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Importunate Prayer -- Luke 18:1-17
“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”- Luke 18:1-17.
It is very evident that the first parable has a definite dispensational aspect. God Himself is not an unjust judge but is put in contrast with such an one. The widow does not represent the Church of God, for the Church of God is not a widow. The Church is a virgin espoused to Christ; the marriage feast is to take place after we are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The woman here undoubtedly represents Israel. She was called the wife of Jehovah, but because of her sins, unbelief, and spiritual adultery, she was separated from her rightful Husband, and abides in the world today as a widow. What suffering she has endured down through the centuries! During all these long years her earnest cries have gone up to heaven, that she might be avenged of her cruel adversaries. It might seem as though God is as indifferent as the unjust judge. He appears to have no regard for the sufferings of Israel, no interest in their sad experiences. “There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.” Her crying at first did not affect him; he was not concerned about her case. But afterwards he became tired of her incessant pleading for help, and he said, “Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” Now the Lord does not tell us that this is the attitude of God, but He explains that it was the attitude of an unjust judge who had no fear of God. How much more will God hear His children, for He is deeply interested in all their trials. He cannot turn a deaf ear to the cry of the afflicted, but in due time He will avenge His own elect. These are the elect of Israel, not of the Church. The cries of God’s elect have been going up to Him day and night, and the time is coming when He will answer their cries. Jesus said, “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” This is a remarkable question. It suggests that instead of the whole world becoming converted, the great bulk of mankind will be found in opposition to God when Christ returns. This is in accordance with what is elsewhere revealed. At the coming again of the Son of Man to set up His kingdom of righteousness, He will avenge Israel of those nations that have persecuted her.
Though this is the dispensational teaching, it is evident from the first verse that the Lord Jesus meant us to get something more out of it for our own soul’s blessing, for we read, “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” This is a message for everyone of us. Oftentimes when we cry to God in distress or trouble there seems to be no answer; yet all the time His heart is deeply concerned about us, and we are not to cease to pray; nor, because we do not get the answer immediately, are we to give up in despair. We need to remember that God is working out certain counsels in connection with His great plan that runs through all the ages, which may necessitate that some time must elapse before our prayers are actually answered. We find a very significant illustration of this in the tenth chapter of Daniel. We read the prophet prayed about a certain thing for three full weeks, twenty-one days, and during those three weeks he ate neither bread nor meat, nor drank wine. One can imagine how he must have felt as the hours lengthened into days, the days into weeks, and the weeks went on until three had passed. Then at the end of the twenty-one days, he tells us there appeared to him an angel sent direct from the High Court of heaven. The angel said to him: “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one-and-twenty days.” It is a most remarkable thing-something I would not believe if it were not in my Bible-that God actually heard the prayer of Daniel the first day he began his supplication, and He dispatched an angel to tell him that his prayer was heard, but the angel was twenty-one days fighting his way through the fiends of the upper air to get down to Daniel to bring the answer to him. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia” was not the earthly ruler who sat on the throne of Persia, but an evil angel who sought to control the king’s heart and to thwart the plan of God. In the New Testament Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air.” We are taught that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” So this angel from heaven was twenty-one days in conflict with the evil powers before he could get to Daniel. Then he said, “When I leave you I have to go and face the prince of Grecia.” That was another evil spirit seeking to control the heart of the Grecians. This is a marvelous thing, and it gives us an idea of what goes on in the unseen world, and explains in a very large measure why the answers to many of our prayers seem so long delayed. Perhaps we have been praying for mother, for daughter, for husband, or some other loved one who is still unsaved, and we wonder why God has allowed so much time to elapse ere answering our petition, but there is a conflict going on in the unseen world. Do not give up praying. By your importunate intercession you are putting yourself over on the side of God in this conflict, and He will hear His own elect in due time, who cry unto him night and day.
The second parable is designed to impress upon us the true attitude we should take before God when we come to Him in prayer. “And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” We cannot come to God on the ground of our own righteousness; we have no title to approach Him in that way. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. We can come to God only as confessed sinners, recognizing that all He does for us must be on the ground of grace. These two men had gone to the temple which God had ordained as a house of prayer for all men. One was a Pharisee, a self-righteous man, giving himself credit for exceptional merit. Significantly we read: “He prayed with himself.” That is, his prayer never went up to God at all; it went no higher than the ceiling, because he was simply speaking of his own goodness. Yet it was a prayer of thanksgiving. Is it not right to come to God with thanksgiving? We are taught again and again that is the way we should approach God. But notice this man was not thanking God for what grace had done for him; he was thanking God for what he himself had done, and that is the wrong attitude. When I approach God my heart should be filled with thanksgiving because of what He has done for me, recognizing that everything I have comes by divine grace. But this man said, “I thank Thee for my own goodness; I thank Thee I am not as other men are.” You, perhaps, would not use the same language, but do you approach God in that attitude? “I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” Then the Pharisee looked and saw the publican standing there, and he said, “Or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Surely these things are all good, but no man has a right to plead his own goodness as the reason why God should hear his cry. And, actually, most of his prayer was just pretence, claiming a righteousness he did not possess.
The publican stood afar off, conscious of his un-worthiness. He “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Literally, it might be translated, “God be propitiated to me, the sinner.” Calvary’s cross was the answer to that prayer when the Lord Jesus became the propitiation for our sins. This man, recognizing he needed propitiation, cried to God for that which he knew he did not deserve, but which must come to him by grace if it was to come at all. And Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
In which man’s company are you found? Do you stand with the Pharisee, trying to make out a case for yourself? or with the publican, acknowledging you are a sinner, and that your only hope is in the propitiation which God has provided?
In the next verses we have a beautiful scene. We have enacted a picture of the right attitude of soul in which God delights. “And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” The disciples felt that the parents were only troubling Jesus, He could not afford to waste His time with children, but the disciples did not know His heart. He is interested in all; and so He rebuked His disciples, and called the parents to Him and said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Children, in simplicity, believe what you tell them of the Lord. These are the ideal members of the kingdom, who simply take Him at His word. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” That used to trouble me. Though I knew I was saved, yet when I came to that verse and the kindred one in Matthew, I used to wonder if I had qualified in this way: I am not like a child; I am not as innocent as a little child; I have not the same hopeful attitude toward life as little children. How can I, a sinner by practice, ever get back to the comparative purity and goodness of a little child? Then I noticed that “Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children…” He called and the child came. That is what He means when He says, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”
It is when we heed His blessed call and come to Him in unquestioning faith that we enter the kingdom. It is this alone that puts us on praying ground and entitles us to bring all our troubles and perplexities to Him, and He has promised to undertake for us.
The Great Refusal -- Luke 18:18-30
“And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very ri«_” And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee. And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting”- Luke 18:18-30.
The Lord Jesus Christ is not only a Saviour from judgment, but He is also the Lord of our life. In our unconverted days we lived for ourselves; we lived in different ways; we chose our own paths, but our one great object was to please self.
“I lived for myself, for myself alone,
For myself and none beside,
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
And as if He had never died.”
So our blessed Saviour came into this world to do more than to redeem us from our sins and from the judgment of God. He came to make us His own in a practical sense, that in all our ways down here on earth we might live to His glory. Instead of being self-centered, the child of God should be Christ-centered, able to say with the Apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ.” This comes out very clearly in the passage before us.
First we have the story of the rich young ruler: “And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” I do not know exactly what was in the mind of this young man when he used the term “eternal life.” It certainly could not mean to him all that it means to us. Our Lord Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Eternal life is that which gives the ability to enter into and enjoy fellowship with Divine Persons: the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Evidently this young man thought of eternal life as a happy experience and prolongation of human life here on earth, and assurance of happiness after death. He spoke from the standpoint of the law of Moses when he asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What must I do in order to be the possessor of this great blessing? Notice the way he addressed the Lord Jesus, “Good Master.” He acknowledged the Lord to be a Master, a Teacher, as thousands do today. Jesus said, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God.” Was He saying, “I am not God, and therefore you should not address Me as Good Master”? No; the Lord was testing this young ruler. No one is intrinsically good but God, and God was manifest in Christ. The question was, did this young man recognize Jesus as such? He did not. Then our Lord said to him, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.” Now the law says that the man who obeys these commands shall live. The Lord Jesus mentioned only the commandments that have to do with the outward life, our relation to our fellow-men; He did not mention those that have to do with our relation to God. It was not what he was before God but what he appeared to be before his fellows that concerned the young man. He looked up complacently and said, “All these have I kept from my youth up.” Probably he was honest in saying that; possibly he had never been guilty of violating any of these commandments, but the Lord Jesus saw that he was resting in his own self-righteousness. To keep these commandments as they should be kept means more than simply refraining from overt acts of evil; it means to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and so the Lord now put this young man to the test by saying, “Yet lackest thou one thing.” Your life may be outwardly pure; it may be comparatively clean; in the eyes of your fellow-men you may be a very noble personage, but if you are living for self rather than for God, you are under the condemnation of the law. The Lord Jesus tested this young man in this way, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.” Did He mean that the way to obtain eternal life is by giving everything one possesses to the poor? Not at all; but He was testing this young man, who was egotistic and self-satisfied. Certainly there was nothing to be said against his moral character, but his life had been a selfish life; he had vast possessions; he had great riches, and men and women were living in poverty all about him; yet he continued to go on as he was and did not realize that God had entrusted him with this wealth that he might use it for Him. If God entrusts wealth to you, He makes you a steward, and you are to use your riches to the glory of God and to the blessing of mankind. If we fully surrender our lives and our possessions to the Lord Jesus we shall not be concerned about ourselves; we shall be concerned about the needs of others, and our one object will be to glorify the One who has redeemed us. So the test here is, will you let Christ be Lord of your life? We read that when the ruler heard these words he was very sorrowful, for he had great possessions, and he turned away. He did not meet the test which the Lord put to him. He refused the path of subjection to Christ. Many have taken the same course.
