Luke 18. How People Get Past Their Obstacles.
Key Notes: Pray and don't give up. Pray and don't brag. Eternal life? Removing blocks.
In Luke 17 we learned some advanced rules for disciples, but were left with the feeling that they are too difficult for us. The disciples asked for more faith, and Jesus implied that they needed something else, like simple devotion to duty. Luke‘ gives us examples of 6–8 situations in which people met obstacles and we will see some ways of overcoming them.
18:1–8 Jesus began with a parable. Uniquely, in this, and the next parable, the punch-line is given before the parable, so that there is no question about the meaning: always pray and don't faint. A widow (poor, and unsupported) was denied justice by a judge who cared for no one except himself. Eventually he gave in to her demand so that he would not get a black-eye (literally a strike under the eye) professionally. Jesus told the disciples that like her, they should pray always and not give up, with the promise that God would vindicate His own, speedily. But even with persecution lifted, people would lose faith.
18:9–14 Jesus' second parable was directed at the self-righteous. It is the famous story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. The Pharisee spoke mostly to himself, being thankful that he was righteous, unlike the tax-collector who was also at prayer. He bragged about fasting twice a week (usually Monday and Thursday) and tithing. The tax-collector could only say seven words: "God, be merciful to me a sinner". But he went home justified (rare in the Gospels, but one of Paul's favorite words).
18:15–17 Little children were brought to Jesus for His touch of blessing, but the disciples thought this was not a good use of His time. Jesus called the disciples and told them not to hinder the children. The Kingdom is inhabited by spiritual children: trusting, innocent, loving, eager to learn.
18:18–30 A rich ruler came to find eternal life from Jesus.
Jesus first challenged his title: "Good teacher." He wanted him to reconsider Who he was asking. [Incidentally, we are well advised not to describe ourselves as "good"; "well", perhaps.]
Jesus then directed him to the Ten Commandments that deal with our relation to other people, leaving out the command against coveting. Was Jesus preventing the man from a lie of saying he did not covet? When he said he had done all of these since childhood, Jesus commanded him to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Him.
When we consider Jesus' demand, we can sympathize with the man. It was not just money. If he was a typical wealthy Palestinian Jew, he owned olive groves and vineyards, a summer home near Mount Hermon and a winter villa by the Dead Sea, a ship at anchor in Joppa, prized livestock--oxen and sheep--as well as political clout in government circles and a variety of skilled workers and stewards that were dependent on him. How could he give it all up? Think of all the creative energy he spent, the careful planning, the future prospects. Now eternal life did not seem as important. He was plainly stumped. Jesus understood how hard it is, and offered the only solution: with God all things are possible.
The disciples brought out the opposite problem: they had left everything. What would they get? Perhaps they were envious,and a little covetous. Jesus said they would receive much more than they had lost--in this life as well as in the next. Peter had thousands of “children” on the Day of Pentecost.
18:31–34 Jesus told the disciples for the third time that He was going to Jerusalem and would be cruelly treated and killed and the third day rise again. They could not hear it.
18:35–43 In the final episode of the chapter, a blind man near Jericho heard the crowd coming, heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, and cried out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." He referred to Jesus by a Messianic title. He would not be restrained by the crowd, and finally Jesus stopped, called him over, and healed him.
A common feature of these episodes is that there was an obstacle in each case.
1. God's elect cry out for justice against persecutors: God will vindicate speedily.
2. The tax-collector steeped in sin cried out for mercy. God justified him.
The Pharisee was blocked by pride. If the Pharisee had only listened to the example of his poor brother, he could have been justified as well.
3. Little children were hindered by the disciples from being touched by Jesus. Jesus over-ruled and called the children to Himself.
4. A rich ruler came for eternal life, but was hindered by money and success. Jesus said with God all things are possible. Did the rich man come back?
5. The disciples were upset, perhaps envious, having nothing. Jesus said God would provide abundantly for them, now and in the age to come.
6. Jesus faced a terrible ordeal in Jerusalem. He would be hindered by dread. But the Resurrection would be His vindication: God would raise Him from the dead, proving Him to be the Son of God with power. Rom.1:4
7. The disciples faced the loss of their Master. They were in deep denial. But God would roll out events before them and they would proclaim Jesus' victory in the Resurrection at Pentecost.
8. The blind man was blocked by the crowd because he was blind (considered incompetent, abnormal) and noisy. Jesus had to intervene and give him his heart's desire.
The hinderers were persecutors, or disciples or the crowd. Sin, pride, success, lack of money, dread, or denial also blocked their spiritual progress. In each case God was the solution to the obstacle.
Most of us deal with road-blocks in our lives. Some hindrances cannot even be named. Memory may forbid us from recalling the painful experience. Our need for revenge may sap our strength. We may have come far short of our parents' expectations. Remorse for past sins may crush us. Some secret sin may paralyze. God has forgiven us but we cannot forgive ourselves.
Roadblocks stop our emotional growth, keep us from joy, and may drive us to despair. We take courses, try meditation, eat pills, go to counselors, and listen to inspirational speakers. Our primary resource is, and must always be, God.
God may direct us to use these other resources, but our first appeal must always be to Him. Pray first, then, if necessary, go to your minister, doctor or lawyer.