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÷÷LUKE 18

LUKE 18

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Widow and the Judge The Parable of the Persistent Widow The Unjust Judge The Parable of the Widow and the Judge The Unscrupulous Judge and the Importunate Widow
18:1-8 18:1-8 18:1-8 18:1-5 18:1-5
      18:6-8 18:6-8
The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector Pharisee and Tax Collector The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14
Little Children Blessed Jesus Blesses Little Children From Galilee to Jerusalem
(18:15-19:27)
Blessing the Children
Jesus Blesses Little Children Jesus and the Children
18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17
The Rich Ruler Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler The Rich Ruler The Rich Man The Rich Aristocrat
18:18-23 18:18-23 18:18-25 18:18 18:18-23
      18:19-20  
      18:21  
  With God All Things are Possible   18:22-23 The Danger of Riches
18:24-30 18:24-30   18:24-25 18:24-27
    18:26-27 18:26  
      18:27 The Reward of Renunciation
    18:28-30 18:28 18:28-30
      18:29-30  
A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus A Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection The Passion Foretold Again Jesus Speaks a Third Time About His Death Third Prophecy of the Passion
18:31-34 18:31-34 18:31-34 18:31-33 18:31-34
      18:34  
The Healing of a Blind Beggar Near Jericho A Blind Man Receives His Sight A Blind Man Healed Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar Entering Jericho: the Blind Man
18:35-43 18:35-43 18:35-43 18:35-36 18:35-43
      18:37  
      18:38  
      18:39  
      18:40-41a  
         
      18:41b  
      18:43  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus' teaching is often illustrated by parables.

 

B. Parables (OT mashal, BDB 605 II) take many forms.

1. proverb (Luke 4:23)

2. story (Luke 15 and 16)

3. allegory (Luke 8:4-15)

4. simile (Luke 13:19,21; 17:6)

5. contrast (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8)

 

C. For guidelines on the interpretation of parables, see the introduction to Luke 8, Contextual Insights, B.

 

D. This chapter is connected by the question of saving faith.

1. First parable (Luke 18:1-8), will the Son of Man find faith (persistent, prayerful faith) when He returns?

2. Second parable (Luke 18:9-14), the wrong kind of faith (self-righteous) versus repentant faith (the sinner, tax collector).

3. Parabolic example (Luke 18:15-17), Jesus and childlike faith without which no one can enter the kingdom.

4. Parabolic example (Luke 18:18-30), priority faith (rich, young, moral ruler). Jesus and the Kingdom must be number one!

5. Jesus' sacrificial death (Luke 18:31-34) is the key to eternal life which is received by faith.

6. Prophetic example (Luke 18:35-43) of the blind receiving their sight (physical and spiritual), which is the work of the "suffering" Messiah by faith (cf. Luke 18:42).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

÷LUKE 18:1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:1-8
 1Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' 4For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'" 6And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

18:1 "Now He was telling them a parable" This is an antithetical or contrasting parable similar to Luke 11:5-13. It is a story that relates to the exact opposite of what God is truly like. The PRONOUN "them" refers to the disciples (cf. Luke 16:1; 17:5,22,37; 17:37).

Special Topic: Interpreting Parables

▣ "that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" Notice the Greek terms:

  1. dei, which means "ought" or "necessary"
  2. pas, here in ADVERBIAL form (pantote), which means "always"

This phrase is a mandate to keep on praying and not become discouraged (cf. Eph. 6:18). In several parallel passages in Paul's writings, persistent prayer is linked to thanksgiving (cf. Phil. 4:6; Col. 1:3; 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17-18).

Prayer is a worldview; thanksgiving is an attitude; both dictate believers' actions toward people and circumstances.

▣ "not to lose heart" The Greek term is egkakeō (cf. 2 Cor. 4:1,16; Gal. 6:9; Eph. 3:13; 2 Thess. 3:13), which is probably the same as ekkakeō, which literally means "not to give in to the bad," but metaphorically to be faint, to be remiss, or to be slothful.

18:2 "a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man" He was not swayed by God's opinion or mankind's opinion. His judgments were based on personal interest or personal preference.