It is not wrong to be rich, but it is a terrible thing if riches keep you out of heaven. God giveth us richly all things to enjoy, but it is a catastrophe if one becomes so occupied with earthly treasure that he misses the path of eternal life as this man did.
“And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” It is difficult for one who has plenty of this world’s goods to realize his need and to come to God as a poor, poverty-stricken sinner. We know this is true practically, for there are very few of the great and wealthy of this world who have turned to Christ and put their lives under His control. Jesus said, “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” You know the illustration that has been used so often- I presume it is correct: There is a little gate in one of the larger doors called the “needle’s eye”-I saw such gates when I was in Palestine-it was possibly the same in the time of our Lord. If a traveler reaches the city late at night and knocks at the gate, the guard from within will allow him to pass through the needle’s eye, but his camel has to kneel down in order to crawl through. The traveler’s goods have to be left outside until morning. So Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” The rich man has to unload; he has to turn over all he has to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The disciples were amazed when they heard this. They thought, as many think today, that it is poverty that keeps people out of the kingdom of God. If we could only do away with poverty, if we could eliminate the slums of our cities, then we could get people to turn to Christ! But it does not work that way. We read of “the poor of this world who are rich in faith.” Riches often prove a real hindrance to the salvation of the soul. The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” And our Lord replied, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” It is not impossible for the rich to be saved. It is possible for the wealthy to know Christ if they are willing to repent and trust Him and own Him as Lord, which will mean a complete revolution in the way they have lived.
Thank God there are those among the rich who have put their whole lives and riches in subjection to Christ. We have recently lost a man of God of our own city to whom the Lord entrusted ability and riches. He turned all he had over to the Lord. I refer to that merchant-prince, Mr. Henry P. Crowell. And there are other men like him; men whom the Lord can entrust with great wealth because they use it not for themselves but to the glory of God. On the other hand, because we are poor, we must not think that poverty is a title to heaven. Nothing of the kind. The poor and the rich meet together; they all need to be saved in the same way: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Speaking for the apostles, Peter said, “Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.” There was not very much to leave. If I remember correctly, it was a boat and a broken net that Peter left behind, but it meant a lot to him-that fishing business in Capernaum. Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Make Christ the Lord of your life; trust Him as your Saviour; yield your all to Him, and you will eventually receive more than you have ever left. God will see that it is made up to you in an abundant measure, for He tells us that He gives an hundredfold to all who yield themselves to Him; and one hundredfold is 10,000 per cent. Most of us are satisfied, in these days, if we can get three or four per cent on our investments. Yet we shrink from making an investment that would yield us 10,000 per cent! We are afraid to submit our lives into the hands of the Lord, but He never fails those who submit to Him. And when we come to the end of the way, how we shall praise Him that we ever heard His voice calling us to trust Him and to acknowledge His authority over our lives. We have eternal life now through faith, but when we reach the heavenly city we shall enter into everlasting life in all its glory.
There will be no one in that day who will look back and say, “I wish I had been more self-centered; I wish I had not been so devoted; I wish I had not yielded so much to Jesus Christ.” There will be no one who will speak like that in the coming day; but there will be many of us who will say, “I wish I had been more unselfish; I wish I had been more devoted; I wish I had yielded myself more definitely to the Lord Jesus Christ.” God grant that everyone of us may surrender our lives to Him and acknowledge Him in all our ways, that we may walk as He would have us walk as we go through this scene.
