Luke 19:45-20:8 is the opening pericope of the final section of Luke’s Gospel (19:45-24:53), in which Luke presents the “passion” of Jesus.
Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus swiftly drives out “those who sold” from the temple, for they had turned the temple into a “den of robbers” (vv.45-46).
Jesus’ rebuke (v.46) includes the combination of two Old Testament texts (Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11). With the support of the prophets behind him, Jesus forcefully condemns the idolatry in the temple complex.
In the temple area, items necessary for sacrifices were sold such as animals, wine, oil, salt. In addition, Roman currency was exchanged for Hebrew shekels, which had a built-in surcharge. For Jesus, the temple had become a place of business, rather than a place of worship. Jesus’ action also raises the issue of His authority (Luke 20:1-8), since the temple was the most sacred site in Judaism.
Luke then notes that as Jesus taught in the temple daily, the priests and scribes were searching for ways to destroy him, but Jesus’ popularity with the public would not allow it (vv.47-48). Their idolatry is leading them toward a destructive path.
As Jesus is teaching in the temple on another day, the priests and scribes ask him by what authority he drives out the temple merchants (Luke 20:1-2). The question is, in effect, “What right do you have to tell the priests how to run the temple?” It’s a fair question since Jesus is an outsider and he has no formal training.
Jesus responds by asking the leaders a question of his own: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (vv.3-4). The question is brilliant since John also had no formal training and was an outsider, and yet John was accepted by the people as a prophet. The leaders now have a dilemma.
And so they huddled together and debated how to answer (vv.5-6). If they confess John’s ministry as from heaven, they will look foolish for having rejected his ministry (v.5). If they say John’s ministry was from man they invoke the wrath of the people for saying an acknowledged prophet is not one at all (v.6). Their deliberation is focused on their credibility rather than a search for the truth.
In the end, they claim ignorance, saying they do not know where John’s authority came from (v.7). Their evasive answer allows Jesus the opportunity to refrain from revealing his authority (v.8).
The answer should be obvious. Jesus has already provided plenty of evidence as to the source of his authority (Luke 5:24; 11:20). The time for debate is over.
The progression of sin: Bad to Worse
There’s a subtle progression of sin in this text that begins with a corruption of worship, which then leads to plans for murder and a rejection of truth. This text illustrates a fundamental truth about sin—left unchecked, sin will progress from bad to worse.
Sin corrupts our view of worship (vv.45-46)
Jesus makes clear that worship is a sacred act where commerce has no place. There was a time when it was common for influential people in the community to attend church for the sole purpose of making connections for economic reasons. I’m sure this still exists today, but I pray that this practice is in decline.
This text is a helpful reminder of how seriously Jesus takes our worship of Him, and the central purpose of the church—to worship Him. A more common problem today is for churches to celebrate and worship political and social causes, rather than exalt the Lord Jesus Christ through the proper preaching of His Word and gospel-centered worship.
We were created to worship God, but from the time when sin crept into humanity we have been battling the desire to worship idols instead of the God who created us. We all miss the mark from time-to-time, as did the religious leaders. But where they failed we must learn—let us be ever mindful of how sin corrupts our worship and let that remind us to worship God alone.
Sin corrupts our view of ethics (vv.47-48)
Sin begets more sin. And in this case the unchecked sin of religious commercialism is growing into a fervent desire to murder Jesus. There is irony here, too. The priests, whose main concern was the temple, were contemplating destroying the true temple (John 2:19-22).
The priests may have defended their actions on the basis of keeping worship orderly. True, God does desire our worship to be orderly and purposeful. But worship is also a place for self-examination that leads to the purging of sin. The leaders failed on this account, and it led to additional sin—to the point that their morals have been compromised.
It’s not unlike the sin of pornography that many men deal with. In many cases it starts off as a seemingly innocent peek—a sinful act for sure—that if left unchecked will bloom into severe addiction, and possibly extramarital affairs. It often leads a man down a path that will compromise his morals and values.
