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Parable of the Unrighteous Judge
In connection to what He said about the feature of the last days, the Lord, through a parable, places particular emphasis on the importance of persevering prayer. Prayer is the resource for the faithful in all times, but especially in the days of the Son of Man who are so similar to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. These are the days in which we live. That is why this parable is also full of teaching for us.
It is a question of persevering in prayer and not to lose heart if the answer is delayed. These are difficult times when faith is put to the test. Continuous prayer is the only thing that gives us the strength to persevere. It shows confidence in God, even if we have the appearance against us.
The Lord proposes a situation in which a judge plays a role who disregards the whole law. This judge does not love God nor his neighbor. The love of God and neighbor is the summary of the law. And this man is judge!
At a certain moment, a widow comes to him and asks for legal protection. She has an opponent who wants to exploit her. However, the judge does not want to give her legal protection. He cannot earn anything from this case. It is completely uninteresting to him. Nevertheless, the widow persists. After all, there is a result. He discusses with himself that he will do something for the woman, despite the fact that he does not fear God and does not respect man.
His consideration to give the widow legal protection is that he wants to get rid of her whining and prevent worse. He believes she will wear him out if he holds on to his refusal. That is why it is better to give her legal protection anyway. Then at least he is rid of her. He acts purely in his own interest.
The unjust judge does not represent God here, just as the unjust steward in Luke 16 does not represent a disciple. The Lord tells these parables in order to encourage His disciples powerfully and encouragingly to such an action in which they can count on a benevolent God.
Here the Lord Jesus wants to encourage them to always pray without losing heart, even though the answer seems to delay and evil increases. If an unjust judge comes to a verdict, even if it is in his own interest, will God then let the constant praying believer call without paying attention to it?
There is real faith in crying to God day and night, even though He waits with giving an answer. This is not to delay the promise, but because of the efficacy of His mercy by which He leads sinners to conversion, that they too may be saved (2 Peter 3:9). As far as the praying believer is concerned, he needs perseverance until the answer comes. If faith is found somewhere that is acceptable to Him Who seeks it, it will not be ashamed or disappointed.
But will the Son of Man find faith when He comes? How many disciples will there eventually be who truly hold on to the real trust in God? How many will live in the same faith that has become visible in the widow? We live in the end times with few real disciples, in which the real disciples are put under heavy pressure to give up faith. Do we have the faith that God will really give us legal protection even though we have the appearance against it? Who are the truly righteous is made clear by the Lord in the following parable.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
In this parable the Lord again describes new character traits that are appropriate for the kingdom into which those who follow Him will enter. Self-righteousness is anything but a recommendation to enter the kingdom. People who trust themselves to be righteous have no need to pray. Nor do they lose heart and they do not need faith confidence that seeks God’s help in prayer.
The Lord tells this parable in view of those who think of themselves that they stand head and shoulders above others, while they also look despicable down upon the rest. He opposes two people who both go to the temple to pray. They are opposites of each other.
He first describes the Pharisee’s attitude and prayer. In him we recognize the eldest son from Luke 15 and the rich man from Luke 16. On the other hand we see the youngest son from Luke 15 and Lazarus from Luke 16 in the tax collector. The Pharisee represents the religious world in the most respectable form. The tax collector represents people who have no honor to maintain, but whatever they may have been, now truly repentantly judge themselves and look forward to the mercy of God.
We read from both the Pharisee and the tax collector that they “stand”. However, there is a fine distinction contained in the form of the two verb forms, both of which are translated as ‘stand’. In the Pharisee’s case, it means that he has taken a place, as someone does automatically when he addresses a meeting. He stand there. In the case of the tax collector it is the common expression for ‘standing’ in opposition to ‘sitting’.
Then the Lord speaks of the prayer of the Pharisee. He prays “to himself”, which seems to suppose that what he says is not heard by others. When we read his prayer, there is actually no question of praying, of asking anything of God. There is also no question of thanks to God for Whom He is. He is so very satisfied with himself that he only praises himself to God. He thanks God for everything he is not.
Nor is there a confession of sins. There is not even an expression of any need, of anything he would need. He Himself is the subject of his thanksgiving. He is not, like the others, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. When he talks about “this tax collector”, we listen to a trace of contempt. This man is a despised tax collector for him because he is conspiring with the enemy.