Christ's Answer To Faith's Plea -- Luke 18:31-43
“Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God”- Luke 18:31-43.
This portion divides into two parts: Luke 18:31-34 stand together, and Luke 18:35-43 go together. In the first section we read that Jesus and the disciples turned their faces toward Jerusalem. This was for the last time. Our Saviour had visited Jerusalem on other occasions- though after leaving Nazareth He made His earthly-home in Capernaum of Galilee--but now He was going to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the purpose for which He came from the Father’s glory into this poor world: He was going to Jerusalem to lay down His life as a sacrifice for sin. He understood perfectly what would happen. People have often spoken as though our Lord was overtaken by surprise, as though He had ventured too much in going to Jerusalem where so many were opposed to Him, and that He might have lived longer and accomplished more if He had been more cautious and remained in Galilee where many were learning to know and love Him, but this is contrary to the Word of God. Such reasoning makes manifest how people misunderstand the mystery of His Person. He came from heaven to give His life a ransom for many, but until the set time appointed of the Father when that great sacrifice was to be made, He could not die. No man could take His life from Him. But when the hour to which all eternity past had been looking forward, and to which all eternity future will ever be looking backward- when that hour came, then He laid down His own life. So with full knowledge of what was before Him, He said to His disciples, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” Notice that everything that had been declared of Him before by inspired men was now about to be fulfilled. All Scripture is “God breathed.” There is no word in it that is void of power. And so our Lord told His disciples that everything the prophets had written was about to be fulfilled: that is, everything in connection with His first coming. The Son of Man was going to Jerusalem that He might die for the sin of the world.
Every prophecy that had reference to His first coming was fulfilled literally while He was here on earth, or when He hung upon the cross. Because of that we may be very sure that every scripture that has to do with His second coming-that glorious advent which many feel is to take place very soon-will be fulfilled just as definitely. Patrick Henry said to the Assembly of Virginia, “I have no way of judging the future but by the past.” So we too have no way of judging the future but by the past. Judging by the past we see that everything that had to do with the first advent was literally fulfilled; therefore, everything that has been predicted concerning the second advent will be fulfilled in the same way. Many attempt to spiritualize the prophecies and try to apply promises to the Church of God that refer primarily to Israel and to the land of Palestine. All will be fulfilled as written, for so it has been throughout the past centuries. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that He would be delivered unto the Gentiles, and He was; that He would be mocked, and He was; that He would be spitefully entreated, and He was; that He would be spat upon, and, yes, He was. The holy Son of God, they spat in His lovely face, and they mistreated Him in every way that the satanic influence could suggest; yet He gave His life as a ransom for their sins. He saw it all as though it had already been accomplished, but He went on unflinchingly to accomplish the work of redemption. He looked beyond the cross and told His disciples that on the third day He would rise again. One would suppose that those listening to Him as He spoke these words would have understood exactly what He was talking about; but the disciples were expecting Him to go down to Jerusalem and declare Himself the promised King, overthrowing at once the Roman power, and restoring Israel to the first and preeminent place among the nations of the earth. They were so obsessed with these ideas that they could not understand even the plainest words concerning His rejection, His crucifixion, and His coming resurrection. We read that “they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” It is significant enough that after these words were fulfilled concerning His rejection and death, His enemies remembered what His disciples had forgotten, for we read that they came to Pilate and said, “We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead.” And Pilate said, “Ye have a watch: go your way, and make it as sure as ye can.” And so they went and made it as sure as they could; but they could not overthrow the purpose of God. When the third day dawned Jesus rose in triumph from the grave. But His disciples had not understood; their minds were blinded. They were so occupied with the idea of His setting up immediately His kingdom and with the restoration of Israel, that they could not comprehend what His words really meant.
