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GRACE PRODUCING PERSISTENT PRAYER
This section connects with the subjects of chapter 17. We have seen in the four sections of that chapter that the gospel of grace produces in the believer a spirit that is (1) forgiving; (2) humble; (3) thankful; and (4) watchful. To complete this list, a prayerful spirit is now added.
Nothing should at any time discourage our consistency in prayer. The parable the Lord used as to this is most instructive. The judge He spoke of was in no way a commendable character, having no fear of God and unfeeling as regards men. Whether the woman who came to him had a just cause against her adversary is not told us, for likely this did not affect the judge one way or the other. He was simply not interested and therefore would do nothing for the woman at first. But when she continued presenting her case to him, he decided to give judgment in her favor, just so he would not be bothered by her any more. The Lord insists that he was unjust.
Notice, however that she was a widow with no husband to take up her case. Helplessly, she depended on the judge; and though unjust, he finally acted on her behalf, out of mere selfish motives.
God's elect, virtually helpless in a persecuting world, have only God to depend upon. Their cause is right, and God is absolute in justice and truth. Is He less dependable than a selfish judge? Let His own cry day and night to Him, never discouraged because the time seems long, for He will speedily act on their behalf, though He bears long as to the injustice of others against them. Because He is long-suffering toward the ungodly, He uses this also to teach us longsuffering, yet at the same time He encourages constant prayer and supplication, which He will answer in proper time.
"Nevertheless," He adds, "when the Son of Man comes, will He find really faith on the earth" (v.8)? This is His coming in power and glory at the end of the great tribulation. The godly remnant will have cried pleadingly to God. Will the Son of Man find the faith that has confidently expected an answer such as His coming brings? It is a question to exercise hearts to fully expect an answer.
THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR
Verse 9 introduces another subject which ends with verse 34, and is a summing up of things that have gone before, as in the presence of God, prior to the last great division of the book of Luke, which begins with verse 35. Verses 9 to 14 form a first part of the larger subject, which shows in four parts that people must have to do with God, and upon principles that cannot be ignored.
First (vs.9-14) one must have a righteousness far superior to that of the Pharisees. The Lord's parable was spoken to those whose confidence was in their own self-righteousness and who therefore despised others, two things that go together. The Pharisee and the tax collector are put in total contrast. In fact, the Pharisees favored such contrast. The Pharisee prayed "with himself," but addressed "God;" for his god was really himself, and his prayer is an expression of pride in not being like certain other men, including the tax collector. But what special merit is there in not being an extortioner, unjust, or an adulterer? Thousands of others avoid these things just because of the folly of them. The Pharisee prided himself also on missing two meals out of 27, and giving tithes of all his possessions. In his eyes these things so outweigh his sins that he did not even mention that he was guilty of any.
The tax gatherer however, stood afar off, his eyes cast down in self-judgment. He spoke of nothing whatever in his own favor (though possibly he might have had just as much to boast of as did the Pharisee). He pled only for mercy from God, confessing himself to be "the sinner" (JND). It is no question of how bad a sinner he was, but of the fact of being a sinner. Of course the fact was just as true of the Pharisee, but he chose to cover it up by talking about what sins he did not commit.
The Lord assures us that the man who faced facts honestly in the light of God's pure truth went to his house justified, rather than the other. The seIf-righteousness of the Pharisee left him in a state of no righteousness whatever, not justified, but actually under condemnation. The honest self-condemnation of the tax collector resulted in God counting him righteous, for his being justified means just this, that God has imputed righteousness to him because he admittedly had none of his own, but had faith in the living God. Compare Romans 4:1-8. The Lord sealed this by re-affirming a principle so constantly outstanding throughout scripture, that one who exalts himself shall be abased, while he who humbles himself shall be exalted. Satan is a striking example of the first, while the Lord Jesus is the supreme example of the latter. This is the first principle of our having to do with God.
GRACE TO LITTLE CHILDREN
Now, in this second section, added to a character humbling of oneself before God is a genuine concern for the most helpless and dependent of God's creatures, for if we lack this we do not rightly know the heart of God. The disciples exposed their ignorance of God's heart by rebuking those who brought infants to the Lord for His blessing by the touch of His hand. But it was the disciples who needed rebuke. He called those who brought the children (for it seems they were already going away because of the disciples' rebuke) and encouraged the little ones to come to Him, "for of such is the kingdom of God." So there is no question that families of believers have their place in the kingdom of God. We could not say the same of the Assembly of God, the Church, for all in the Church must be born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God.
The Lord concluded this subject with declaring that the kingdom, rather than for self-important men, is opened only to those who enter as little children. The lowliness of honest, dependent faith is imperative in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom one has to do with God, the kingdom being that sphere where God's authority is paramount, therefore calling for a spirit of unquestioning subjection and obedience.
THE RICH YOUNG RULER
These verses show that God must be first in priority. Our possessions of whatever sort must not be allowed to take His place in the heart. If we have not learned this, we have not learned aright the wonder of the grace of God. The ruler who questioned the Lord Jesus was concerned about inheriting eternal life and he recognized that there was in Christ a goodness that could not be denied. Yet it was not enough to realize that Christ is a good teacher. He needed to understand more than this concerning the Lord. So the Lord asked him why he called Him good, reminding him that only God is good. Of course Jesus is good because He is God manifest in flesh, but the ruler sadly discerned nothing of His true glory, for he was thinking, not of what God is, but of his own doings. But his doings could have nothing to do with inheriting eternal life: for this he must be born again. But the Lord did not speak of this: rather He referred to the standard God had given as regards people's doings, that is, the ten commandments. The ruler knew these, but did not consider that he needed something outside of his own good works.
