THE RICH AND THE BLIND

Luke 18:18-43

Paula introduced me to the television show "Star Trek" when we were in college and I have been a regular fan ever since. Set far in the future, it is peopled by all sorts of alien races including the Ferengi. The Ferengi are the capitalists of the Star Trek Universe. Their philosophy is simply stated in their second rule of acquisition: You can't cheat an honest customer, but it never hurts to try. They are in it for the money and nothing else matters. Someone sent to me a copy of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Here are a few:

Does it sound familiar? The Star Trek writers have merely taken the Wall Street mentality and placed it in a galactic setting. When you look at the Ferengi, you ought to realize that you are looking in a mirror. At the very least, you ought to realize that this is the way Americans are perceived around the world.

Our passage opens with a rich man. He was rich and he had political power. He had everything our society tells us that a man could want. But in spite of all that he had, he came to Jesus with a question.

 

THE QUESTION OF THE RICH RULER

And a certain ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18).

It is no accident that this event is given to us on the heels of the preceding paragraph. They are meant to be a study in contrasts.

Luke 18:15-17

Luke 18:18

Babies are brought to Jesus

A certain ruler questions Jesus

Helpless and trusting

Depending upon his own good works

They are blessed by Jesus

He turns away from Jesus

"Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all"

"What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

Notice how this man addressed Jesus. "Good teacher!" That sounds good, but it reveals some erroneous thinking. This man thought that he was a good man talking to another good man. He was wrong on both accounts.

Jesus will move to correct both of these misconceptions. First He will deal with the manís conception of Jesus, showing the man that Jesus cannot merely be a good man - He is either the perfect God-man or else He is a liar. Then He will deal with the manís conception of his own worthiness.

1. A Theological Clarification.

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

Some have taken the words of Jesus to be a denial of His divinity. But I would suggest just the opposite. He is taking the manís opening presupposition and moving him to its obvious conclusion.

If Jesus is good

and...

No one is good except God alone

then...

Jesus is God

Do you see what He is doing? He is probing this young man to see whether he is teachable. He is pushing his faith and his teachableness and his sense of his own powerlessness. He is checking to see if this man will come the way a child comes.

2. A Lawful Answer.

"You know the commandments, ĎDo not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.í"

And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." (Luke 18:20-21).

Jesus quotes the Law to this man. But He doesnít quote all of the Law. There are some of the Laws which He does not mention. He says nothing of coveting. Or of worshiping God above all other things.

As a result, the young man claims to have kept all these things. Do you see what he is doing? Jesus said that there is none who is good but God alone and the man is claiming to be good in the eyes of the Law.

Jesus

Young Man

"There is none who is good but God alone"

"I have been good according to Godís Law"

In spite of this, Jesus does not call the man out or question his sincerity. To the contrary, Jesus feels love for him.

3. A Sacrificial Call.

And when 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." (Luke 18:22).

Markís account adds something that Luke does not mention. Mark tells us that when Jesus looked at this man, He felt a love for him (Mark 11:21). We do not often read in the Scriptures of Jesus feeling love for a particular individual. But he did here. Why? I think that it is because this man had a desire to follow God. He loved the Lord. But he had a stumbling block. The stumbling block was his wealth.

You need to know that what Jesus says next, He says out of a heart of love for this man. He is speaking the truth in love. That does not always mean that what is said is what we want to hear, but rather it is what we need to hear.

This brings us to a key question. Why didnít Jesus simply say, "Give up your quest for personal goodness and believe only in Me"?

He did. Following Jesus is what faith is all about. Rest and receive. An essential element of this kind of faith is surrender. If something is standing in the way of following Jesus, then I must choose.

I am told that hunters used to trap monkeys with a simple, yet effective trap. They would take a hollowed-out gourd and drill into it a hole. Inside the gourd they would place and orange. The monkey would come along and reach inside to get the orange. But once he had the orange in his hand, he was unable to withdraw it from the hole. The monkey had a choice to make. He could let the orange go and withdraw his hand and be free. Or he could hold onto the orange and remain a captive.

Many people today are holding on to that which has trapped them. And it is not until they let go that they can experience the freedom that is in Christ Jesus.

Here is the principle. What you own owns you. And you cannot own Christ unless you have renounced your ownership of all else that owns you.

4. A Sorrowful Departure.

But when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:23).

This man made his choice. He was saddened. He wasnít just sad -- he was VERY sad.. But his choice was still to hold onto his possessions rather than to hold onto Christ.

Jesus did not chase after the man. He does not say, "I didnít mean to make things too difficult to you. Come on back and give me just a little bit of faith and it will be enough and then you can go and live as you please." By the same token, the solution to Christian problems is not for the church to preach a cheap grace. When the church begins to preach cheap grace, then people stop surrendering to Christ. They become merely unconverted professors.