Finally, he elaborates his own habits broadly. He praises himself for his fasting and his excessive religious accuracy. Not that he makes false claims, not that he excludes God, but that he trusts in these things. They form the ground of his righteousness before God. He thinks all this makes him enjoyable to God. Other people he doesn’t like. This is because he has never seen his own sins as God sees them. This Pharisee is a ‘believer’, but as someone who believes in himself tremendously.
How totally different are the attitude and prayer of the tax collector. The tax collector remains at a distance. He feels like the lepers of whom this also is said (Luke 17:12). He acknowledges his unworthiness to come near to God. He does not even dare to see God in the eyes, but stands with his head bent and beats his chest as a sign of deep remorse. He stands as a supplicant who begs God for mercy.
By calling himself “the sinner” he says as it were that he is the only sinner (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15). He does not generally say that he is ‘a’ sinner, as if he is one of many and wants to hide a bit in the crowd. He sees only himself and his own unworthiness and sinfulness in God’s eye.
At the same time he begs God for mercy. He does so without covering up anything of his sins. A person only appeals to grace if he is convinced that he does not deserve anything. In the word “merciful” used by the tax collector, the question of reconciliation is contained. There is no mercy with God without reconciliation.
The Lord justifies the tax collector because he has taken the right place before God and he has given God the right place. The tax collector becomes justified because he has become a penitent. Justified means done justice, which is in accordance with justice. God declares that the tax collector has done justice through his confession as a sinner and as a result God declares the tax collector free from his sins.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul deals with the doctrine of the righteousness of God. There it becomes clear that the righteousness of God, that is being declared righteous by God, means that God declares of anyone that he has never sinned. It is not an acquittal for example because the accusation is unfounded or because of lack of evidence, but He really declares him righteous. The righteous basis for this is that there is Another Who says that He has committed these sins and has also undergone the judgment for them.
Through this dealing of God based on His righteousness, the tax collector is truly free from the burden of his sins. This is the part of everyone who sincerely, like the tax collector, has confessed his sins and in faith sees the work of Christ as also accomplished for him and fully accepted by God.
The tax collector has humiliated himself and is thereby exalted at the heart of God. The Pharisee, “the other”, goes home very self-satisfied, but with an increase of his debt. He has exalted himself and will be humbled when he stands before the great white throne on which the Judge, the Lord Jesus, sits.
Babies Brought to the Lord
After the temple scene with the examples of pride and humility, babies are brought to the Lord. The previous temple scene contains the warning to be humble in view of our sins which God knows all. It also contains the beneficial outcome for all who take this humble place. Now children come to Him who are naturally humble. They are brought to Him “so that He would touch them”. The Lord is the Lord of those who are humble. They may count on being touched by Him to be blessed by Him.
That is not to the disciples’ liking. They reveal the spirit of the Pharisee. They have no eye for the small, the humble. They judge this action as a hindrance in the work that they find so important and that also makes them important. If somebody important had come now, they would have given room, but children are not interesting to them.
The Lord clearly disagrees with them. When the disciples want to send them away, He calls for them. He has a lesson for them. He wants the children to come to Him, and they must not hinder this. It is precisely the children of whom the kingdom of God is. A little child has the special characteristics that he believes everything that is said to him, that he trusts those who take care of him, that he is of little significance in his own eyes and that he cannot defend himself if he is forced to leave.
All these characteristics are exactly the ones that are appropriate for the kingdom of God. Only if someone is willing to become a child with the appropriate characteristics can he receive the kingdom of God. Then he gets an eye for it, because receiving the kingdom means receiving the Lord Jesus. Those who don’t can’t enter. It is impossible to enter the kingdom with high thoughts about oneself. To enter the kingdom one must become small, stripped of all glory and greatness. That is the lesson of the rich ruler in the next history. Because he doesn’t become small, he can’t enter.
The Rich Ruler
A ruler comes to the Lord with a question. His question shows that he trusts in the goodness of himself and that because of this the mind of a child lacks with him. He does not understand that nothing good is found in man. He believes he can do something to inherit eternal life, while only those who become as children can receive eternal life by grace. Eternal life is the life of the kingdom. Hence he speaks about inheriting it. His request to inherit eternal life means that he wants to enter the kingdom.
The answer given by the Lord must make the ruler think. In His answer, the Lord asks why he calls Him “good Teacher”. The Lord does not wait for His answer, but helps him on his way by saying to him that no one is good except God alone. If the ruler means that He is really good, he will have to acknowledge Him as God. When he means He as a human being, and not more than a human being, good teacher, someone from whom you can learn how to earn eternal life, he is short of His glory.
