Read Luke 18 here or click on the speaker icon below to listen to it.
Luke 18 begins with a parable of a persistent widow who is relentless in her pursuit of justice. She won’t give up, and the judge reluctantly concedes. Will a just God not do even more for those of us who cry out to Him day and night? Jesus continues with, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Once again pointing out the danger in trusting in ourselves and our actions to make us right with God, Jesus tells another parable. This time about two men praying at the temple…a religious Pharisee and despised tax collector. The Pharisee’s prayer is about his “righteousness” and gratitude that he is not like other men – other “sinners” – as he lists his good deeds of fasting and tithing. Meanwhile, the tax collector stands far off in a posture of humility, acknowledging his sin and asking God for mercy. Jesus summarizes, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” As children approach, He tells us we should receive the kingdom of God like a child. Full of faith, trust, belief.
“What do I still lack?” a rich young ruler continues his questions to Jesus after asserting that he has kept all the commandments from his youth. Although he thinks he has kept all the Jewish laws and commandments, in his soul he knows something is lacking. It hasn’t brought him the satisfaction he thought it would.
Jesus cuts to the heart of the man’s problem -- the thing in his life that is keeping him from being fully devoted to God and putting Him first in all things. For this man, it is his wealth and possessions.
“Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” Jesus responds.
Jesus knows many things can take first place over God, but money is a big one, tricking us into thinking we can control things, tricking us into thinking we are fulfilled, tricking us with just enough temporary satisfaction to keep us from seeking God.
So, how does this young rich man respond? He sorrowfully walks away from Jesus. He walks away from the ONE thing he truly needed. In response, Jesus says, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
This young man knew something was missing; something was keeping him from life and peace. But when confronted with how to fill that hole, still he clings to that which he thinks he needs even more.
While it was money and possessions for this man, it may be something else for you and me. It is anything we value over God; anything we are unwilling to give up to have more of Him. What God calls one person to give up, He allows another to keep. He alone knows what our heart is so tightly attached to over Him.
Those standing by observing the interaction wonder who can be saved. Jesus says, “what is impossible for man is possible with God.” It is His power, not ours.
Jesus takes the twelve appointed disciples aside and tells them for a third time what is to come…He will be delivered over to the Gentiles, mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged, and killed…but on the third day, He would rise. This is all familiar to us today, but at the time, Luke tells us they did not understand or grasp what He was saying.
Continuing on their way to Jerusalem, Jesus is met by a blind man crying out to Him. Jesus approaches the man with a question: “What do you want me to do for you?” There is no hesitation. The man knows what he wants…to be healed; to be able to see. Immediately his sight is restored and he follows Jesus, glorifying God and causing those around him to give praise to God.
The contrast between the blind men and the rich young ruler is striking. The blind man comes in desperation. He knows he is utterly unable to help himself. The rich man comes pretty comfortable with his situation, but looking for that one missing thing…assuming it isn’t too costly to get. The blind man, poor in spirit. The young man, rich in worldly possessions.
“Teacher,” the young man calls out as he addresses Jesus. “Lord, Son of David,” the blind man cries out. The young man looking for a little more knowledge, the blind man looking for a Savior.
Sorrowful, the young man walks away from Jesus. Restored, the blind man follows Jesus. Oh, how it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The perceived sacrifice is just too much. The perceived need is not quite as deep. But in walking away, the restoration never comes. Because the sacrifice is nothing compared to the reward, and the need is so much deeper than realized.
What is that thing for you? What are you clinging to that keeps you from entering into the closest relationship with Jesus? Your family, health, possessions, reputation, security, ambition, control…?
Though Jesus already knows, He asks, “dear child, ______ [insert name], what do you want me to do for you?” He wants to hear it from your own mouth. He already knows what you need. Do you? In faith and humility, with a right view of who He is, with the persistence of the widow seeking justice, ask Him today.