipoli in Turkey. The British casualties mounted higher and higher until finally the British threw in the towel and retreated. Little did they know that at that moment the Turks had run out of ammunition, becoming easy targets for the British forces. Many of us have withdrawn right as the enemy fired his last round of ammunition. We short-circuit what God was about to do. Then, true to our natures, we gripe because God did not come through for us. Well, it wasn't God's fault; it was ours because we short-circuited what God was in the process of doing.

Remember that this parable was designed to encourage us to persevere in prayer so that God would vindicate His people, so that they will make it until the return of Christ. The one who perseveres to the end is the one who is a true Christian. Persevering is not an option. Jesus though rather whimsically states: "Will the Son of Man find anyone faithful when He returns?" Our response should be: "We pray that He will find us faithful when He returns."


SALVATION AND THE SECOND COMING (18:9-30)

In Jesus' discussion about the second coming He stated that upon His return there was no time to to downstairs into the house to retrieve possession or if in the field to go fetch one's coat. The time to prepare for Christ's return is now. Upon His return there is no time to prepare. The time to decide for Christ is now. In these next 3 stories Jesus teaches the way a person is saved. This is important in light of His teachings on the second coming. Salvation will occur only BEFORE His second coming, not AFTER. One's eternal destiny depends upon what one does before and not after His return.

Why do we say that all 3 stories relate to salvation? In the first episode the tax collector goes away justified, while people with child-like qualities make up the kingdom of heaven. In the third story only certain ones obtain eternal life. Justified, entering the kingdom of heaven, and obtaining eternal life are 3 different ways of referring to salvation. Only the justified are saved; those who are saved enter the kingdom of heaven and inherit eternal life.

Notice another common element to all 3 stories. Humility is the trademark of the publican, the child, and those who would sell all and follow Jesus. Humility is the trademark of the Christian. Some think that holiness is that trademark. It is not. Some of the holiest people in the world are never going to step foot into heaven, the Pharisee in the first story being a great example. In fact the unholy publican was the one who was justified, not the holy Pharisee. Humility is the trademark of the Christian.

What is humility? Humility puts God and others first. It does not exalt oneself. While humility has a proper view of oneself, its focus is not on himself at all. The person who always talks about and focuses on himself is not humble, whether that focus be positive or negative. The person who badmouths himself all the time is just as arrogant as the one who brags about himself all the time because he is focusing on himself, even though it is in a negative sense.


The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)

This first episode illustrates the need for humility in order to be saved. Two men go up to the Temple to pray. (You always went up to the Temple because it was located on a hill overlooking the city.) One of the men is a righteous Pharisee, while the other is a lowly tax-collector (publican). These men would have passed through the Court of the Gentiles, through the Court of the Women, and then into the Court of the Men/Priests in order to pray. The Pharisee gets close to the entrance to the Holy Place/Holy of Holies, while the tax-collector stands in the wings, off to the side where he would be scarcely noticeable. The 2 prayers could not be any more different.

In the first instance the Pharisee stands upright. He does not ask one thing from the Lord. Why? Because he does not need the Lord. He is totally self-sufficient. In fact he only mentions the Lord once in his prayer, while he says the word "I" five times in his prayer. He focuses only on self, the essence of pride.

Moreover, he does not confess any sins because he does not believe he has sinned at all. On the contrary, he is nothing but righteous. To prove it, he cites a litany of all the sins he has NOT done and of all the good things that he has done. He is actually acting as if God was lucky to have him be a part of His kingdom.

Where has the Pharisee gone wrong? By comparing himself with other people worse than himself. For example, he claims that he is better than the tax-collector. It's OK to compare yourself with other people, as long as you're comparing yourself to the right person, Jesus. The truth is that we are all better than somebody. I may not be as good as you; however, I am going to be better than somebody else. HOWEVER, when I compare myself with Jesus, the true standard God has set up, then I fall short and realize I am indeed a sinner in need of God's forgiveness. On the other hand, the tax-collector asks God to be merciful to him the sinner. He has correctly understood what kind of person he was and has asked for God's mercy.

After telling about the 2 men, Jesus then informs us that the tax-collector is the one who went away justified. Why did he go away justified? He hadn't done anything good for the Lord. He hadn't tithed or fasted 2x a week. Unlike the Pharisee who based his "righteousness" upon his own acts, the tax-collector based his right standing with God upon God's mercy. He didn't deserve to be rightly related with God; yet because he appealed to God's mercy, God brought him into a right standing with Him.


The Children and Jesus (18:15-17)

In the next episode some mothers are trying to bring their children to Jesus so that He might bless them. The disciples though in their attempt to protect Jesus ward off the mothers. They feel that Jesus' schedule is way loaded (and it is); they correctly realize that these children will never understand concepts like the kingdom of God. Jesus has people to save; blessing the children would distract Jesus from His most important task. This would be nothing more than a waste of Jesus' time. Jesus perceives what is transpiring and rebukes the disciples. Far from being a distraction, these children are the essence of the kingdom of God: "of such is the kingdom of God."