18:3 "a widow" Again Luke shows Jesus' concern and care for the socially powerless and/or ostracized. Widows were often taken advantage of in Jewish society (cf. Exod. 22:21-24; Deut. 10:18; 24:17). Luke is characterized by Jesus' interaction with and care for women.

▣ "give me legal protection" This could mean vindicate or give me justice (cf. Luke 18:7 and 8).

18:4 "for a while he was unwilling" This is an IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE, which denotes the judge's ongoing refusal to act on behalf of the widow.

▣ "even though" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE (cf. Robert Nanna, A Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, p. 123), which asserts the reality of the statements of Luke 18:2.

In a sense this is similar to Luke 15:17. This judge had an epiphany; he came to himself. He began to realize the consequences of his decision.

18:5 "wear me out" This literally meant "to blacken one's eye" (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27). Here it is used metaphorically of someone or something that continually bothers.

18:7 "not" This is a DOUBLE NEGATIVE, which was a strong way of expressing "no, never under any circumstances."

  1. Our heavenly Father is exactly the opposite of the unrighteous, inattentive, self-seeking judge.
  2. His delay has a beneficial purpose (i.e., full number of the elect, cf. Rom. 11:25; John 10:16).

▣ "who cry to Him day and night" This phrase characterizes the persistent prayers of the elect (cf. Luke 11:9-13; Matt. 7:7-12). Persistence does not overcome God's reluctance, but it demonstrates trust and conviction.

▣ "His elect" This is an OT way of referring to God's people, especially as servants (cf. Isa. 42-43; 44:28-45:7).

Special Topic: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

Special Topic: He Chose Us

▣ "who cry to Him day and night" This is a way of expressing continual action (i.e., always). The order of "day and night" reflects a Gentile idiom, while 2:37, "night and day," reflects a Hebrew idiom. Luke was a researcher. He used his sources' idioms, yet he was also an editor and compiler and at times his own idioms become part of his Gospel (cf. Acts 9:24; 20:31; 26:7).

▣ "will He delay long over them" This is the second of two rhetorical questions in Luke 18:7 which contrast God and the attitude of this wicked judge. The first question expects a "yes" answer and this, the second question, a "no" answer.

The Greek "delay" (makrothumeō, put wrath far away) is ambiguous and may mean one of two things:

  1. help for the persistent elect to grow in faith
  2. more time for the wicked to repent (cf. Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9)

In relation to #2, the NASB (1970) has a marginal alternate translation, "and yet He is longsuffering over them," which denotes the patience of God with sinners.

18:8 This is a surprising conclusion to this parable. It seems to be unrelated to the story. Jesus' return will be the mechanism of God's bringing justice to the elect (cf. Rev. 6:9-11).

What then does the PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE en tachei mean: (1) suddenly or (2) quickly? Is this a contrasting parable or a parable of differing motives for a delayed adjudication?

Many commentators assert that Luke's Gospel suggests a delayed Second Coming and tries to prepare a Gentile audience for this surprising development (ex. Luke 12:35-48; 17:22-30).

▣ "when the Son of Man comes" This is an emphasis on the eschatological coming of the Messiah as Judge. The term "Son of Man" is primarily drawn from Ezek. 2:1 and Dan. 7:13, where it combines human and divine qualities.

Special Topic: Son of Man

Special Topic: Second Coming

▣ "will He find faith on the earth" The NT emphasizes the physical, bodily return of Jesus Christ. However, it does not tell us when or how. It does tell us to be actively involved in the kingdom's work and to be ready moment-by-moment for His coming. This phrase seems to reflect this two-pronged piece of advice.

"Faith" has the DEFINITE ARTICLE. This is

  1. the belief that God will answer their prayers for help (cf. Luke 18:7). His best answer will be sending His Son back into the world a second time to set all things straight as He promised.
  2. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, p. 204, takes kai as "yet" (cf. John 9:30; 16:32), which implies not a direct contrast to the wicked judge, but gives reason for God's delay in answering His elect (the faith development).
  3. Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, pp. 127-141, thinks it relates to the soon-coming event of Passion Week, described in Luke 18:31-34. These disciples will need persistent prayer and faith development very soon.
  4. This is faith in Christ or Christianity.