Sin is powerful and if it is left unattended it will devour us whole. It will leave us helpless and vulnerable, leading to a corruption of our ethics. If you have a sin in your life that is unchecked, get some help. Go see your pastor or a trusted friend for godly counsel. Above all, repent and turn to Christ for healing.
Sin corrupts our view of truth (20:1-8)
The leader’s deliberation over Jesus’ question reveals that they were willing to cover the truth to avoid appearing in the wrong. They were caught in their own trap and yet they continued to suppress the truth of Jesus in their hearts.
Sin is a vicious trap.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry there was ample evidence as to who Jesus was and by whose authority He was acting but the multiplying force of sin prevents them from admitting the truth of the matter.
Sin is so strong and powerful that its effects linger, sometimes for generations, and even for those who have found forgiveness of their sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. The fact is, when we get angry as the religious leaders do in this text, we hide the truth of a matter and try to lay blame elsewhere instead of first examining our own hearts and admitting where we are wrong. But as we cover our sin, it only grows worse and begins to spread its tentacles further than we can ever imagine.
The point is this: find a way to nail your sin to the cross of Christ so that future generations may be spared.
Luke 19:28-44 is Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, marking the end of Jesus’ fateful journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:44).
As Jesus nears Jerusalem he directs his disciples to enter a nearby village, where they will find a colt which has never been ridden. They are to untie the colt (in the gospel tradition this colt is a donkey) and bring it to Jesus for him to ride into Jerusalem. If anyone asks what they are doing, they are simply to respond “The Lord has need of it” (vv.28-31). Here, Jesus is invoking angaria , where a dignitary could procure use of property for personal reasons. This was the right of soldiers, magistrates, rabbis, and of course people of royal stature.
The disciples do as instructed and everything occurs as Jesus said (vv.32-34). This note reveals Jesus’ knowledge of the future, and emphasizes that the events about to unfold in Jerusalem will not come as a surprise to him. Jesus knows what he is riding into.
As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the crowd throws their cloaks on the road, much as a red carpet functions today (v.35-37). The ride on the donkey recalls Zechariah 9:9, and the ride of a humble, peace-making Messiah. This is a regal scene, but the ride on a humble animal denotes a king of humility and service, rather than of raw power and brute force.
As Jesus descends the Mount of Olives, a “whole multitude” of his disciples begin to rejoice and praise God for the mighty works they witnessed Jesus perform (vv.37-38). The mention of the Mount of Olives is important, since it is the predicted locale of the Messiah’s appearance (Zechariah 14:4-5).
The praise of God is also praise of Jesus, as the crowd proclaims the hope of Psalm 118:26, where blessing falls on the one who comes in the name of the Lord (v.38). There is no question: The crowd equates Jesus as the Messiah of God. He is the promised king of Israel.
But not all agree. The Pharisees ask Jesus to reject the claim and rebuke his disciples (v.39). The regal and Messianic assertions are offensive to the Pharisees.
Jesus responds to their objection by noting that the praise of the crowd is appropriate: If the disciples do not announce Jesus’ identity, the rocks will (v.40). The remark is important, for creation speaks when an injustice needs to be avenged (Gen. 4:10; Hab. 2:11; James 5:4).
Jesus then weeps over Jerusalem. He understands what many do not. A great opportunity has been missed—the nation has rejected the Messiah (vv.41-42).
Their rejection will lead to complete destruction. Much like an Old Testament prophet, Jesus says “the days will come” when another nation will encircle the walls of Jerusalem, destroy the city and slaughter its inhabitants—because they did not know the day of their [God’s] visitation (vv.43-44).
Jesus’ oracle came true in A.D. 70, when Titus of Rome overran the city some 40 years after Jesus’ words. Jesus knows what he is talking about. The decision to reject Jesus is a serious matter that always ends in destruction.
The Triumphal Entry: King or Imposter?
As in the text, there are two types of people today; those who believe the Messianic claims of Jesus and those who view his claims (or the claims of the gospel writers) as exaggerations. This text demonstrates that those who choose the latter have chosen unwisely, for there is a bevy of evidence that points to Jesus as the Promised One of Israel.
