Saturday, February 25, 2012

Luke Part 59: Bartimaeus Receives Sight

Text: Luke 18:35-43

This passage is a most encouraging section of Scripture.  It is a perfect picture of Jesus dealing mercifully with a sinner.  In the previous sections in Luke, we have seen some examples of blindness: the young ruler who was willfully blind (he couldn't see the way of salvation and walked away from it) and the disciples who couldn't see Jesus' need to die to fulfill the way to salvation.  This is an example of a physically blind man who saw.

Blind Bartimaeus (as we learn his name from the other gospels) was told that Jesus was coming by.  He knew Jesus.  Someone had told him about Jesus.  Let's look at how Bartimaeus responds when he hears Jesus is coming by, noting the close parallels of this account and the testimony of all who have been saved from spiritual blindness:

1.  He calls out.  He knows the name "Jesus", meaning a Savior for sinners.

2.  He calls Him, "Son of David."  He knows this is the Messiah and identifies Him as such.

3.  He asks for something.  He has an urgent request and he is ready to make it known.  He knows Jesus, knows that Jesus has the power to help him, and he has the audacity to ask for mercy.

4.  He makes the request personal, saying "Jesus, have mercy on me."

The people around him are shutting him up, telling him to be quiet.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem; He is busy; leave Him alone.

5.  But the blind man perseveres.  He cries out all the louder in response.

He is incapacitated by his blindness.  He can't get closer to Jesus on his own; he is totally dependent on Jesus.  But Jesus has mercy and says, "Bring him to me."  And Jesus asks him what he wants.

6.  Bartimaeus calls Jesus "Lord".  He acknowledges Him as Lord, and asks that he might regain his sight.

Jesus is a good and loving Master, and he healed Bartimaeus.  In the same way, Jesus heals us and brings us into His family, giving us free access to Him and bringing us all the way to glory.  He is a good Savior, a complete Savior, and He finishes all that He begins.

What is Bartimaeus' response?  The same as any true follower of Jesus should be:  He follows Jesus, proclaiming what He has done, spending his life glorifying God.  His testimony of what God has done spurs others into glorifying God too.  May our lives, like this man's, be a testimony of God's grace and an encouragement to all around us to praise God!

Luke Part 58: The Rich Young Ruler

Text: Luke 18:18-30

In this passage, we see an incident recorded where someone came to Jesus asking questions.  That is a good thing; asking questions is an excellent way to learn.  He asked, "Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

No rabbi would stand to be called "good" teacher, as that attribute was God alone.  Jesus questioned the young ruler's motivation, saying "Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but God alone."  Jesus was asking him if he really believed that He was God.

Then, the Lord brings the Law to answer to the question of eternal life.  In quoting the commandments, Jesus rearranges their order, showing His ownership over the Law.  This man claimed that he had kept the commandments.  But still he had no assurance.  He seems to be asking, "Is this really all there is?"

Jesus doesn't correct his understanding of the Law.  Instead, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.  The ruler was sorrowful -- indicating that his heart indeed wasn't right; it was still with his wealth and riches.

Jesus said that it's harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.  There are many interpretations of this phrase, but the most straightforward is: it's an impossibility.  It is simply impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  So, those hearing asked, "Then who can be saved?"

Jesus shows us that it is an impossibility for man to save himself.  "With man, it is impossible."  But with God, our salvation is not impossible!  We don't know if this man ever repented, although we do know from the other gospel accounts (Mark 10:21) that Jesus loved this man.

In response to this event, Peter, the spokesman for the group, says, "We have left it all for You."  Jesus promises they would have many times more in this current life, and eternal life in the world to come.  Note again: you cannot outgive the Giver!  The blessings we have in this life far exceed the value of the material things we see around us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Luke Part 57: Let the Little Children Come (and let us come as little children)

Text: Luke 18:15-17

In this passage of Luke we read about Jesus interacting with a group of children.  In this scene, we see that there were many parents bringing their children to Jesus for blessing.  Were some of the children sick and needed healing?  Did the parents want a blessing for some superstitious reason?  Were they just impressed because Jesus was a great teacher, and wanted a blessing for that reason?  The reasons are not disclosed.

(Note that two different words for kids are used in this passage: one for infants or babies, and one for children up to teenage years.)

The disciples didn't want Jesus bothered by this situation.  But Jesus overruled them.  He told them not to forbid them, to let them come.  The Kingdom of God belongs to such as them.  There are two areas of encouragement here.  First, parents are encouraged to bring their children to Jesus.  We do that when we bring our children to the worship service, the place where we expect to meet Jesus.  We do that in our prayer, in our Bible studies, in our times of family devotions.  Second, Jesus gives encouragement that He will not turn them away.

What is the thrust of Jesus' teaching?  Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter in.  All, regardless of age, must enter into the kingdom in the way of a child.

What is the way of a child?  This is a simple description of faith.  A child can come, because a child can exercise faith.  And children, in their relationship to their parents, are examples of faith.

  • A child is dependent on the resources of another.  So are we, as Christians, and it does not change as we grow in Christ.
  • A child has complete trust.  In the same way, we put our total trust in God.
  • A child has complete sincerity.  Their deepest relationship of trust and dependence is with their parents.  Likewise, we have many relationships with those around us, but only one relationship of trust and dependence -- with the Lord.
  • Children naturally love their parents.  They delight in the child-parent relationship.  They want to be cared for.  Likewise, we should delight in our relationship with God.
  • It's not a one-time thing.  A child is continuously dependent and trusting.  Likewise, our relationship to the Lord is a continual thing, not a one-time event.
Although we are all imperfect, and often fall short, these items above are what we strive after, what we are called to in our faith.

So we see that the kingdom of heaven is made up of childlike people.  Also, we read here that it is received like a child.  What does it mean to "receive" the kingdom?  The kingdom is Christ; receiving the kingdom is the same thing as receiving Christ, and being in Christ.

Have you received Christ?  If not, humble yourself as a child and receive Him?  If so, follow Him with childlike faith!