The emphasis may be on what believers are praying for. Are they asking God repeatedly for personal things or kingdom things? If personal things, then believers are more like the unrighteous judge than they want to admit.

Special Topic: The Faith (NT)

÷LUKE 18:9-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:9-14
 9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' 14I tell you this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

18:9 "He also told this parable" This is the second parable about persistence in prayer.

▣ "to some people" Parables are addressed to the Pharisees and disciples in Luke 15-17, but here to "people" (i.e., the crowd, also note 15:3; 19:11). Context implies the ones addressed were Pharisees (cf. Luke 16:14-15). Parables are always told in public settings. They either make clear or hide truth, depending on the heart of the hearer!

▣ "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous" The term "trusted" is a PERFECT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE of the term peithō, which is translated in the NT as "persuade," "trust" or "be assured." Jesus addresses those Jews (and all people) who think they are right with God based on their ancestry, attitudes, and actions. The Jews of Jesus' day considered

  1. prayer (cf. Matt. 6:4-5)
  2. almsgiving (cf. Matt. 6:2-4)
  3. fasting (cf. Matt. 6:16-18)

as acts which brought personal righteousness (cf. Matt. 6:1).

The former parable dealt with a judge who did not believe in or respect God. This parable deals with those who outwardly seem to believe and respect God, but in actuality were trusting in their own goodness and performance. They felt God owed them! They expected to be fully compensated for their righteous acts (almsgiving, fasting, and prayer, as well as their keeping the rules of the Oral Tradition of the elders).

Self-righteousness may be the most dangerous sin of "religious" people (cf. Luke 10:29; 16:15; 18:9,14).

18:9 "and viewed others with contempt" The Greek term exoutheneō is used only by Luke (cf. Luke 18:9; 23:11; Acts 4:11 [LXX]) and Paul (cf. Rom. 14:3,10; 1 Cor. 1:28; 6:4; 16:11; 2 Cor. 10:10; Gal. 4:14; 1 Thess. 5:20). This judgmental attitude is the major problem of legalistic, religious people. God is longsuffering, but often those who claim to know Him and belong to Him are just the opposite!

The term "others" in the NASB is literally "the rest," which denotes the Pharisees' judgmental attitude. From their perspective all others were unacceptable and out of the love of God. Only their group (sect) was righteous! In this specific case, this Pharisee even stands off from all the other worshipers. He may have seen himself as even more righteous than other Pharisees.

18:10 "the temple to pray" There were three times of daily prayer in Judaism of the first century. Nine a.m. and three p.m. were the times of the daily sacrifice at the temple (the continual). The religious leaders of Jerusalem added noon as a third time of daily prayer. The setting of this parable would have been at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m.

▣ "one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector" The first was noted for his sincere religiosity and commitment to doing God's will. The second was known as a social outcast, friend of Rome, and totally ostracized from the religious community of Israel (cf. Luke 5:30; 7:34; 9:2,7; 15:1).

Special Topic: Pharisees

18:11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself" Here was the man who was praying to God while reviewing his own accomplishments (cf. Luke 18:12). When interpreting parables one looks for the "surprise," the unexpected turn of events, the role reversal. This is the key in understanding the parable (cf. Luke 18:13-14).

The phrase, "these things to himself," which comes after "standing," has several different forms in the Greek manuscript tradition. It very possibly reflects an Aramaic idiom, "taking his stand, prayed" (cf. C. C. Torey, Our Translated Gospels, p. 79 and M. Black, Aramaic Approach, 3rd ed., p. 103, from Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 168, footnote #1).

So the question for interpreters is, "Does this phrase refer to (1) thinking to himself (NASB/TEV) or (2) standing apart from the tax collector (NRSV)?