Why is it that children are the best representatives of the kingdom of God? Because of their humility. Look closely at children whenever an adult enters their presence. If that child loves that adult, he will run up to the adult and focus his gaze on that adult. The child has eyes only for that adult. My brother-in-law Johnny has a grandson Kyle who just idolizes his grandfather. We were playing a game over the Thanksgiving holidays. Kyle was sitting next to Johnny. I smiled at how precious the site was, this little boy sitting next to this grown man. He was so proud to be next to his granddad. He was always either looking up or out of the corner of his eye at his granddad. As far as Kyle was concerned, his granddad was the only person in the room. That is the essence of humility, our eyes always being focused on another, Jesus, and not on our own selves. That is the essence of being a part of the kingdom of heaven, of being saved.


The Rich Young Ruler (18:18-30)

In the third episode a rich young ruler (member of the Sanhedrin?) approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to inherit eternal life, that is, be saved. The way the rich young ruler asks it implies that he feels like there is one huge, spectacular act he should perform in order to be saved, for example, go on a mission trip or give up a summer in order to save souls. "Once I've done this God will joyfully bring me into His kingdom!" Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. (Jesus focuses on the last 6 commands which address our relationship with others.) When the rich young ruler informs Jesus that he has kept these from his youth, Jesus replies he lacks one thing. The young man is to sell all he has, give the proceeds to the poor, and to follow Jesus. The man leaves away sad not only because he is rich but also because he knows he will not part with his wealth.

At this point Jesus tells the disciples that it is harder for a rich person to be saved than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle. Some have unsuccessfully tried to water down this statement. Some have unsuccessfully tried to locate a small gate in Jerusalem and other cities called "the eye of the needle." Others have unsuccessfully tried to translate the Greek word for "camel" as "rope." Jesus though is speaking of a literal camel and the literal eye of a needle. It is impossible for the rich to be saved.

This flabbergasts the disciples. They incorrectly believed that all material wealth was a sign of God's blessings. If the wealthy who were blessed by God could not be saved, then who could be saved. Jesus' reply was that with God all things are possible, that even the rich could be saved.

Two questions invariably arise. Was this command only for the rich young ruler, and are we to go sell everything we have and give it to the poor? First, this command was not simply for the rich young ruler; otherwise, Jesus would have said so. The fact that He applies this to all rich people shows it applies to more than just the rich young ruler. Second, no, we are not always to go sell everything and give it to the poor. Whenever Lazarus criticized Mary for anointing Jesus' feet with her perfume instead of giving the perfume to the poor, Jesus rebuked Lazarus: "the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me" (John 12:8). The truth is that we are to give everything to Jesus and then let Him direct us as to how we are to spend it.

This past week Nancy and I bought a new car. Her car was five years old and was becoming "unsafe" for traveling major distances; therefore, I was to get her old car. We looked at getting a used Toyota and discovered that if we worked it out well, then we would be able to buy a new one with the same monthly payments. We waited till the last week of the year whenever the deals are the best. (An unforeseen incident brought us to the car dealer; we were planning to do something else on New Year's Eve night.) When the salesman was trying to sell us the car, he tried to get us to purchase a 6-disc CD player. I told him though that we only listened to one CD at a time. (He didn't laugh.) After we had gotten a good deal, I told him that Nancy and I needed a few mins. to pray about the car. We did and felt like this was what God wanted. It's not OUR money; it is His. We have the obligation to spend it the way He wants us to spend it. The same applies for every other Christian also, the poor as well as the rich. When you made Him Lord of your life at the time of salvation, you made Him Lord over your wallet too.

The disciples remind Jesus that He should be quite impressed with them because not only have they left all their possessions, they have even given up some primary relationships to follow Him. Jesus though is not impressed. They have given up nothing compared to what they are going to receive. It's like when I was a child and we used to make mud cakes. We would proudly offer them to our mom, and she would express joy at what we had offered her. Then we would wash up and sit down to lunch; then she would offer us chocolate pie. We are playing with mud pies, while God is offering us chocolate pies. The wealthiest person owns nothing compared to what God wants to bestow upon us. It boggles the mind whenever you think about what God has in store for His sons and daughters. Heaven alone is going to be worth it; however, the eternally rich relationships which are in store for us are the icing on the cake, relationships with fellow believers and with God. Simply believing that Jesus is God's Son who died for us is not going to save us. We come to Him only as our Lord, which includes being Lord over our finances.


THIRD MENTION OF JESUS' PASSION AND THE HEALING OF BLIND BARTIMAEUS (18:31-43)

For the third time Jesus mentions that He is to Jerusalem to be crucified and rise from the dead. The disciples though, trained from childhood that the Messiah was going to ride into Jerusalem on a white charger, just don't get it. They fail to understand what Jesus means here. Only the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus will help them understand what Jesus has been saying all along.

The healing of blind Bartimaeus in Jericho shows that although the disciples now are spiritually blind as to what kind of Messiah Jesus has come to be, in just a little while their eyes will be open spiritually as they see Jesus hanging on a cross and then rising from the dead.