As to these commandments, he said he had kept them from his youth up. No doubt, compared to others he had done well in this regard. But how little he knew of his own heart in the sight of God! For like all others, he had sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but was insensible to this solemn fact.
The Lord did not tell him that he had come short: rather He used a wise method designed to awaken the man to a sense of his sin in such a way as to drive him back to the Lord. Because the ruler only thought of what he should do, therefore the Lord gave him something to do. Whatever may be the man's virtues, the Lord told him he lacked one thing. That thing was a genuine faith in the person of Christ. It is faith that is sternly tested in the Lord's instructions, to sell what he had, distribute the proceeds to the poor, and with confidence of treasure in heaven, follow the Lord.
If he thought of Christ only as a good teacher, we can understand him not responding favorably to this. He was very sorrowful, for he was very rich. Many indeed there are who choose their riches rather than the blessed Son of God. The Lord knew his riches were a hindrance and therefore spoke as He did. Whether or not the ruler later turned to the Lord we do not know, but he had been given enough to cause him serious exercise of heart.
The Lord warned His listeners of the danger of riches hindering one's entrance into the kingdom of God. It was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (vs.25). The suggestion that the simile of a camel going through the eye of a needle had reference to a small gate through which a camel could not go without unloading may be rather attractive to some, but no reliable historian substantiates this concept. In fact, the Lord says it is impossible with men, but possible with God, indicating that this is naturally an impossibility. His hearers were astonished at His words, for riches were considered to be a sign of God's favor in Israel, but such favor can easily be turned into an occasion for self-satisfaction. Riches are not a sign of God's favor today.
FUTURE BLESSING BUT PRESENT SUFFERING
In this section we see that a true recognition of God's gracious supremacy will always result in the greatest blessing for mankind. The ruler needed this. Peter contrasted himself and the other apostles with the ruler by asserting that they had left everything to follow the Lord. The Lord Jesus however did not flatter Peter for this, but gave the solid assurance that anyone who leaves his own possessions or his natural relatives for the kingdom of God's sake will receive many times as much even in this present world, and the infinite blessing of eternal life in the age to come. The Lord did not speak of material blessings, but that which is much more vital and valuable, as indeed is the present joy and blessing of the grace of the Lord Jesus, the sweetness of communion with Himself.
Although there is eternal blessing for the believer and also spiritual blessing in the present time, yet our present blessing will be mixed with suffering and rejection in this world. The Lord spoke to the twelve (vs.31-34), taking them aside. Jesus, the true Servant of God, would do nothing to avoid the suffering He foretold: He (and the disciples with Him) would go determinately to Jerusalem with the object of having all things accomplished that were written as to His sufferings and death. The Son of Man was taking His directions from His God and Father, in fullest obedience. The leaders of His own nation Israel would deliver Him into the hands of Gentiles, to be subjected to mockery, violence and contempt, then to be scourged and crucified.
The Lord's words were clear and explicit, and no less clear was His addition, "and the third day He shall rise again." Nor was it the first time He told them this. Compare chapter 9:21-22. Yet nothing of His sufferings, death and resurrection registered in their minds. Indeed, when He died, none of the disciples remembered even then His assurance that He would be raised the third day, though unbelievers remembered it (Matthew 27:62-63). The disciples were blinded by their own natural preconceptions.
THE BLIND BEGGAR AT JERICHO
Verse 35 begins the third and last great division of the book of Luke, as the Lord is about to present Himself in Jerusalem for the accomplishment of His matchless work of redemption. The blind beggar sitting by the wayside near Jericho is a striking reminder of the condition of Israel which only His sacrifice could posibly change. The Lord's healing of the man is a picture of His healing the blindness of the remnant of Israel in the coming day when they turn to Him.
The noise of the crowd stirred the interest of this blind man, who is told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. But he did not use that term, for Nazareth was a place despised by the Jews. Rather, he cried out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (v.38). He recognized in Christ the glory of the true King of Israel, and he asked for nothing on the ground of his deserving it, but pled only for mercy. Such a cry is always sufficient to cause the Lord to stand still. He commanded that the man be brought to Him. Notice how God sees fit to reduce a sinner to such a state as to be dependent on the help of others, for pride must be broken down.
Then the Lord asked him what he wanted (v.41). It was useless for him to speak as the rich ruler had done, "What shall I do?" (v.18). He knew he could do nothing to give himself sight. Nor did he say, "Good Teacher," but "Lord, that I may receive my sight." He took his own place of helplessness, gave the Lord the supreme place of authority, and depended on His mercy. So it will be with the remnant of Israel in a coming day, a great contrast indeed to their present pride in "going about to establish their own righteousness" (Romans 10:3).
He was answered immediately by the amazing miracle of receiving his sight, a work which no other had ever done before this blessed Messiah of Israel had come (John 10:32). But as well as receiving his natural sight, he was told by the Lord that his faith had saved him. This went far deeper than his natural healing, for many were healed who showed no evidence of faith at all. The man's soul was saved, for his faith was in the Lord Jesus. More than this, he was so attracted to the Lord that they followed Him, though this meant the long, steep climb to Jerusalem -- about a 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) ascent in a distance of 13 miles (21km). The common people, seeing the great miracle, gave praise to God, as Israel yet will do.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 18". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18