In the second section we have the story of blind Bartimaeus. In it we see the wonderful way in which God responds to faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a re-warder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Here we have a beautiful picture, historically exact, but a lovely picture nevertheless, of the reward of faith. On His way to Jerusalem, going down through Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan, our Lord made His way across the ford, into the land of Judaea. As He was drawing near to the city of Jericho (not the Jericho of Joshua’s day; that was destroyed, but another Jericho that had grown up near the site of that ancient city), we are told, “A certain blind man sat by the way side begging.” Matthew’s Gospel tells us there were two blind men, and that Jesus healed them both. Those who like to find fault with the Bible and try to discredit the truth of its inspiration, point to these two different accounts and say, “Can both be inspired? One writer says there are two blind men, and another says there is only one.” But notice that Luke does not say there was only one; he does not say there was no other. Matthew went farther than Luke and said there were two, and he was correct. But Luke fastens our attention on the one man who had the greater faith. There may have been a measure of faith in the other man, but that of Bartimaeus was outstanding. There is no contradiction here; it is simply that Matthew gives added information which the Holy Spirit was pleased to withhold when Luke wrote his account. Every incident in the four Gospels where there seem at times to be discrepancies could be easily explained if only we knew more of the facts. God’s Word is perfect; it is our understanding that is limited. Here we are told, “And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.” What a picture of hopelessness and distress. I suppose this man had been without sight for many years, and there was no one to care for him, and so he earned a precarious living by begging, sitting day by day on the side of the highway leading to Jericho, in order to receive gifts from the passing multitude. Those who have visited Palestine, as some .of us have, find it easy to visualize that sight. One will see the same thing today: there are sick people, those who are blind and maimed, sitting along the highway, crying, “Backsheesh! Backsheesh!” It seemed to me we heard that word more than any other all the time we were in Palestine. It means “a gift! a gift!” Sometimes there will be thirty or forty crying, “Backsheesh.” One’s heart aches as he gazes upon them and realizes how miserable and wretched many of them are. So there was this blind man, Bartimseus. “And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.” Oh, what a message that was! “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by!” Jesus, the Friend of sinners; the One whose voice has power; the One who had healed the lepers, and who, on many other occasions, had opened the eyes of the blind. Bartimaeus had heard that name. He said in his heart, “He is the One who can do something for me!” Bartimaeus felt his need. The trouble with many today is that they do not feel their need; they are contented and self-satisfied just as they are. They have no sense of their true condition before God. Bartimaeus felt his need: he had suffered for years. He was in earnest as he cried, saying, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” He expressed himself intelligently. He recognized the fact that Jesus was truly the promised Messiah of Israel. That is what was involved in using the expression, “Thou Son of David.” For many centuries the people had waited for the coming of the promised Son of David, who was to bring everlasting blessing to them, and Bartimaeus had heard enough about Jesus to be convinced in his own soul that He was the promised One. That is real faith based on the Word of God. “And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” The more they tried to quiet him, the more he cried, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” There are some people who think it is a terrible thing when folk become a little effervescent about religion. They do not like emotion in religion, but they get excited about everything else. They go to a ball-game, and yell themselves hoarse as they watch someone chasing after a little globe as though it were the most wonderful thing in the world; but when they go to a gospel meeting and find people who are anxious about their souls, they say, “Oh, there is too much excitement about this!” If one is out of Christ and he becomes excited about his soul, it is something worth getting excited about. Many are like the sluggard in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 6:10), who cried, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” A little more sleep and many will awake in hell to sleep no more! It is time to waken and become excited, as this man Bartimseus was. You have a soul to be saved; you have a soul to be lost if it is not saved, and you should be in earnest about your salvation. Bartimaeus would not be put to one side; he must reach Jesus, and so he continued crying. And no one ever cried to Him in vain: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). You lift up your heart to Him; you cry out, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” and He will hear. “And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” This is a question that He is asking today. Do you want something from Him? Be .definite about it. If you are unsaved, look up to Him as He asks this question and say, “Lord, I would that Thou wilt save my soul, that Thou wilt give me eternal life, and the assurance that I have peace with God.” He is waiting to grant your request. If you are in any trouble or distress, He is ready to give you peace and to hear your supplication. But be sure you ask in faith, “nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:5). Bartimseus had genuine faith. He had a real need and he wanted that need met. “And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.” “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.” That was God’s answer to faith’s plea. “Thy faith hath saved thee!” The Lord discerned the faith that was in the heart of this man. And so Bartimseus was not only healed, but he was also saved. Christ will do the same for you if you will come to Him as Bartimaeus did, in simple faith and put in your plea.
He received the answer, and we read, “And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.” When we are saved, when we ourselves have received spiritual sight, when we have been delivered, we are interested in Christ; we want to follow Him and to be in His presence; we want to keep company with Him; we enjoy fellowship with Him, and the heart goes out in worship, praise and thanksgiving. So we read that Bartimaeus glorified God. He was not like many who receive God’s good gifts and never think to lift their hearts to Him in a word of acknowledgement. This man’s deliverance was a testimony to the multitude when they saw him giving praise unto God, and thus witnessing for the Lord Jesus. You who have had your eyes opened, you who can say, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see,” do you seek to witness for Him that others too may be attracted to Christ and led to trust and praise Him?
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 18". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29