John T. Willis

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jesus Places Emphasis on What is Most Important--Luke 18:15-30

As Jesus moves closer and closer to Jerusalem to faces his enemies who will crucify him, Jesus places great emphasis on what is most important in life as he teaches his disciples. This appears in Luke 18:15-30, in which Jesus deals with TWO important issues: (1) the importance of the heart of children; (2) the importance of trusting in God rather than trusting in wealth. This section of Luke falls into two parts. I. Jesus emphasizes the importance of children. Luke 18:15-17. a. After Jesus' parables about prayer, several parents brought their infants to Jesus so Jesus could "touch" them. But Jesus' disciples "sternly ordered" them not to do this. The account of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is dotted with story after story after story about Jesus "touching" people. Jesus "touched" the leper to heal him in Luke 5:13; on a "level place," a large multitude came to Jesus coming from Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon so that "all in the crowd were trying to 'touch' Jesus" in Luke 6:19; Jesus "touched" the bier or casket of the widow's son at Nain in Luke 7:14; a sinful woman in a Pharisee's house came in just to "touch" Jesus in Luke 7:39; a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years came through the crowd to "touch" the fringe of Jesus' clothes and Jesus immediately healed her in Luke 8:44-48; Jesus "touched" and healed the ear of the slave of the high priest that someone had cut off in Luke 22:51. The "touch" of Jesus is of utmost importance. The touch of one human being to another is a powerful expression. Unfortunately, many adults forget that they too were children, and they assume they are superior to children, and attempt to put children in a lower place. This is what the disciples of Jesus did, and how wrong they were!!! 18:15. b. Jesus responded by rebuking the heart and action of his disciples. He told the parents to let the little children come to Jesus and do not stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to little children. Every follower of Jesus, every genuine church of God always exalts little children in the home, in the community, in the church, in the world. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, Anchor Bible 28A, pages 1193-1194 places emphasis on this important idea: "They [Little children] are to be recognized not only as members of the kingdom, but as models for all adults who would like to accept it. . . . Jesus is . . . extolling the openness and sheer receptivity of these tiny human beings. Their freshness, their lack of guilt or suspicion, their loving warmth, and their lack of a claim to achievement are what is being held upt to adults accosted byt the message of the kingdom. The little child . . . becomes the symbol of the ideal entrant into the kingdom. . . . [Jesus emphasizes] the child's qualities of openness, lowliness in society, minority, helplessness, without claim of achievement, and in need of constant maternal or paternal attention . . ." 18:16. c. Jesus repeats this very strongly in negative words: "whoever [that leaves no one out] does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will NEVER enter it." All churches need to emphasize the importance of our children and to use them in every way in the church: to lead prayers, to lead and wait on the Lord's Supper, to proclaim God's message in the Bible, to have religious dramatic acts and concerts, and many other activities. This is the ONLY future of the people of God. 18:17. II. Jesus emphasizes the importance of not trusting in earthly wealth. Luke 18:18-30. [See Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31] a. When a certain ruler or magistrate hears the messages of Jesus about prayer and the importance of children, he approaches Jesus and asks him: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The Jewish lawyer asked the same question in Luke 10:25. This is a very pressing question for all people. 18:18. b. Jesus responded FIRST by saying, "Why do you call me [Jesus] GOOD?" Then immediately he says: "No one is GOOD but God [my Father] alone." Here Jesus is directing the rich man's attention to God the Father and his will asthe ONLY prescription for pleasing him. It is VERY IMPORTANT to remember that Jesus consistently directs people away from Jesus or anyone else to turn to God the Father. 18:19. c. SECOND, Jesus does not give the rich man a new teaching or new commandments, but to keep God's commandments found in the Law of Moses in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Jesus specifically lists FIVE of the ten commandments, obviously intending all TEN: "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother." The rich man declares that he has kept all these commandments from his youth." Unfortunately, many people and churches reject this clear teaching of Jesus and argue that these are Old Testament commandments which do not apply to our lives today. If one takes this position, that person is rejecting the clear teaching of Jesus. Jesus NEVER opposes the Old Testament, but he DOES oppose a misunderstanding or wrong teaching of the Old Testament. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 openly declares that all Christians must follow the Old Testament. 18:20-21. d. THIRD, Jesus tells the rich man that "there is still one thing lacking," consisting of two points: (1) sell all you have and distribute the money to the poor; (2) come, follow Jesus. If he does this, he will have treasure in heaven. The rich man and all of us must make a choice. The rich man rejected Jesus' choice. He love his wealth more than he loved God the Father through Jesus Christ. 18:22-23. e. Then Jesus looked at the rich man and said: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Then Jesus made a comparison: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Some people have argued that "the eye of a needle" is the name for a small entrance in a city wall through which a camel might squeeze only with the greatest difficulty. But NO ONE has EVER found the existence of such a named tiny entrance. It NEVER existed, and NEVER will!!! 18:24-25. f. Those who heard Jesus message immediately got his point, and then asked the logical question: "Then who can be saved?" Jesus replied: "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God." We are ALL GREAT SINNERS!!! There is NO WAY AT ALL that we can live in such a way as to OWN eternal life. We deserve NOTHING AT ALL!!! But our POWERFUL, GRACIOUS, FORGIVING God can and does the impossible. This drives us to the knees of all true followers of God to be thankful and grateful for all God does for us each day. This is our only hope. 18:26-27. g. Peter responded to try to defend himself and his fellow disciples: "WE have left our homes and followed you." Obviously, Peter is seeking Jesus' approval, which is exactly the opposite attitude Jesus is seeking. 18:28. h. So Jesus replies: "There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not get back very much more inthis age, and in the age to come eternal life." This is an extremely high calling--to put God our Father through Jesus Christ FIRST in every aspect of life, and to put everything and everyone else second. 18:29-30. Share YOUR responses and concepts and misgivings and restraints and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis