Study Notes

Luke 18:1-30

18:1-8 Prayer

Parables have a way of being misinterpreted, misappropriated, and misunderstood. The nice thing about this parable is that Luke gives us its interpretation and intent right up front, writing:

Luke 18:1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.

That is this parable's primary purpose. Basically, Jesus is saying, "Look, if this unrighteous judge gave this woman justice for her perseverance, how much more will the Judge of heaven and earth answer you when you persevere in prayer?

Remember, in this parable, Jesus is showing us a dichotomy - the judge is not God - he is nothing like God. Don't think that God is like this judge, someone who we've got to harass and pester until our prayers are answered. Jesus told us,

Matt. 6:7 "...When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

Don't mindlessly repeat yourself. God is a person - talk to Him like a person. Imagine someone asking you a question, and you decide to think it over. Then they ask you again. And again. And again... And always in the same phrasing, as if they were a robot who's programming was in an endless loop. Don't get caught up reiterating and reciting prayers. God wants your attention and your conversation - not your repetition.

But on the other hand, the Bible does say over and over that we are supposed to be praying always, keeping those lines of communication with the Lord open.

Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer

1Ths. 5:17 pray without ceasing

Eph. 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit

2Tim. 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day

Pray without ceasing, and don't lose heart. Daniel fasted and prayed for 21 days before the angel Gabriel came with an answer. You see, there was massive spiritual warfare going on that Daniel didn't know about, but he kept on persevering. I wonder what would have happened if he had given up after praying for 10 or 15 days?

In another case, Paul writes in 2Corinthians about an instance where he was pursuing an answer to prayer. He writes,

2Cor. 12:7-9 ...There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me - to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."

So the third time Paul prayed about this infirmity, the Lord said -" I'm not going to take this away." The moral of the story? Always keep praying until you get an answer, and if the answer is no, stop asking. You remember how Balaam got into trouble, don't you? Some Moabites came to the prophet Balaam, asking him to curse the Israelites. When Balaam prayed, the Lord said, "Don't curse the Israelites, for they are blessed." But then more Moabites came with promises of more money. God had already said no, but Balaam prayed and asked Him again. That was the beginning of Balaam's downfall into apostasy. Pray about everything, don't use meaningless repetition, but don't stop 'till you get an answer. If the answer is no, don't bug Him about it.

Will He Find Faith?

Then Jesus poses this rhetorical question,

Luke 18:8 "...When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

When Jesus comes again, will He find faith on the earth? Will people be praying, will they be living their lives according to the word of God? Will their minds and hearts be aligned with His? Or will they be aligned with the world? In Matthew 24, Jesus said that in the last days,

Matt. 24:12-13 "...Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

Today the church is in a very dangerous place. False teachers, false doctrines, and false revivals are sweeping through the church. In most churches, the teaching of the Bible has either become politically incorrect, or been forsaken in favor of feel-good psychobabble-filled teachings. Prayer has become an avenue by which people demand health and wealth from God. And most Christians live lives of carnality and compromise that would make the first century church doubt or even deny our salvation.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord wouldn't come until after the apostasy, a great falling away from the faith came. The more I study the Bible, the more convinced I am that those who are saved endure to the end - they are the ones who are running the race to win - who are overcoming the world with their faith . I am convinced more and more that there are a lot fewer born-again, saved, bought-by-the-blood-of-Jesus Christians out there than any of us realize. Paul told the Philippians, "In obedience,

Phil. 2:12 out your salvation with fear and trembling;

And Peter warned us,

2Pet. 1:10 ...Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you...

Please don't see how close you can walk on the edge. Stay away from the edge, and stay as close to God as possible.

18:9-14 The Pharisee and the Tax-Gatherer

Again, Luke tells us the motivation of this illustration. It was...

Luke 18:9 certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt

This parable is addressed to all those self-righteous, critical, and condemning"religious" people. Those who look down on everybody else. The Pharisee's problem was that he compared himself with others, instead of with God. Certainly, if we measure ourselves by others, we can always find someone who is much worse than we are. But 2Corinthians says,

2Cor. 10:12 ...When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

You can't use the measuring stick of society, or those around you to determine your righteousness. You must use God's measuring stick to compare your righteousness with His. God doesn't grade on a curve, you know? It's not everyone who's in the top 60 percentile of goodness that's going to heaven! We absolutely cannot approach God on the basis of our good works. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Isa. 64:6 ...All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...

And SO what if we have done better than others? Remember what we read last week in chapter 17. Jesus said,

Luke 17:7-10 "But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done {only} that which we ought to have done.'

No, we have to approach God the way this tax-gatherer did. We must be continually humbled before His righteousness.

Ps. 51:16-17 For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

Come to God not with great self-esteem or self-righteousness. Come to God on the basis of His mercy towards us. The tax-gatherer said, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!". And Jesus said,

Luke 18:14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

18:15-17 Like a Child

The earliest Christian baby dedications! Though the disciples thought that the children were an annoyance, Jesus said - you all need to be like them. Children are so pure and undefiled by conventional wisdom, by doubt, by cynicism. They are trusting, faithful, and believing. Come to God as a child. Forget what the world has shown you. Have faith like a child, and you'll be a part of His kingdom.

