Sunday, November 24, 2019
Two people crying out to God for mercy: a tax collector and a blind man. These two stories form the bookends for five scenarios in Luke 18. Each of these scenes point to our need for a Savior.
TAX COLLECTORS (Luke 18:9-14)
Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable to those who were comfortable in their own righteousness before God and who looked down upon everyone else. The Pharisee serves as the foil for the star attraction: an humble tax collector, hated as a traitor by Jewish society, far away in the shadows of the temple, beating his breast with his head bowed, crying out to God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus tells us that this man went home justified before God.
CHILDREN (Luke 18:15-17)
Total dependence upon God’s extension of mercy to broken and contrite people who readily admit that they cannot make it on their own. Kind-of like…a little child, looking up to his or her parent. That’s what it looks like!
No pretense. No resistance. Absent self-sufficiency. Transparent trust. What better example could there be of what God is looking for in us? “I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).
THE RICH (Luke 18:18-30)
Just like the rich man who was wrapped up in his good fortune and anticipating a life of ease (Luke 12:13-21, NCV) so this young ruler was looking for one more religious practice to enhance his resume for eternal life. Jesus’ advice was simple: “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor….” He said, “Then come follow Me.” Saddened, the rich young ruler walks away as Jesus talks about camels going through eyes of needles. Letting go of our own sense of importance is so hard!
So, the disciples are mystified! If a Law-abiding rich man, obviously blessed by God, cannot be saved, then how can any of us possibly hope to obtain eternal life? Jesus affirms that it is impossible without God’s intervention.
GOD’S INTERVENTION: A CROSS (Luke 18:31-34)
Jesus describes the upcoming events that are looming on the horizon as He anticipates His arrival in Jerusalem, including His own death and resurrection. The starkly explicit details cause the disciples to totally miss the point of the Suffering Servant.
A BLIND MAN (Luke 18:35-42)
Wondering about all of the commotion, a blind man asks what is going on. Told, simply, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, the blind man connects the dots and realizes that “Jesus, the Son of David” is here! Taking a common name and realizing that Jesus’ true identity is the anticipated Messiah, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me.”
Jesus asks the blind man what he wishes for Jesus to do for him. Of all of things for which he could have asked, he, instead, reaches for the stars and asks to be able to see. As He is healing the blind man Jesus declares that he has been saved by his faith.
The Pharisees, the rich young ruler and the disciples cannot yet comprehend the cosmic nature of Jesus’ mission and purpose. Yet, just ask a child or a blind man and they know what it means to trust in God alone.