The Lord knows what is in the heart of the ruler. To make him see it for himself, He tells him what he can do to enter the kingdom. That is simply keeping the law. The Lord therefore confronts him with the commandments. He does not ask if the ruler knows them, for he knows that he knows them. Knowing the commandments and actually keeping them, however, are two things. The Lord only tells him five commandments and not all ten. And watch which commandments He tells the chief. The five He confronts him with are commandments that govern the relationship between men.
In all sincerity, the ruler can say that he kept these commandments from his youth. It does not sound like bragging. The Lord does not justify him either as someone who piously presents himself, while he is not all right in his inner being. At the same time, his answer proves that he has no sense of sin at all and that he therefore does not know God and Christ.
Then the Lord comes to the essence. He says to the ruler that he lacks one thing. He knows that the ruler is rich and that his heart is attached to his possessions. By saying to him that he must sell everything and distribute it to the poor, He puts him to the test. If he really desires eternal life, he will do everything for it.
If he does what the Lord says, it has a twofold effect for him. He will be assured of a treasure in heaven. He may also come to the Lord and follow Him. Following the Lord means rejection on earth, but in the future the enjoyment of the treasure. It is about Who the “Me” Who says this is for the heart. That determines everything. When He stands before the attention, there is power to leave everything on earth and there is faith that the true treasure is in heaven.
When the ruler hears what the Lord asks, he does not get angry, but very sad. He sees the reality before him that he must give up everything to inherit eternal life and he cannot give up his possessions. They are too precious for him. That’s because he doesn’t see any attraction in the Lord Jesus and the things He holds out to him. The ruler would have wanted to buy eternal life with his wealth, but to sell and give away everything and then go a way of humiliation in the faith that the treasure is safe in heaven, that he does not want.
The Lord has put His finger on the covetousness which dominates him and which is nourished by the wealth he possesses. The riches that seem to be a sign of God’s favor in man’s eyes only appear to be an obstacle when it comes to his heart and to heaven.
The Lord’s question makes it clear that he loves his wealth, his money, the mammon, something he had never expected of himself before. Now comes to light what has always been dormant in him. This happens because he is in the presence of Him Who, while He was rich, became poor for our sakes, in order that we might become rich by His poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). The ruler found his position and his possessions valuable and could not tolerate having nothing and being nothing.
What a difference with Him Who “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men”. This is already a great deep humiliation, but it goes much deeper. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-Ruth :).
When the Lord sees that the ruler is saddened, He points to the danger of wealth as an obstacle to enter the kingdom of God. He compares a rich person to a camel who is unable to go through the eye of a needle and often has so much cargo that it becomes even more impossible to go through it.
The metaphor is an exaggeration that clearly indicates to everyone that a rich man who depends on his money cannot enter the kingdom. Someone who has a lot of money and possessions can often find it difficult to give that up. To enter the kingdom, all riches, whether material or spiritual and intellectual, must be renounced.
The Lesson for the Disciples
If someone is rich, it means to the disciples that such a person enjoys God’s favor. For earthly prosperity is promised by God to those who keep His commandments. That is why the question arises in their minds who can be saved if it is impossible for such a person to be saved.
The point is not that a rich person cannot be saved, but that his wealth is no guarantee of this and in practice often proves to be a major hindrance. There are certainly rich people who have been saved, for example Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57). To be saved is an impossibility for all people, rich or poor, but not for God. God is the only One Who can give salvation. He can do that through the work of the Lord Jesus.
Peter has heard what the Lord has said to the rich ruler about selling his possessions and following Him. He says that they did. He doesn’t say it in haughtiness, but with a little question in it about what it will bring him and the others. This is evident from the Lord’s answer. Maybe he even said it with a hint of disappointment because it has not yet produced more than they have now. He has a wife and had a boat and beautiful work. He left it all behind.
The Lord encourages them by telling them what they will receive. He responds to Peter’s remark by saying that nothing is given up that is not abundantly compensated by Him. Giving everything up must be done for the sake of the kingdom of God. Only those who have seen the glory of the kingdom in the King of it, give up everything. They leave their homes, their living area, with all those who belong to it, and who are dear to them, to follow Somebody Who offers them nothing but a cross.
The Lord promises that they will receive “many times as much”. This “many times as much“ consists of spiritual blessings received by someone who has given up everything for Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8-1 Samuel :). That is already the case today. The enjoyment of spiritual blessings, of fellowship with the Lord, compensates for much of the loss of the most intimate earthly fellowship that is abandoned. These blessings and fellowship will be enjoyed in their fullness in the future age.