18:18-30 No One Is Good

The ruler comes up to Jesus and calls him "Good Teacher". But Jesus says,

Luke 18:19 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."

There needs to be a cultural clarification here. While we would think nothing of saying, "My son's teacher at school is a good teacher", that term was never applied to Rabbis in Jesus' day, because it impliedcomplete and total sinlessness. In that community and culture, only God was called "good". So Jesus' response is saying one of two things. He is either saying, "I am not good, and therefore I am not God," or He is saying, "I am good, and therefore I am God." So by answering this way, he's making the ruler ask himself - who is this Jesus really? That's the question that we are all required to answer. When Jesus asked his disciples,

Matt. 16:15 "...Who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered,

Matt. 16:16 "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Notice that Jesus didn't say, "Nope, try again." or "Sorry, next player!" His response was,

Matt. 16:17 "Blessed are you... because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."

Jesus wants a confession of faith from each person. And He wants it on this earth, in this age. Don't wait until it's too late. The Bible says that His name is...

Phil. 2:9-11 ...the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Riches & The Kingdom

Now Jesus enters into a dialogue with this ruler. First, He addresses the man's horizontal relationships - his attitudes and actions towards his fellow man. In this regard, the man was law abiding, thoughtful, and loving. Doing great so far, right? Well, yes, but only in this life. But his question was in regard to how he could inheriting eternal life. And with that, Jesus addresses his vertical relationship - his relationship with God.

"Wait a minute, I thought that He told the guy to sell everything he had and give it to the poor!" Exactly. You see, his riches were the one thing that were keeping him away from a saving relationship with God. His riches were his god, and the Lord won't tolerate anyone on the throne in your life besides Him. This guy's life revolved around money - it was everything to him. So Jesus said, "Ditch it. Throw it out. Get rid of that stumbling block that's keeping you away from the kingdom of God."

When I was 16 years old, I went to get my driver's license. I easily passed the written test, and then did everything that the driving tester told me to. I was so happy - I had done so well. But thetester turned to me and said, "You're the best driver I've ever flunked." What? I had done everything so perfectly! Parallel parking, merging into traffic, giving my hand signals - what did I do wrong? He told me, "I took you through the same 4-way intersection three times, and you never slowed down." He couldn't legally pass me without that requirement.

The same is true in the kingdom of God. Do you think that God is obligated to save you because you've got a great relationship with those people around you? His righteousness requires Him to require righteousness of you. So you can be the most loving, giving, and caring person - but without the righteousness of Jesus Christ being imparted to you by faith, you'll be the nicest person that ever went to hell.

Have you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Have you confessed Him as the only Lord of your life? Have you received His forgiving sacrifice for your sins? If not, why not? There is something keeping you from Him. For this ruler it was riches. Maybe it's the same thing for you. Maybe it's a relationship. Maybe it's an addiction. Whatever it is - it's keeping you out of life abundant here, and life eternal forever. Whatever it is - get rid of it! The rich man made his choice - his temporal riches instead of his eternal life. And he walked away sad. Don't walk away sad.

The Eye of a Needle

As the man walked away, Jesus said,

Luke 18:24-25 "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Now many of us have heard teachings about the small gate called "the eye of the needle." You see, at night, the main gate of a walled city was closed for protection against attack. The story is told that if a traveler arrived at the city after the gate was closed, the only way he could get in would be to take all of his supplies and bags off the camel, get it to bend or kneel down, and push it through this tiny gate called "the eye of the needle". Hence, Jesus' expression, "a camel through the eye of a needle". The only problem with that, is that it has been proven by historians to be a false story concocted by Israeli tour guides.

We really should have never believed the story in the first place. For Jesus said, "With man it's impossible." But according to the story, it was possible, just a lot of work. And many people do believe it, because a lot of churches teach a lot of people that with enough work, with enough pushing and pulling, with enough willpower, you can save yourself.

But no one has ever made it into heaven that way. At the gates of the kingdom, there is a fork in the road. One way goes to eternal life, the other way to outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. And your only ticket of admission to eternal life is whether or not your name is written in the Lamb's book of life.

Many Times As Much

The disciples were in an upheaval! "Lord, if it's that difficult, then who can be saved? On the other hand, we've left everything for you. Our lucrative fishing businesses, our tax collecting - we've given it all up for you! So where do WE stand?"

Jesus reassures them - "whatever you've given up for the Lord, for the sake of the kingdom of God, will be recompensed - not only in heaven, but on earth as well."

There is a qualifier here - "for the sake of the kingdom of God". Nowadays, the prosperity preachers teach "seed faith". They say, "put a $10 in the tithe, and God will give you a $100!" No, because your motivation then is giving to get. If you gave the ten out of the abundance of your heart to bless the Lord, to help continue His ministry, then you will be recompensed. But don't give to get.

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