Jesus’ identity is evident in his works
The multitude of disciples declared Jesus as the coming King based on the power of his works (vv.37-38). Many of these people witnessed his miraculous and compassionate ministry and believed that he was the Messiah. Even in this text we see Jesus’ divine power of omniscience (vv.32; 41-44).
Modern skeptics who deny Jesus’ divinity must do so despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. This is tragic according to Luke—for even creation accepts the true identity of Jesus (v.40).
Believers should also take note of how Jesus’ ministry pointed others to his identity. With actions and symbols, Jesus demonstrated not only his power but also God’s love and care for people. In the same way, the church is called to minister to a lost and dying world through a ministry of word and deed that aims for the head and the heart.
There is a tendency in liberal and conservative expressions of Christianity to focus on one or the other. But Jesus’ ministry illustrates the importance of a holistic approach to meeting people’s needs.
Jesus often preached hard truths, but he also consistently demonstrated love and compassion. In the end, people understood that he was sent from God.Likewise, the world should see in our actions the reality of Christ in us—the presence of truth and love—so that they too can see the true Jesus.
Jesus’ identity demands public confession
The Pharisees demanded that Jesus quiet the crowd’s Messianic affirmations, but Jesus would have no part of it. Rather, in his appeal to creation, he indicates that if no one speaks up for him, an injustice before God has been committed (vv.39-40).
This is why the Christian faith is never a private matter. Jesus is the Son of God and all who believe it cannot help but declare it. Yet, many Christians remain silent when in the presence of others who deny Jesus. Don’t be that person. Instead, remember that a failure to speak up for Christ is a grave injustice.
Jesus’ identity requires a choice
When it comes to Jesus, there is no middle ground. You either accept him for who he is or you don’t.
For Christians who have already made a choice, our job is not to beg or cajole people to choose Jesus. Notice that is not the approach Jesus took. Instead, he consistently pointed to his ministry and informed people of their responsibility to choose wisely.
The nation of Israel did not choose wisely. They failed to see Jesus’ identity; thus, they rejected him. The penalty for their rejection was destruction (vv.41-44). This reality was not lost on Jesus. That’s why he wept over the city of Jerusalem. He mourns over those who reject him.
Christian, when was the last time you wept for those who are far from God? When was the last time you mourned for those around you who are headed to eternal destruction?
Let us never forget what is at stake for those who don’t know Christ and let us be moved to action by our tears.
Luke 19:11-27 is a parable that illustrates the importance of faithfully serving King Jesus in this life.
The episode begins with a note regarding why Jesus tells this parable: He tells it to counter the belief that the Kingdom of God would come at once and decisively (v.11). Jesus must inform His disciples that the full expression of the Kingdom will come after His second coming, and He must also explain what He expects of His followers in the interim.
The parable is about a nobleman who travels to a far country to receive a kingdom (v.12). This pictures how Jesus receives the Kingdom during His first advent. Once He receives the Kingdom, He departs for an unspecified amount of time. But before He leaves He hands over the affairs of the Kingdom to ten servants, giving each ten minas and expecting them to conduct business until he returns (v.13). The servants are to see what they can do with their master’s resources in His absence. The servants represent anyone who follows Jesus.
The citizens of the Kingdom hate the king, so they send a delegation to the one who appointed him king to inform them of their complaint (v.14). This pictures the rejection of Jesus by national Israel.
Nevertheless, the nobleman receives the Kingdom and then returns to see if his servants have used their resources to benefit the King (v.15). The first two servants who were called each earned ten and five minas respectively and both are rewarded by being placed in charge of ten and five cities, respectively (vv.16-19).
The third servant comes forward and admits that he earned nothing with his master’s money; instead he kept it hidden under a cloth (v.20). He then explains why: He is afraid of the master, knowing that he is a hard man, who takes what he does not earn (v.21). The servant’s attitude is important. It shows his association to the master, but indicates that he does not trust his master. This servant is a disciple of sorts, but there is no meaningful relationship within that connection.