▣ "I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" This man was trusting in his religious practice. We must remember that the prophet Isaiah says that human works of righteousness in connection with a merited salvation are as filthy rags before God (cf. Isa. 64:6). This parable and other parables in this chapter emphasize the need for a personal relationship through a contrite heart (repentance) and faith in the person and finished work of Jesus the Christ. God's grace and Jesus' sacrificial death are the sinner's only hope!

18:12 "I fast twice a week" The Pharisees of Jesus' day fasted on Monday and Thursday in commemoration of Moses' going up and coming down from Mt. Sinai, receiving the law from God. They went far beyond the OT requirement of one fast day a year (cf. Leviticus 16), the Day of Atonement (cf. Zechariah 7-8). In the interbiblical period the rabbis also set up another annual fast day to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 52; Lamentations 1-5).

Special Topic: Fasting

▣ "I pay tithes of all that I get" It is not that his tithing was inappropriate. It was the attitude behind the tithe ("of all") that turns this into self-righteousness instead of devotion. This Pharisee depended on what he did, not on God's mercy and grace. He went far beyond the requirement of the law (cf. Deut. 14:22), but he missed God! This is the tragedy of self-righteous legalism! So many "do nots," but so little "love" (cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18).

Just a thought or two on tithing as a Christian requirement. Surprisingly the NT does not give us guidelines for regular giving. It does discuss the proper motives for the one-time gift of Paul's Gentile churches to the mother church in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Corinthians 8-9). Tithing is a Jewish practice to support the temple, the local Levites, and the poor. However, Acts 15 clearly states that Gentile believers are not bound or obligated to a Jewish tithe to the Temple and its personnel.

Many of the sermons I hear on tithing use OT texts (especially Malachi) and try to force tithing through fear of divine retribution or promises of divine blessing (greed). There is a good article on tithing in Frank Stagg's New Testament Theology, pp. 290-293. Believers' whole lives ought to be a gift to Christ and His kingdom out of gratitude for a full and free salvation!

Special Topic: Tithing

Special Topic: Tithing in the Mosaic Legislation

18:13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast" Notice the three phrases related to this man's reluctance before God.

  1. standing some distance away (PERFECT ACTIVE PARTICIPLE)
  2. not looking up to heaven (IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE with a DOUBLE NEGATIVE)
  3. beating his breast (IMPERFECT ACTIBE INDICATIVE)

Phrase #3 may be a gesture of repentance or agitation (cf. Luke 23:48) by striking one's heart (the center of the person, cf. Josephus, Antiq. 7.10.5).

Also note that everything this man does is opposite to the self-righteous Pharisee (especially noted is the "stance": the Pharisee took his stance away from the crowd of worshipers and apparently closer to the altar, while the tax collector took his stand away from the crowd and farther away from the altar).

This is the biblical foundation for our cultural tradition of bowing our heads and closing our eyes in prayer, however, the Jewish posture for prayer was the hands lifted, the eyes open with the face lifted to heaven. The key in prayer is not the position of the body, but of the heart!

▣ "God, be merciful to me" This is an AORIST PASSIVE IMPERATIVE. The word "merciful" (hilaskomai, found only here in Luke's writings) is from the same root as the term "mercy seat" or the "place of atonement" (in the Septuagint, hilastērion) in the sacrificial system of Israel (cf. Heb. 9:5). In the Septuagint this Greek VERB is used to translate the Hebrew salach (BDB 699), which is exclusively used of God's forgiveness towards sinners (cf. Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 135). Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, p. 154, says in Syriac it means, "make an atonement for me." Remember they are in a public worship setting at the time of the sacrifice of a lamb (twice daily) for Israel. This sinner cries out from his heart, "let that blood be for me!"

▣ "the sinner" This parable describes two Jews: one a Pharisee who thinks he is right with God because of all he does and a tax collector who knows that he is estranged from God. He feels himself "chief of sinners" (use of the DEFINITE ARTICLE). Is it not ironic that the second went away right with God and the first went away estranged from God (cf. Rom. 10:2-4). What a culturally shocking role reversal!

18:14 "went to his house justified" This is a PERFECT PASSIVE PARTICIPLE which refers to believers' position of forgiveness from a merciful God. It was a gift freely given! This is analogous to Paul's justification by faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 3; Rom. 3:21-31; 4:5). The Pharisee was a moral man, but he was also a spiritually lost man because he trusted in himself and did not think he needed God's mercy and forgiveness. This is the Jewish religionist Isaiah is talking about in Isa. 6:9-10 and 29:13.

For "justified" see Special Topic: Righteousness.

▣ "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled" This may be an allusion to Isa. 57:15 (cf. Isa. 66:2; Ps. 34:18; 51:17). This was first introduced in Luke 14:11 (cf. Matt. 23:12). What a shocking role reversal from the OT perspective of Deuteronomy 27-29! The New Covenant depreciates human performance (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

▣ "but he who humbles himself will be exalted" The word "exalted" (hupsoō) is used of Pharisees in Luke 16:15. It is used in connection with the humble in Luke 1:52; 14:11 (cf. Matt. 23:12). This does not mean exalted among others in the society, but refers to one's relationship with God. God raises the humble into intimacy with Himself.

Special Topic: Eastern Literature (biblical paradoxes)

÷LUKE 18:15-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:15-17
 15And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16But Jesus called for them, saying, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."

18:15ff We have been in an extended literary context from 9:51-18:14 which has no direct parallel in the other Synoptic Gospels. At verse 15 Luke returns to the Markan chronology.

▣ "they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them" We must remember that in the Jewish traditions of this day these children were not thought to be saved by the prayer of the rabbi, but blessed for a happy, healthy, and prosperous life. They were thought to be saved because they were a part of national Israel. Therefore, this context has nothing to do with the salvation of children. We are dealing with the concept of rabbinical blessings for little ones.

In this context, we clearly see the heart of Jesus.

  1. Jesus really does care for little children
  2. this is not a passage on children only, but primarily a passage on child-like faith (cf. Matt. 18:3) that adults must have to be saved
  3. Jesus always shows love to the neglected and ostracized groups of society like children, women, widows, and notorious sinners

This passage is similar to Matthew 18 with new believers being identified as little ones who believe in Jesus (cf. Matt. 18:6).

Special Topic: Laying On of Hands

▣ "babies" The Greek term brephos can mean

  1. an unborn child (cf. Luke 1:41,44)
  2. a newly born baby (cf. Luke 2:12,16; Acts 7:19)
  3. older children (cf. Luke 18:15; 2 Tim. 3:15)

The Matthew (cf. Luke 19:13-15) and Mark (cf. Luke 10:13-16) parallels use the Greek term "children" (paidia), which also denotes a child of any age (cf. Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 298).

The whole purpose of Jesus' analogy is that the children must be old enough to understand and exercise trust and faith in the gospel (i.e., childlike faith). For Jews this age of accountability was 13 years of age for boys (bar mitzvah) and 12 years for girls (bat mitzvah).

18:16 This verse contains two IMPERATIVES.

  1. "permit" – AORIST ACTIVE (cf. Matt. 5:40)
  2. "do not hinder" – PRESENT ACTIVE with NEGATIVE PARTICLE, which usually means to stop an act in process

This verse does not imply that the Kingdom belongs to children, but to those who have childlike trust and faith in Jesus (cf. Matt. 19:13-15 and Mark 10:13-31).

18:17 "truly" This is literally "Amen."

Special Topic: Amen

▣ "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God" There are several items that attract my attention.

  1. "whoever" – the gospel is for all but must be accepted, received, believed
  2. "receive" – this is a negative contrast to John 1:12; the two verses use different words, but the theological concept is the same
  3. "the kingdom of God" – this is a way of referring to the gospel of Jesus; notice John 1:12 says "receive Him." One's entrance into the kingdom of God depends completely and totally on one's faith/trust/belief in the gospel of Jesus, which is Jesus Himself. The simple and boundless trust of a child characterizes true faith.
  4. the kingdom must be entered – cf, Luke 13:24; 18:24,25; Matt. 18:3; Mark 10:15; Acts 14:22.

Special Topic: What Does It Mean to "Receive," "Believe," "Confess/Profess," and "Call Upon"?

