Friday, March 26, 2010

Luke 18:15-43

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
18 A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
19 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"
21 "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."
26 Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God."
28 Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"
29 "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life."
31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again."
34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
38 He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 "What do you want me to do for you?"
"Lord, I want to see," he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Points of Interest:
• ‘anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’—rather than stopping the children, they should learn something from them. These children know something that adults tend to forget about how to receive a gift. I can’t help but think of the story of the two lost sons, who try to receive their inheritance like slaves rather than like children. How exactly do little children receive gifts? A couple of things I’ve noticed that might be relevant here are that children are shameless and they’re trusting. Children don’t spend too much time worrying about whether they are worthy of a gift or whether they’ve earned it; if they like it, they take it, gleefully. They also don’t tend to be suspicious of the giver; they don’t look for tricks or catches, but take the gift at face value.

• ‘Let the little children come to me’—earlier, Jesus told the disciples that the way to be the greatest was to welcome a little child (9:46-48). He doesn’t want to pass up this opportunity for greatness. The disciples still have something to learn about greatness.

• ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’—this is the exact same question as the expert in the law asked earlier (10: 25). Now, though, in light of receiving the kingdom like a child, the question strikes me as a little odd. It occurs to me that you usually don’t do anything for an inheritance; if you’re the child of the person who owns it, it’s simply given to you.

• ‘Why do you call me good?’—I think Jesus objects to being called good because he suspects that the man is saying it flippantly, not because he thinks it doesn’t apply.

• ‘You know the commandments’—just like he did with the legal expert, Jesus refers the man to the Law. In fact, Jesus quotes the Ten Commandments—or, rather, five of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are the famous summary of the Law given by God to Moses on two stone tablets. Five of the commandments had to do with relating to God and five of them with relating to one another. It’s often imagined that each set of five had its own tablet: a God tablet and a neighbor tablet. [Incidentally, the two commandments the law expert recited to Jesus (10:27)—love God and love your neighbor—serve as pretty good encapsulations of the two tablets]. The five commandments Jesus quotes here are from the second tablet, the neighbor tablet.

• ‘All these I have kept since I was a boy’—this man is far ahead of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Most of the Pharisees and teachers focused on the minutia of the Law, rather than its heart. Our expert from chapter 10 focused on the essence of the Law, but he resisted doing it. This ruler both recognized what was important and did it. He’s actually well on his way to eternal life. As Jesus told the legal expert: ‘Do this, and you will live’ (10:28).

• ‘You still lack one thing’—he’s not all the way there, though. Perhaps what he’s missing is the first tablet. He’s missing a loving relationship with God. To inherit eternal life, you have to be a child of the one who owns eternal life.

• ‘Sell everything you have’—‘You cannot serve both God and Money’ (16:13). Jesus is calling him to separate himself totally from money and put his trust completely in God instead.

• ‘he became very sad’—‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (12:34). We don’t know what the man ultimately chooses, but it’s clear that at this point wealth has at least some of his heart. His money makes it harder for him to truly choose God.

• ‘Who then can be saved?’—it might be that they assume that rich people are more loved by God, or it might be that they are impressed by how faithful this ruler is and are dismayed that even he can’t quite make it. Thankfully, we’re not reliant upon our own efforts, but on the favor of a very powerful God.

• ‘many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life’—‘Give, and it will be given to you’ (6:38). When we give to others, God gives to us; and he gives much better gifts than we do. The Twelve and the Seventy-Two have already gotten glimpses of how this supernatural life of abundance works. They were each sent out with absolutely nothing, but everywhere they went they had a place to stay and food to eat (9:1-9, 10:1-24).

• ‘The disciples did not understand any of this’—Jesus keeps sowing this seed, but so far it hasn’t ever taken root. Though hearing, they don’t understand (8:10).

• ‘rebuked him and told him to be quiet’—they rebuke this blind man, just like the disciples rebuked the children. This reminds me of Jesus’ warning about causing little ones to stumble on their way to him (17:2). The blind man does not let himself be stopped, though. He’s persistent in asking, and his request is heard.

• ‘received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God’—this blind man knows how to accept a gift.

Taking it home:
For you and your family: Pray that God would increase your ability to love him and to love your neighbors. Are you better at one of them than the other? Maybe you could ask your family members, housemates, or friends which one they see best in you. Thank God for your strength in that area, and then ask him for help in strengthening your weak hand. Look for opportunities today to practice the one you’re weaker at.

For your friends: Pray that your friends would increase in their childlikeness. Pray particularly that they would be good gift-receivers.

For our city: Today, bring the children of our city to God in prayer. Ask God to bless our children and give them good gifts.