5. A Difficult Lesson.

And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy 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 man to enter the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:24-25).

Jesus uses the retreat of the rich man to teach a lesson to his disciples. He has already used a child to show them what kind of man DOES enter into the kingdom. Now he uses the rich man as an example of the kind of man that does NOT enter into the kingdom.

The disciples were amazed at this teaching. It went completely contrary to the popular theology of the day. The theology of the day was prosperity theology. They reasoned that rich people are rich because God has blessed them. Therefore someone who was rich was a demonstration of the blessings of God. There was a saying, "God loves the poor, but He helps the rich."

But Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians - that there are not many wise or mighty or noble who enter the kingdom (1:26).

Jesus compares it with a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle. I have a hard enough time trying to get a piece of thread through the eye of a needle. But a camel! It is not only difficult. It is impossible. And that is okay, because God delights in doing the impossible.

6. The God of Impossibilities.

And they who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But He said, "The things impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:26-27).

Salvation is impossible in human terms. There is nothing that a man can do to save himself, be he rich, poor or middle class. That is the bad news. But the good news is that God is the God of the impossible.

7. A Rewarding Promise.

And Peter said, "Behold, we have left our own homes, and followed You." And 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, 30 who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:28-29).

Donít you just love Peter? He picks this opportunity to open mouth and insert foot. Watching this sincere man turn away from Jesus made Peter uncomfortable. And he grew even more uncomfortable as he listens to the teaching of Jesus on how impossible it is for a rich man to be saved. Finally, he can be silent no longer. He declares that he and the other disciples are not like the rich man who refused to give up his riches.

Jesus replies that they shall not go unrewarded. Not only in this life, but in the life to come. The promised rewards are BOTH in the now and the not yet. Notice the things that are promised.

"... house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times as much at this time

In what manner are these things promised? Let me suggest that they are fulfilled in the CHURCH. It is there that we enter into the house of God. It is there that we find a spiritual family made up of brothers and sisters and mothers and children. It is there that we are able to bear fruit for the kingdom.

Did you notice who was included in this group? Judas Iscariot! The same promise was given to him. If he would follow Jesus to the exclusion of all else, he would be blessed along with the other disciples.

There is a lesson here. It is the lesson of the long haul. The reward is not given to the one who starts the race, but to the one who finishes it.

We are called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. The problem with a living sacrifice is that it has a tendency to crawl off the altar. Judas made an initial commitment to follow Jesus. But something got in the way. Somewhere along the line, he began to treasure THINGS more than he treasured the Lord.

How about you? Perhaps you made a good start, but where is your heart NOW? What is first place in your heart?

 

UNPERCEIVED PROMISES

And 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. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again."

And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said. (Luke 18:31-34).

This is the third time that Jesus has plainly told the disciples what is about to happen as they come to Jerusalem. Prophecies are going to be fulfilled. The day for which all have looked is now at hand. The plan is finally going to be accomplished.

You need to see that the words of Jesus are directly relevant to what He has just been saying to them in the previous passage.

You will receive future blessings from the Lord if you endure in the present

«

The present is about to get very difficult -- there is a cross on the horizon

The good news is that after the cross there will be an empty tomb. Death will not be the end of the story. Sunday is coming and all the forces of hell will not be able to keep Him in the tomb.

The disciples didnít get it. They heard the words of the prophecy, but they did not understand. This tells me something about prophecy. It tells me that prophecy is a lot easier to understand after it has been fulfilled.

I am amazed that so many Christians are so dogmatic in their interpretation of future prophecy. They come armed with their timelines and their charts and they think that they have everything completely figured out. I find that rather arrogant, for the Scriptures tells us that even the prophets themselves did not fully understand the words of their prophecies and how they would be fulfilled: As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The disciples heard the words of Jesus and they did not understand. Their understanding was blinded. But there was a man who heard and who did understand. Oddly enough, he was a blind man.

 

THE BLIND MAN WHO SAW

Blindness is a terrible thing. To go through life and never to be able to see a golden sunset or to watch a babyís cheery smile or an ocean wave crashing down on a sandy beach.

Blindness was an especially terrible ailment in the days of Jesus. A blind man had no hope. There were no operations that could take place. There were no books or tapes for the vision impaired. There were no jobs available for the sightless. The only thing that a blind man could do was to beg. And as this story opens, there is a blind beggar doing exactly that.

1. The Plight of the Blind Beggar.

And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging. (Luke 18:35).

Throughout the last 9 chapters, we have seen Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. At first He was in Galilee, then He was passing through the border between Galilee and Samaria, and now He comes to Jericho. He and His disciples evidently were following the normal Jewish road from Galilee to Jerusalem which took a detour around Samaria.