▣ "will not enter it at all" This is the strong DOUBLE NEGATIVE, which means "never, no never under any circumstances." Simple, childlike trust is crucial, not just desirable. Believers must lean completely on God's character and Jesus' provision, not on their own merits or performance as a means of being accepted by God into the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Rom. 3:21-31). This is so difficult for self-righteous, legalistic, religious people of all ages and cultures.

÷LUKE 18:18-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:18-27
 18A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 19And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20You know the commandments, 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" 21And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." 22When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 23But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25For 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." 26They who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."

18:18 "A ruler" It is uncertain exactly what this title (archōn) means, though in John 3:1 it refers to Nicodemus being a member of the Sanhedrin (cf. Luke 23:13,35; 24:20). It may refer to the person who was in charge of the local synagogue (cf. Luke 8:41; 14:1). It obviously refers to a well respected leader, possibly a judge (cf. Luke 12:58).

▣ "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life" This is exactly the same question that the Scribe asked in Luke 10:25 with an emphasis on personal performance. This is exactly the opposite of Luke 18:17. Eternal life and the Kingdom of God are parallel. See note on eternal life at Luke 18:30.

18:19 "Why do you call Me good" We must remember that this is not a theological passage dealing with the person of Jesus Christ. Many try to use this as a proof-text that Jesus did not consider Himself to be divine. This question and statement of Jesus reflects this man's understanding about his ability to be right with God based on his own efforts. This passage is similar to Matt. 19:16, which reads "teacher, what good things shall I do to obtain eternal life."

18:20 The Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. They basically break into two aspects:

  1. human's view of and relationship to God
  2. human's view of and relationship with Covenant brothers and sisters

This list is out of order from the Masoretic Text of both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 as they relate to the proper relationship between Covenant people.

18:21 "And he said, 'All these things I have kept from my youth’" This man was not lying. He is asserting that he had lived up to all the religious requirements and traditions of his day since his bar mitzvah at age 13. Paul asserts this very same truth in Phil. 3:6.

We know from Rom. 1:18 through 3:23 that all men have sinned. We must remember that only the Spirit of God reveals this truth to the human heart.

This is the first required truth of the gospel. No one needs a savior until they recognize their need. Self-righteousness is a cruel and deceptive taskmaster. The gospel is only "good news" when one recognizes the bad news of Genesis 3 and human rebellion. No human will boast before God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9).

18:22 "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. Jesus recognized this man's priority structure. The parallel in Mark 10:21 and some ancient uncial manuscripts of Luke (A and W) tell that Jesus had great care and love for this man, but he would not lower the standard of the gospel to allow him to receive eternal life. This is not a universal requirement for all humans (cf. Zaccheus, Luke 19). But it is a recurring statement (cf. Luke 18:28 and 12:33-34). Jesus realized that this man's heart was not fully turned to God. Anything in our lives that keeps us from fully trusting God is an idol and must be dealt with (cf. Matt. 6:24).

It is possible that Jesus was calling this man to be a disciple like the Twelve (cf. Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21). This man could have been a significant Christian leader, but the pull of riches (cf. Luke 8:14) paralyzed the possibilities! Jesus used this very command ("come, follow Me") to call others:

  1. Levi (Matthew), Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27; Matt. 9:9
  2. Peter and Andrew, Matt. 4:19
  3. Philip, John 1:43

However, it must also be said that this is a call to discipleship for all followers, not just the Twelve (cf. Matt. 8:22; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23,59; John 10:27; 12:26; 21:22). The gospel is

  1. the welcoming of a person (Jesus)
  2. believing truth about that person (the gospel, the NT)
  3. living a life like that person (Christlikeness)

▣ "distribute it to the poor" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. Jesus cares for the poor. He always had time for them. The issue here is not the poor as a social problem, but this man's priority structure (cf. Matt. 6:24). Remember the Jews of this day saw wealth as a gift from God for righteous living (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29). Paul uses this very illustration in 1 Cor. 13:3.

Special Topic: Almsgiving

▣ "treasure in heaven" This reminds one of Matt. 6:19-21. What one considers "treasure" reveals that person's value structure.

