A rich man enters the kingdom – Luke 19:1-10

In Luke 18:24-25, after his interaction with the rich (young) ruler, Jesus declares,

24 … How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

It is difficult, but not impossible, because, as Jesus points out, in v.27,

What is impossible with man is possible with God.

In Luke 19, we get an example.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

For the rich ruler in the last chapter, eternal life was something of an ambition.  It was a goal he hoped to achieve.  “What would it take for me to get it?” He asked, assuming there was some particular effort or accomplishment from his side that would merit such a prize.  When Jesus challenged him to give up his possessions, he became sad.  He never saw that coming.

We might suppose the ruler’s riches were, in his mind, a sign of his virtue.  He was either from a well-bred, respectable family or had earned his way to riches through honest work and astute business acumen.  Satisfied with the status he enjoyed, he saw eternal life as the same sort of thing.  “Good people like me are rewarded by God, ” was the basis of his religious and ethical philosophy.  This is really the opposite of grace and is an outlook which leaves no room for repentance.

Zacchaeus is different.  He seems to value Jesus more than anything else.  Being short and unable to see the Savior, he is content to climb a tree to get a glimpse of him.  Jesus freely offering to come to his house is a completely unmerited blessing.  Without any prompting, he intuitively grasps that his dishonest gains are an issue.  This is “fruit in keeping with repentance” as John the Baptist might have called it.  The greedy, wealthy swindler has become generous.  A rich man has entered the kingdom.

 

Luke 18 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

This week Jesus teaches us to be bold and persistent in prayer.  He talks about grace and about the attitude we should have as we approach God.  Finally, he will remind us that his earthly ministry was always meant to end at the cross.

Luke 18.pdf

Luke 18.mp3

Here is a link to the livestream video:

 

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 18

Heavenly Father,

As we approach you in prayer, we want to leave behind any thoughts of our own merit, wisdom – and all confidence that we even know how to pray.

Our confidence is nothing more than trust in you. Give us boldness to come before you on the basis of your faithful love. And help us to be persistent in prayer.

Help us to live our lives in such a way as to store up treasure in heaven.

Not that we deserve any such thing, but again, we trust you and remember our constant need for your great grace.

And finally thank you for the cross, through which your Son Jesus has brought us into a right standing before you, by atoning for our sins.

It is in his name that we pray,

Amen

 

Grace illustrated – Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18 is where we find Christ’s “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”  It provides a number of lessons, namely on prayer, humility and grace.  Luke’s one-sentence introduction to the parable gives us a clear picture of what it is like when our understanding is devoid of the concept of grace.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 

What are such people thinking?  And what corrective would Christ offer to their error?  We are now ready to understand the parable.

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee in the story does in fact think himself to be righteous.  He seems to be trusting in himself and, in his heart, treating the tax collector with contempt.  The man is convinced that God must be looking upon him favorably, since he is extra holy in all that he does.  No doubt the Pharisee really was more righteous than the tax collector in all of his outwardly visible behavior.

The tax collector comes to the temple with a sense of need.  We might add that there is no other way to come before God.  Neither gratitude nor worship make much sense if we are not needy at some deeply known level.  Prayers of petition express our need most directly.  A request for mercy from God is perhaps the ultimate petition, since our very lives and standing before God are hanging in the balance.  At the white throne of judgment we won’t be thinking of Aunt Betsy’s headaches.

Yet the tax collector is at least confident enough to go to the temple.  He is not so ashamed as to run and hide and refuse to pray.  He has a basic understanding of grace and his need for it.  This is the perfect place to begin.

Performance-based religion places numerous obstacles on the path to a reconciled and satisfied soul.  On our bad days, we can find ourselves striving in futility in an attempt to get right with God.  On our good days, we can feel confident, but deep down we are trusting in ourselves.  Neither end of that spectrum leads quickly to grace.

Grace reminds us that our best behavior is still somehow tainted by sin, even if only by a sliver of a wrong motive lurking in our heart.  Grace also give us confidence, when we know we have not measured up, to go into God’s presence and seek his mercy.  Like the tax collector who went down to his house justified.

Your worst days are never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace.  And your best days are never so good that you’re beyond the need of God’s grace.*

– Jerry Bridges, author, Navigators staff member (1929 – 2016).

* from Bridges, 2008. Holiness Day by Day, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 19.  Originally in The Discipline of Grace