There was accompanying Jesus and His disciples a large crowd. This is no surprise. It was the season of the Passover and the roads to Jerusalem would have been thronged with pilgrims coming to observe the Feast.

There are some major differences between the account as it is recorded here in Mark and the way in which it is given to us in the other two Synoptics.

Matthew 20:20-28

Mark 10:46-52

Luke 18:35-43

Two blind men

Only one blind man is mentioned

No name is given for either of the men

Blind manís name is given as Bartimaeus

No name given

Takes place "as He was leaving Jericho."

Described as prior to coming to Jericho (see Luke 19:1).

The fact that only one blind man is mentioned here in Lukeís account is not significant. Luke does not say that there was ONLY one blind man. He merely wishes to focus upon the healing of a single man. I think that there is a reason for this. It is by way of a series of contrasts.

Rich Man

Blind Beggar

Luke 18:18-30

Luke 18:35

Self-satisfied

Wishing to see

Addresses Jesus as "Good Teacher"

Addresses Jesus as "Jesus, Son of David."

Asks for approval

Asks for mercy

He riches caused him to remain lost

His faith made him whole

2. A Persistent Request.

And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.

Now hearing a multitude going by, he began to inquire what this might be. 37 And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

And those 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!" (Luke 18:35-39).

This blind beggar heard the movement of the multitude. He asked what was going on (after all, he didnít want to get trampled in a stampede), and was told that it was Jesus of Nazareth. It is evident that this blind beggar had heard of Jesus. Blind people canít do much, but they can listen. And this man had listened. He had heard the repeated accounts of this miracle-worker from Galilee. And as he heard that Jesus was nearby, he began calling out to Him. What is more, he calls out to Jesus is a very striking way.

Imagine yourself in his sandals. You are blind. You cannot know anything about what is going on around you except that people tell you things. They have told you about Jesus. They have told you about His wonderful miracles. The lame walk. The deaf hear. The demon-possessed are in their right mind. And yes, He has even healed those who were blind. Wouldnít it be wonderful if He were to come and to heal you?

Then one day you hear a commotion. What is happening? You are told that it is Jesus. Jesus? The One who has healed blind people? They say that it is Jesus of Nazareth. But even through the blindness, something more about Jesus can be seen.

Do you see it? He doesnít cry out, "Jesus of Nazareth!" He uses a different title. That is a special cry. He is not addressing Jesus as merely a good man. He isnít making the mistake that had been made by the rich, young ruler. He calls Him the "son of David." That is a Messianic title.

Notice the reaction of the crowd. They were sternly telling him to be quiet. Of what does that remind you? It reminds me of 12 stuffy disciples saying, "You canít bring those children to Jesus! Donít you know that He is much too busy to be bothered by a bunch of runny-nosed children?"

The blind beggar would not be put off. When the crowd said, "Shhhhh!!!" he cried out all the more. And there is something in his persistence of which I think Jesus approved. I think that Jesus smiled at his persistence. And I believe that the reason we do not have more of our prayers answered is that we do not persist in our prayers.

3. An Insightful Question.

And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he had come near, He questioned him, 41 "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" (Luke 18:40-41).

Notice the question that Jesus asks the blind man. It is a rather silly question to ask of a blind man. But Jesus asks it nonetheless. He asks it to bring the man face to face with his need.

This man was physically blind and he knew it. He stands in contrast to the Pharisees and the rich man and perhaps even the disciples who were spiritually blind and did not know it. The first step in healing is diagnosis. Too often the reason we cannot see is because we think that we can.

There are two kinds of people that Jesus will not help. The first kind is those who do not want His help. The second kind is those who do not know that they need help.

If you are blind, then you know that you have a problem. You know that you are lacking in something. You know that you cannot help yourself. And you know that you have to depend upon someone else.

There is a corollary here. The greater the problem, the greater is the perceived need. Have you ever noticed that when things are going well you arenít so fervent in your prayer life? I donít know about you, but when things are going well, I have a tendency to forget that I have needs. And when the focus upon my needs is dimmed, it is not long before my focus upon my Lord is also dimmed.

What am I saying? I am saying that affliction is important. I am saying that affliction is designed by God to keep me from straying. At the end of every road of adversity, you will find Jesus.

4. An Answered Prayer.

And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." 43 And immediately he regained his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. (Luke 18:42-43).

The need of the man was answered. He was healed. But his need for Jesus did not end. Indeed, his healing was only the first step in a long journey. At this point, this retired beggar began to follow Jesus.

I donít believe that this man ever did go back to begging. He never again sat by the side of a road to ask for alms. Instead he followed after Jesus. How do I know that? It is because Mark tells us his name. Mark tells us his name was Bartimaeus. And I donít think Mark would have done so except for the fact that Bartimaeus was known to the early church.

Are you following Jesus? You are if you have been truly healed by Him. You are if you now have spiritual sight.


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