Special Topic: Wealth

▣ "come, follow Me" "Come" is an ADVERB used in the sense of an IMPERATIVE (cf. Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21). "Follow Me" is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE which emphasizes an ongoing following. Notice how Jesus switched the question from "doing good" to "following Him." He, not human performance, is the key to eternal life.

The NT emphasis is not on an initial decision, although that is certainly important, but on continuing faith and discipleship. The NT emphasizes relationship even before doctrinal content and lifestyle. These three criteria form the triad of assurance in the NT (cf. Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Luke 5:17; 9:23,59; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 21:22).

18:24 "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God" The disciples' reaction recorded in Luke 18:26 shows us how surprised they were that wealth was not a sign of God's blessing. Notice that the SINGULAR VERBS and PRONOUNS starting in Luke 18:18 now become PLURALS (general statement). Jesus is asserting here that those who have worldly things and positions tend to trust in their own resources and not in God (cf. Matt. 19:23-30; Mark 10:23-31). Jesus is addressing the problem of wealth and salvation using this ruler as an example.

Special Topic: Kingdom of God

18:25 "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle" There have been several theories to describe this statement.

  1. the term "needle's eye" refers to a small gate in the wall of Jerusalem only a pedestrian could walk through
  2. the term "camel" (kamēlon) has been mistranslated and is really the term "rope" (kamilon)
  3. this is Oriental exaggeration to make a point (cf. Luke 6:41)
  4. this was a common proverb for the impossible

I believe either # 3 or #4 is correct. Number 1 has no historical corroboration (see Fee and Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, p. 25) and #2 is first found in one late uncial Greek manuscript (MS S) and a few minuscule manuscripts (i.e., #13, 59, 124, 130, 437, 472, 543). The UBS4 gives "camel" and "A" rating (certain).

Matthew and Mark record this same teaching and use the Greek term rhaphis (needle) from rhaptō, to sew, but Luke, the physician, uses belonē, which was used of a needle to sew up wounds (a medical term). See G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible.

18:26 "Then who can be saved" This is the issue! It was especially the issue of traditional Judaism which interpreted wealth and social position as evidence of God's blessing and acceptance (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29). This parable directly addresses this false assumption, as do Job and Psalm 73. In this context, however, obedience and faith in Jesus is the key to eternal life, not human performance of Mosaic laws, personal wealth, or social status.

18:27 This may be an allusion to an OT characterization of YHWH (cf. Gen. 18:14; Job 42:4; Jer. 32:17,27; Zech. 8:6; Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37).

God loves rich people. Abraham (and all the Patriarchs), David (and all the godly Jewish kings), Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea are good biblical examples. The key is where their faith and trust are put, in possessions or in God?

Special Topic: Wealth

Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God

÷LUKE 18:28-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:28-30
 28Peter said, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." 29And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."

18:28 Peter and all the Apostles were shocked at Jesus' response to this moral, sincere, prosperous, Jewish leader. They wanted to reaffirm that they had left all (cf. Luke 5:11).

18:29 "Truly" See Special Topic: Amen.

▣ "there is no one who has left" See Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:29-30, where the lists of things left differ.

18:30 The rewards of the kingdom are of the spirit/Spirit. There is a peace and joy now and in the future and there will be a face-to-face fellowship with the Triune God.

▣ "not" This is a strong DOUBLE NEGATIVE, which emphasizes that they will surely receive their future reward. The family one leaves will multiply into the fullness of God's family.

▣ "the age to come" See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come.

▣ "eternal life" This (i.e., zoē) is a characteristic of John's Gospel (cf. John 3:15; 4:36; 5:39; 6:54,68; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2-3), but it is also mentioned a few times in the Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 19:16; 25:46; Mark 10:17,30; Luke 10:25; 18:11). It seems to reflect the Hebrew of Dan. 12:12 ("everlasting ['olam, BDB 761; see Special Topic: Forever] life").

In Greek there are three terms for life (bios and psuchē – earthly life and zoē – spiritual life). Zoē is not chronological life, but life in fellowship with God, life as it was meant to be!

÷LUKE 18:31-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:31-34
 31Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." 34But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

18:31 "Then He took the twelve aside and said to them" This is another of the predictions of Jesus' death (cf. Luke 9:22,44; 17:25). There are allusions to Jesus' death in Jerusalem mentioned in Luke 5:35; 12:50; and 13:32-33.

▣ "and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished" This refers to OT prophecies about the suffering, betrayal, death, and resurrection of the Messiah.(cf. Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; 41:9; 118; Isa. 53; Zech. 9:9; 11:12-13).

Special Topic: Son of Man

18:32 This prophecy is fulfilled in Luke 22:63,65; 23:11.

18:33 "scourged" See Special Topic: Scourged

▣ "the third day" In Jewish reckoning of time any part of a day was counted as a full day. Jesus died before 6 p.m. on Friday, therefore, that was one day. He was in the grave all of the Sabbath; that was day two. He arose sometime before sunrise on Sunday (remember Jews start their day at 6 p.m. ); that was day three.

18:34 Notice the three parallel phrases. It is so encouraging to me to know the disciples also did not fully understand Jesus' teachings and their meanings even though they lived with Him and saw His miracles (cf. Luke 2:50; 9:45; 18:34).

▣ "the meaning of this statement was hidden from them" This is a PERIPHRASTIC PERFECT PASSIVE. Many of Jesus' teachings did not make sense to the Apostles until after the resurrection (cf. John 12:16) and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15). They could not yet see the fullness of the gospel message because it was so different from what they had been taught and were expecting.

÷LUKE 18:35-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:35-43
 35As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. 36Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. 37They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 39Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 40And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, 41"What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" 42And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." 43Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

18:35 "As Jesus was approaching Jericho" The Synoptic Gospels have several variations of this same account: Matthew has two blind men (cf. Matt. 20:30) or Mark called this man Bartimaeus (cf. Mark 10:46). The seeming contradiction in location, entering (Luke 18:35) or leaving (Matt. 20:29; Mark 10:46) Jericho, seems to be due to the fact that there were two Jerichos, the old city and the new one built by Herod the Great.

▣ "a blind man" The Gospels record the healing of many blind people. It was an OT prophecy that the Messiah would heal the blind (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7,15). Physical blindness was a metaphor of spiritual blindness (cf. Isa. 42:18-19; 59:9-10; John 9).

18:37 "Jesus of Nazareth" The fifth century uncial Greek manuscript Bezae (D) has Nazarene (cf. Luke 4:34; 24:19).

Special Topic: Jesus the Nazarene

18:38 "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" This had definite Messianic overtones related to 2 Samuel 7 (cf. Luke 1:27,32; 2:4; Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30,31; 21:9,15; 22:42).

Special Topic: OT Titles of the Special Coming One

18:39 "telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more" This is an example of persistence mentioned in Luke 18:1-8.

18:41 "Lord" The context implies that this is more than just a polite title. This blind man had called Jesus "Son of David." He had heard about Jesus and he acted on what he had heard.

Special Topic: OT Titles of the Special Coming One

18:42 "your faith has made you well" This phrase contains two key gospel terms:

  1. faith (pistis) – this man believed that Jesus could and would help him and he acted
  2. well (sōzō) – this is the term usually translated "save." In the OT it referred to physical deliverance, as it does here. It also denotes spiritual salvation, which is surely the implication of the context (cf. Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19)

This encounter reveals the Messianic aspect of Jesus' ministry and the faith of this blind beggar. This blind man, who had nothing, received by faith, everything (physical and spiritual), while the rich, young ruler, who had everything, lost all that was ultimately important.

Special Topic: Believe, Faith, or Trust

Special Topic: Salvation (OT term)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the main theological thrust of the parable in Luke 18:2-8?

2. What is the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner meant to convey to us in our day?

3. Does the NT discuss the salvation of children?

4. What is the major truth of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:18-30?

5. Is Luke 18:19 a NT evidence that Jesus did not consider Himself to be God?

6. Why did the disciples not understand Jesus' words about His crucifixion and death when He told them so often about these things?

 

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