Luke 18:1-8 Persistence In Prayer.
The fist verse is key. “Men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Cf. 11:5-10). The parable is not to teach us that prayer wearies the Lord, it is meant to teach us not to lose heart. It is like the teaching regarding the Lord’s provision. If evil men know how to give good things to their children, how much more God (Cf. 11:13; Mt. 7:11). We are not to lose heart because God is more than willing to give that which is good, including taking vengeance on our enemies (Cf. Rev. 6:10). Prayer is also a confession that there are some things we can’t or should not do ourselves (Cf. Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).
Luke 18:9-14 Prayer Must Begin With Repentance.
Luke was a masterful writer. With every new truth he very often states his key point right at the outset, follows this with the body of evidence to support it, and then draws his conclusion. In the previous passage he stated his main point that “men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1). Most of us struggle at persevering in prayer, especially in society and cultures that want instant gratification on so many levels. In like manner Luke introduces a new theme here concerning “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (v. 9). However, this passage is also beautifully connected to the previous in that those who persist in prayer are those who recognize their need.
So prayer should not only be persistent, but those who go to God in prayer must first recognize their need. Using “prayer” to thank God that one is more righteous than others and therefore does not need God, is more of a declaration to and of self. The professions could not be further apart in terms of respect or lack thereof than that of a Pharisee and tax collector (v. 10). The Pharisee himself lumped the tax collector together with extortioners and the unjust (v. 11). The fact that many would have considered one of these men to belong in the Temple and the other not, also speaks to Luke’s point. Who are the true members of the church anyway? It is certainly the case that those who stand in the temple are called to pray (Cf. 135:2).
Righteousness is indeed required in the court of the LORD. The question is-whose righteousness? The LORD calls us first to repentance. We must be washed of our filth, which includes the sins of blood shed and the oppression of the defenceless (Cf. Is. 1:15-18). This is a message that must be preached in the temple-the visible church! Why even bother with prayer if one is so audacious as to pray without confession? We are co-conspirators living in a culture of death and oppression. There is no private “spirituality” divorced from how one lives in the world. “God be merciful to me a sinner” (v. 13)! This is the only reasonable beginning to a true spirituality.
There is no other way to be “justified” (v. 14). We will not find ourselves if we hang on to the notion that we have anything to contribute to our justification before a holy God. Only the humble can walk away justified. A sinner beats the breast because we know we are rotten to the core with our sinful condition. We need new hearts. Talk of obedience is one thing, living it is another. Any “spirituality” that fails to apply the law-word of the covenant to all of life is vacuous and nothing short of shear hypocrisy (Cf. Is. 58). We should be repenting and asking God’s forgiveness for our individual and collective failure to uphold His only standard of truth and justice. ‘Spiritual’ activity like prayer and fasting is otherwise meaningless.
Luke 18:15-17 Infants In The Kingdom.
Some passages of scripture don’t seem to receive a lot of coverage, especially if they don’t fit in with the traditions of the church. Jesus received infants, blessing them, praying over them, and instructing His disciples to not forbid them to come to Him “for of such is the kingdom of God” (vv. 15-16 Cf. Mt. 19:13-15). Mark notes that when the disciples attempted to forbid the infants and little ones to come to Him that He was displeased (Cf. Mk. 10:13-16). Why then do churches bar infants from the two sacraments which Jesus commanded to celebrate and commemorate our union and communion with Him-in baptism and the Lord’s supper? Not only are infants not an after thought, but Jesus taught that we must receive the kingdom like little children-in humble and absolute trust (v. 17 Cf. Mt. 18:3). It seems like many in the church are as immature children in understanding when they should be as children with regard to malice (Cf. I Cor. 14:20).
Luke 18:18-23 Orthodoxy And Orthopraxy.
Normally it is not what a person does to gain an inheritance. It is more a question of whether one is included in another’s will. It makes one wonder if this is how the young ruler became rich. It usually takes a life of labour to acquire some wealth. In any case, he asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (v. 18 Cf. Mt. 19:16-29; Mk. 10:17-30). He calls Jesus “Good Teacher,” and Jesus has to inform him that only God is good (v. 19 Cf. Pss. 86:5; 119:68). This raises a couple of points. Firstly it would seem to suggest that the young man did not know that Jesus was God. Secondly, it would also seem to suggest that he didn’t understand that no man was good enough to inherit eternal life by their works. Jesus recites those commands pertaining to one’s neighbour, which the young man claims to have kept (vv. 20-21 Cf. Ex. 20:12-16; Dt. 5:16-20; Rom. 13:8-10).
However, Jesus did not mention those pertaining directly to God, and from Jesus response, it seems as though he may not have really understood those commands. Furthermore Jesus left out the tenth commandment and instead asked him to sell all he had and distribute to the poor, then he would have treasure in heaven (Cf. Mt. 6:19-21; I Tim. 6:19). But he also adds, that the young man would need to follow Him (v. 22). Later the apostle Paul would confess that he thought he was a full keeper of all the ten commandments, until he reflected on the tenth and realized that he was guilty of covetousness (Rom. 7:7 Cf. Phil. 3:6). We read that the young man was sorrowful, but there is no indication that he repented (v. 23). The young man serves as a warning to those whose theology is wrong, and who have not counted the cost of being Christ’s disciple.
Luke 18:24-30 God Makes Salvation Possible.
As the example of the rich young ruler showed (vv. 18-23), it is hard for the rich and powerful to enter the kingdom of God (Cf. Mt. 19:23-30; Mk. 10:23-31; Pr. 11:28). The reaction of that rich young ruler caused Jesus to be sorrowful, for as Mark wrote, Jesus loved him (Mk. 10:21). The prerequisites of faith and repentance require one to say no to self. There is nothing anyone can do to be saved (vv. 24-26). It is impossible for men in and of themselves to enter the kingdom, but it is possible with God (v. 27 Cf. 1:37; Job 42:2). Salvation is only possible through sovereign grace. However, those who do forsake everything for the kingdom, such as family and possessions, “shall receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” (vv. 28-30).
Luke 18:31-34 All Things Had To Be Accomplished.
This was still a point in his ministry when Jesus only wanted His disciples to know what was ahead. They would continue the journey to Jerusalem where at the proper time, “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished” (v. 31). This eschatological title was a favourite of Jesus-it focused on His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of the Father, and also the end of the old covenant era or ages. “All things” that the prophets wrote about, where about to be “accomplished,” not just some things. This would include the leadership of the old covenant nation delivering Him over to the Gentiles to mock, torture, and kill-to die an accursed death (vv. 32-33). However, it also would include Him rising on the third day.
Now one can imagine, given everything that has occurred up to this point, that anyone could readily accept that Jesus would indeed be betrayed by His own people and die in this way. But to rise from the dead-this would have been a stretch. However, we read that the disciples “understood none of these things” (v. 34). If His closest disciples, the twelve, did not understand, how much less the multitudes? But this is just Luke’s point-the truth of these things were hidden even from the twelve at this time. This would have to come out later, after fulfillment. This was not the first time Jesus made this prediction, in fact it was the third time He had made this prediction (Cf. 9:21-22; 43-45; Mt. 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mk. 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34).
It is a common biblical principle that there are two or three witnesses, or a truth attested to two or three times that assures of a matter. And yet, this was still not understood after a threefold witness, because not only is the giving of revelation a sovereign condescending act on God’s part, but so is the understanding of it. On the second occasion of this prediction both Luke and Mark record that they were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant (9:45; Mk. 9:32), and Mathew records that they were sorrowful (Mt. 17:23). Was it because of His rebuke to Peter on the first occasion (Mt. 16:23; Mk. 8:33)? It escaped them that the anointed One would be anointed to the threefold office of prophet, priest, and king. He would reign in this threefold capacity. All things had to be accomplished.
Luke 18:35-43 Seeing And Following.
The blind had to beg to survive. If anyone knew there need it was the blind (v. 35 Cf. Mt. 9:27-31; 20:29-34; Mk. 10:46-52). He needed help just to know what was going on (v. 36). However, more importantly, he needed the Lord to show him mercy and heal him (v. 38b). When he learns that “Jesus of Nazareth” is passing by, it leads him to cry out “Son of David” (v. 37). There seems to be this connection between Nazareth and David, and of course the “Son of David” was also a messianic title (v. 38a). The crowd warned him to be silent, but his need for mercy was greater than their concern (v. 39).
Obviously his awareness of the need for mercy was greater than theirs. Jesus called the man to Himself, and through faith in the Lord the man received his sight (vv. 40-43). The man’s healing was not an end in itself. His healing led to three things, he followed Jesus, he glorified God, and the people praised God. From need, to a call for mercy, to a call to restoration, to healing, to following, glorifying and praising God. The man followed a path we all must take-confessing our need for mercy we pray. We reason with the Lord and find restoration. We then follow, glorify, and praise God with our lives.