The master reacts by informing the servant that his remarks will be used to condemn him, for since the servant knew the master to be a hard man and did not want to work for him, he should have at least put the money in a bank where it would have received interest (vv.22-23).
It’s important to note here that the master’s response to the first two servants reveals that he is in fact not a hard taskmaster, since he gave them more responsibilities. In reality, the third servant does not truly know the character of his master. The master’s remarks in verse 22 are not a confession of his hardness, but a condemnation of the third servant’s failure to follow through on how he viewed the master. The servant’s words have indeed condemned him.
The master then orders that the servant’s one mina be taken away and given to the servant who made ten, to which the people object, noting that he already has ten minas (vv.24-25). The note is important for it demonstrates that the servants do not lose the money they earned. They keep it and continue their stewardship.
The application then comes in verse 26: The one who has will be given more but the one who has nothing loses even what he has. The one who has no trust in God’s goodness, even though he has a connection to God, has no relationship to God and ends up with nothing from him in the end. Perhaps someone like Judas is in view here. Regardless, the association with the community is not what counts. What matters is one’s relationship with the master—Jesus.
The parable ends with a note about the citizens who rejected the king from the beginning. These enemies are slain (v.27). This represents those who reject Jesus outright. They are judged and excluded from blessings altogether, no matter how close they were to Jesus previously.
Rewards and Condemnation
This parable is a call to faithfulness. Those who are faithful with the resources God gives them during Jesus’ absence will be rewarded and those who are unfaithful, or reject Jesus outright, will face severe punishment.
Faithfulness will be rewarded
The additional responsibilities given to the first two servants demonstrates that God sees and commends faithfulness. The time of judgment will be a time of blessing for those who are faithful to Christ in this life. Faithful stewards of Christ have nothing to fear.
What does a faithful steward look like? According to this parable it is one who uses the abilities and resources (minas) God has given them to serve the Kingdom. This type of service is most common in the church, where we use are resources to build up the Body of Christ. God has endowed each of us with spiritual gifts to use in the church. Like Timothy, we should seek to “fan into flame” the gifts that God has given us for the building up of his church in order to advance the Kingdom (1 Tim. 1:6).
The exhortation in this parable is to apply ourselves to the task of advancing the Kingdom through service, so that in the Day of Judgment, our stewardship will be a day of rejoicing (1 Cor. 4:5).
Unfaithfulness will be condemned
As King, Jesus has the authority to condemn unfaithful citizens. The enemies and citizens in the parable represent not just national Israel, but all who flatly reject Jesus’ divine authority. For this group, a terrible fate awaits if they do not turn and accept Jesus as their King.
The main thrust of the parable, however, is aimed toward the third servant. Here is a person who appears closely associated with the King, but is not a true servant. A Christian is a person who has a relationship of trust with Jesus. The Christian who truly understands God’s grace, and knows the depths of His love, will turn to serve Him out of love for His righteous character.
The third servant doubted the master’s character in slanderous ways. Thus, He did not know His master. This is a severe warning to those who think they are on the inside track to God’s blessing. Here, Jesus is calling us to examine our relationship with Him to determine if it is real or purely formal.
In modern terms we might put it like this: Church membership is not a union card into heaven, knowing and embracing God’s grace is.
Luke 19:1-10 highlights the importance of intentionally seeking the lost for the purpose of bringing them back into God’s family.
The episode begins as Jesus enters Jericho, where a rich man named Zacchaeus—a chief tax collector—was seeking to see Jesus, but he could not see over the crowd, for he was short (vv.1-3). As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus stood at the top of the collection pyramid, taking a cut of commission from those who collected taxes for him. He is a wealthy man, but his wealth is considered ill-gotten and therefore he is not well respected in the community.
Unable to see over the crowd, Zacchaeus climbs a tree in order to see Jesus as he comes by (v.4). As Jesus passes by, he notices Zacchaeus and calls him to come down, and adds that he must stay at Zacchaeus’ house that day (v.5). Jesus’ stay at the tax collector’s house is necessary because it pictures his ministry—to lead the lost back to God.
Jesus’ mission is to reclaim the prodigals (Luke 15) and justify the humble (Luke 18:9-14).
Zacchaeus gladly accepts the Lord’s terms (v.6). But not all are happy, as the crowd—probably led by the religious leaders—disapprove, saying that Jesus has chosen to be the guest of a sinner (v.7). Jesus is not concerned about impressing others in His ministry; His priority is to associate closely enough with the lost that they may come to know the grace of God.
At this point Zacchaeus announces he is a changed man: He will give half his goods to the poor and repay fourfold the people he has defrauded (v.8). This is a man who is aware of his sin and desires to right the wrongs he has done. In Zacchaeus’ changed heart, a love for God is expressed now in a love for others.
Jesus then endorses the response fully, noting that this very day salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house, who is now a true son of Abraham (v.9); or what Paul calls a child of faith (Romans 4; Galatians 3). Finally, Jesus notes that this is why He came: To seek and save the lost (v.10). As Luke 15 demonstrates, one suspects that all heaven celebrated at Zacchaeus’ return.
Seeking the Lost: It’s intentional
At the end of Jesus’ earthly mission He gave His disciples the task of picking up where he left off (Luke 24: 46-49). That means our mission today is also to seek and save the lost. Of course, we don’t do the “saving”—God does that—but we are called to point people to their need for Christ. This episode reminds us of that fact, plus it points out one fundamental aspect: seeking the lost requires that we actually go to the lost.
Seeking the lost means knowing the lost
Who are the lost in our eyes; those who we think might be beyond redemption? For some it’s homosexuals or people from other races and religions. For others it’s thieves, murderers, drug addicts. The list goes on. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were in this group—they were despised and hated, and most just assumed they were not the type of people God would be chasing after.
Although not a perfect correlation, a modern example of a chief tax collector might be Bernie Madoff. He’s a man many just assume is too far removed from God to receive forgiveness, but Jesus suggests otherwise. All people, no matter what they have done in this life, can receive God’s forgiveness.
All are redeemable and we cannot expect to bring them into God’s family if we don’t take the time to build relationships with them.
One of the errors many in the church make today is to separate themselves from the world in such a way that they lose contact with those who do not know Jesus. We isolate ourselves from them, and then sit back and wonder why they never come to our church services.If we are to reach the lost, and turn the tide in our culture, we must make an effort to get to know the lost people around us so that we can earn the right to speak into their lives about the grace of our great God.
As you consider this text, think about the last time you had a genuine relationship with a person who does not express faith in Christ. How much time do you spend with “lost” people weekly? Do you currently have a relationship with someone who is not a professing Christian?
Let me challenge you to make befriending and meeting regularly with a lost soul a priority in your life. Bring them into your home or have coffee and lunch with them regularly. Find a way to speak the truth to them—in love—and show them that God cares for them and wants them in his family, where they were created to be.
Luke 18:31-43 centers on the theme of trusting in the true identity of Jesus.
As the episode begins Jesus assembles the twelve disciples, informing them that they are headed toward Jerusalem, where all that was said about Jesus by the prophets will be fulfilled (v.31). What happens to Jesus in Jerusalem will be orchestrated by God’s plan.
This plan entails Jesus being handed over to the Gentiles. In the events to come he will be mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed. But Jesus will be raised on the third day (vv.32-33). For Jesus, suffering precedes glory. The disciples do not understand what Jesus is telling them—the saying is hidden from them (v.34). The mystery of God’s plan will become clear after Jesus’ death (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26).
Then Jesus and his disciples approach Jericho, where a blind man who was begging by the road hears a commotion and enquires of its nature, to which he is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by (vv.35-37). The man calls out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” but is quickly rebuked by the crowd.
Undeterred, he cries to Jesus a second time, the same as before (vv.38-39). The popular perception is that this blind man is too insignificant for Jesus’ time. But the man’s persistence shows that he trusts his welfare to Jesus and will do anything to receive his mercy.
Though he is blind, he can see what many others cannot: Jesus is the Messiah.
Jesus hears the cry, has the man brought to him, and then asks what he wants from him. The man responds, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” Jesus grants his request and notes that his faith has made him well (vv.40-42). Jesus not only opens his eyes, but affirms that his trust in God has made him spiritually well, too.
The text closes with a note that the man glorified God and began to follow Jesus. The people likewise praise God (v. 43). Once again, God has worked powerfully through Jesus.
Seeing is not believing
The main theme in this text is having a proper faith in Jesus’ identity. Those who understand (i.e. see) Jesus’ identity, and his related mission, will receive the blessing of restoration and walk with God.
Walking by sight is blinding (Luke 18:31-34)
We should pause to consider why this saying was hidden from the disciples. After all, Jesus suggests that they should be aware of what is about to happen to him, for the prophets have already written concerning the events about to take place (cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Not to mention he told them what was going to occur.
The disciples were not walking by faith. They did not believe what Jesus told them, probably because they did not want to believe that suffering was part of God’s plan.
This text challenges us to consider whether we miss God’s direction on account of our false expectations—rooted in walking by sight rather than faith—of Jesus and God’s plan for our lives. Are we hesitant to step out in faith for fear of the consequences? Do we shy away from ministry opportunities out of fear? Do we hesitate to share the gospel because we are afraid of rejection? Are we afraid to be “all in” for Jesus, knowing that the road may take us toward persecution and unpleasant circumstances?
Jesus never guarantees his followers a comfortable road in this life. In fact, many times he tells prospective followers how difficult it will be to follow him. The short of it is this: suffering preceded glory for Jesus, and it most likely will precede glory for his followers, too (Luke 9:22).
Don’t take the easy road. Pick up your cross, die to self, live for Jesus and get on the path that consistently points others to Christ, trusting that Jesus will carry you safely to the other side.
Walking by faith is seeing (Luke 18:35-43)
Though the man was blind, he could clearly see Jesus’ identity. He knew Jesus was the Messiah and that he had the power to restore his physical sight. Moreover, notice too that he faced public rebuke and rejection in crying out to Jesus. But that did not deter him, for he was convinced of Jesus’ Messianic identity and the power that entails.
Jesus’ identity has been a crucial theme throughout Luke’s Gospel. Time and again we see the blessings that come to people who get Jesus’ identity correct. This passage asks the question in visual terms: Do you see who Jesus is, or are you blind?
Nothing is more critical for your life than being able to clearly see Jesus’ identity. Who is Jesus to you?
The Bible explains that Jesus is the Son of God, who suffered and died on the cross for your sins, and then rose to life on the third day. He overcame death, the place we are all headed because of our sin. The only way to overcome death is to believe in Jesus’ identity as the suffering servant who rose to life.
Many people say they would believe in Jesus if they could have seen His ministry and miracles. But the Bible tells us that faith is not by sight. Rather, faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus told Thomas that blessings would come to those who believed in him without ever seeing him (John 20:29). Likewise, Peter said that though we do not see him we are to believe (1 Peter 1:8). And of course Paul reminds us that we in fact walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
The blind man in this story never saw Jesus perform a miracle, yet he believed that Jesus was the Messiah—the Son of David—and his life was transformed.
Can you believe without seeing?
Luke 18:18-30 is a familiar account, known by most as the “Rich Young Ruler.” Luke does not tell us the age of the ruler; we learn from Matthew’s account that he is also young. Nevertheless, the main theme of the episode is the danger that earthly possessions pose to one’s spiritual well-being.
The episode begins as Jesus is approached by the young ruler, who calls Jesus “Good Teacher” as he asks him how to inherit eternal life (v.18). He wants to know how he can be assured of salvation on the day when God hands out the gift of life.
The man’s address of Jesus as a “Good Teacher” was perhaps an attempt to gain favor with Jesus. But Jesus puts him on notice upfront: He will not be won over by flattery, warning the man that only God is good (v.19).
The issue of goodness raises the issue of honoring God, thus Jesus replies by reminding the ruler of the portion of the Ten Commandments which concern how one is to treat his neighbor (v. 20. See Ex. 20:12-16; Deut. 5:16-20). Jesus calls for character that is not self-serving and does not take advantage of others.
The ruler replies that he has kept all of these commands since his youth (v.21). But Jesus then adds an additional test to see if the man will serve God. He tells the man he lacks one thing: He must sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor, gaining treasure in heaven, and he must follow Jesus (v.22).
Jesus is probing the man’s heart to see where his allegiances truly lie. Does he covet his possessions more than God’s call upon his life? Does he place more trust in earthly wealth than God’s providential care? Jesus is probing for idols. Will the ruler accept the teaching of the man he just called “Good Teacher”?
No. Instead, he becomes sad, for he was extremely rich (v. 23). He was unwilling to give up his idols.
Jesus then notes how difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom (vv.24-25). The remark does not condemn all rich people, as Zacchaeus will demonstrate (Luke 19:1-10), but suggests that it is inherently difficult for wealthy people to turn everything over to God (cf. Luke 17:33).
Jesus’ reply unsettled some who heard it, who asked, in effect, “If the rich cannot be saved, then who can?” (v.26). They wrongly equated riches with divine blessings. Jesus replies by noting that what man cannot do, God is able to do (v.27). There are those who can do what Jesus asks. God makes it possible. Peter then steps up and essentially asks if he and the disciples have passed the “sell all” test (v.28).
Jesus’ reply is affirming. Anyone who leaves home, wife, children, or family for the sake of the Kingdom will receive much more family in this life, the family of God, and eternal life in the age to come (v.29).
The passage ends as it began, with the topic of eternal life. We must ally ourselves in relationship to Jesus and rest all our welfare in him alone. This is the essence of faith.
The Rich Young Ruler: Blinded By an Idol
This text forces us to pause and reflect as to why Jesus would challenge this young man as he did, especially since eternal life was at stake. The call to sell all and give the proceeds to the poor touched a nerve that exposed the idols of this man’s heart.This text reminds us, then, of the dangers of idolatry, for it prevents us from seeing the needs of others and our need for God.
Idols prevent us from seeing the needs of others
It’s no accident that Jesus first mentioned the portion of the Ten Commandments that teach us how to love our neighbors. The Lord knew this man had in fact not loved his neighbor as himself (Leviticus 19:18; Luke 10:27), despite his self-evaluation to the contrary (v.21). The ruler’s response to Jesus’ command demonstrates this fact.
This man’s predicament is instructive to those of us who think our lives are free from idols; to those of us who think we uphold God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The ruler assumed he was walking with God on this matter, only to walk away sad when Jesus pierced his heart with divine truth. Is there an idol in your life that prevents you from seeing the needs of those around you?
How many needy people do you see every day? How often do you rationalize excuses to avoid helping that person holding a sign begging for money? How often do you rationalize excuses to avoid helping anyone? I suspect that many of us are just like this man: We believe we are doing all we can to love our neighbor, but then Jesus comes along and shows us that people all around us are hurting, and we are doing nothing about it, though we are able.
Don’t be blinded by the idols of our culture: Time, money, success and so on. Look for opportunities to give of yourself completely and wholly to your neighbor, and you will discover unimaginable treasures.
Idols prevent us from seeing our need for God
What is really frightening is how easy it was for this man to walk away from Jesus. Think about it: He walked away because he could not give up his wealth in exchange for eternal life. This young man desperately needed God and he did not know it. That is frightening.
His wealth prevented him from seeing his great need to follow God with all his heart. Many of us have similar idols, whether it is drugs, sex, vocational and scholastic success, money, football, political affiliations, social causes, and on and on the list goes, Some of the things on that list are good, but so often we take good things and make idols out of them, and we don’t even know it. Before long, we forget our desperate need for God.
Is there something preventing you from giving your life completely to God? If so, then you will end up just like the Rich Young Ruler: Sad. Don’t do that. Turn to God; give your life to him in full submission and see how He blesses you in return.