Eternal life is now only the inner possession of the believer. In the future age, when the Lord Jesus reigns, eternal life will also be the atmosphere, the environment, of life. Everything will be in agreement with Him Who is eternal life. His government, His life, then determines life on earth.
Third Announcement of Suffering
The kingdom of God and eternal life do not yet determine life on earth. Before this can happen, the Lord and His disciples must go to Jerusalem. There the disciples will see that what is written about Him by the prophets will also happen to Him. They will see that the Son of Man did not go to Jerusalem to establish the kingdom of peace, but to be rejected and killed.
The Lord speaks again of Himself as the Son of Man, with whom He says He will not only reign over Israel, but over all creation and that this will happen through the way of suffering and death. The title Son of Man speaks both of His rejection and of His glory.
He will be handed over to the Gentiles. He is not talking here about what the Jews will do with him. The Gentiles will also be guilty of His death. Nothing will be spared Him. Every imaginable mockery and torture will be done to Him. Finally, He will be killed. But that is not the end. The Lord clearly declares that He will rise again on the third day. His resurrection proves His Divine power (Romans 1:4) and the acceptance of His work by God on the basis of which God can justify the sinner (Romans 4:25).
Everything He said about His suffering, death and resurrection has not found entrance to the disciples. That is because their thoughts are only focused on a reigning King. A suffering and dying King does not fit into their thinking. Here we see how a preformed opinion has such a power, that even the clearest statements in their true meaning remain hidden from the listener.
Healing of a Blind Beggar
This event is the starting point for the first three evangelists to describe the last part of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem (Matthew 20:29-Nahum :; Mark 10:46-1 Thessalonians :). Matthew and Mark speak about leaving Jericho, Luke says he was “approaching Jericho”.
According to excavations there seem to have been two cities called Jericho. One city is the old original city, the other city is a Roman Jericho, not far from there. The blind man sat between the two cities. Then the situation is that the Lord Jesus leaves the old Jericho and is on his way to the Roman Jericho and on his way he meets the blind man who is begging along the way. There are also translations here that translate that the Lord was “in the proximity of Jericho”.
The blind man hears that a crowd going by. He concludes that something special is going on and wants to know why the crowd is there. He asks for it. He receives the answer that “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 2:23), passes by. The blind man knows enough and starts shouting. He does not call out “Jesus of Nazareth”, but “Jesus, Son of David”. He Who to the crowd is no more than the Man of Nazareth, is for the blind the Son of David.
The blind sees more than the crowd. His faith gave him the right view of Christ and led him to appeal to His mercy. The Lord will never pass by here again, for He will die in Jerusalem. The blind man did not know this, so it is all the more beautiful that he should seize the opportunity offered to him.
He takes his decision as soon as it is possible and does not postpone it until later, which also would never come again. It is important for any decision that it is taken when it is possible. The people at the front of the parade tell him to be quiet. He must stop his shouting, for if the Lord listened to it, it would cause undesirable delay.
The warning has the opposite effect. The blind man keeps crying out all the more. He does the same as the widow at the beginning of this chapter who also continued asking. Once again he appeals to the mercy of the Lord as the Son of David. He experiences that someone in need who calls to Him never calls to Him in vain. It is even so, that such a persevering call to Him sounds pleasant in His ears.
The Lord stops. There is nothing that can stop Him on his way to Jerusalem except someone who appeals to his mercy. Then He commands that the blind man would be brought to Him. That order is followed without contradiction. The blind man approaches the Lord in faith and thereby enters into the circle of blessing.
Before he receives the blessing, the Lord asks him what he wants him to do. It seems like an unnecessary question and the Lord knows the answer of course, but He wants to hear it from the mouth of the blind man. In the same way He would like to hear from our mouths what we want from Him, even though He knows what our desires are. This is so that we can express the feelings of our hearts and experience the answer to our prayer as something that comes from Him Himself.
After announcing his wish, the Lord with authority says: “Receive your sight!” He immediately adds that the blind man owes his healing to his faith in Him. The blind has not come to faith by healing, but he believes and is healed. The result is immediate. He regains his sight. The result is that he follows the Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He is born again and sees the kingdom of God (John 3:3). People start to see through the power and activity of the Holy Spirit.
While he follows, he glorifies God. This is also an example for us. Following the Lord may happen while glorifying God. The people also see, but different than the blind man. The people see that a miracle has happened and praise God for it, but they do not see the peculiarity of the Lord Jesus.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany