Luke 18: 15-30, 35-43
Most Jews during Jesus' time had longed for God’s kingdom to come. They addressed this glorious time of God’s kingdom as ‘the age’ to come. The word for ‘age αἰώνιος ’ here is often translated as ‘eternal’, and the phrase ‘eternal life ζωή αἰώνιος ‘ has regularly been used to describe the blissful life of ‘the age’ to come.
In this “age to come”, everything will be new, fresh, and free from corruption, decay, evil, bitterness, pain, fear and death. There Heaven and earth will be joined together; God and his children will live with each other.
In Luke 17:20-21, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus answered them, ‘the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (or in your heart).”
By this, Jesus meant that the kingdom of God, ‘the age to come’ was breaking in; the powers of the new age are already at work. Wherever Jesus is, people are not only welcomed into God's kingdom; they are healed, and given a new life which truly anticipates the total healing and joy that are due to be fulfilled in God’s final new day.
Luke continues in 18:1-14 tell the parables of the Persistent Widow and the prayer of the Pharisee and tax collector. By this, Luke tells us that God’s kingdom embraces those powerless and underserved people. Jesus is the central figure of God’s kingdom, yet we see that he was also marginalised, persecuted, rejected, suffered and died on the cross.
Today we see there are sufferings and injustice in the world. This should not weaken our faith, and lead us to doubt the presence and goodness of God. For wherever there is suffering, Jesus Christ is there to suffer with the people. Jesus identifies with the vulnerable and the lowly. He walks through sufferings with the oppressed and wounded. And together they shall overcome in the end.
Chapter 18, verse 15 onwards, Luke continues to delineate the characteristics of people belonging to God’s kingdom, and also the nature of God’s kingdom itself:
God's People Can Lose Everything but Cannot Lose God, the Heavenly Father
18:15-17 says that people were bringing babies to Jesus for him to place His hands on them. The disciples forbade the people for doing so sternly. But Jesus received them, “let the children come to me, God’s kingdom belongs to the ones like these. I am telling you the truth: anyone who does not receive God’s kingdom like a child will never get into it.”
Luke emphasises ‘babies’. The focus is not about humility, but something about the helplessness of children, and their complete trust of those who love and care for them. Jesus sees deep into the heart of what it means to receive God’s kingdom; it is like drinking one’s mothers’ milk, like learning to see, and to smile, by looking at one’s mother’s eyes and face. The fragile and helpless babies grab tightly to their parents even at the cost of putting down their favourite toys.
There is nothing that we can rely on in order to enter the kingdom, neither own effort nor merits, but solely on God, our heavenly Father.
Today are you clinging solely to God now? Can you let go of those things or habits that are displeasing to God for the sake of entering God’s kingdom?
You may have just lost your loved ones or experienced a setback in your career or business. As God’s people, we can lose everything but we cannot lose God! Holding onto God, pray to him, serve him unceasingly, He will help you to sail through the dark valleys and make a successful twist.
If you have already lost something you treasured much, and you further lose the heavenly Father, you will enter into even more disastrous stage.
The following text, verses 18-23 goes on to say:
There is a ruler asked Jesus: ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life (the life of the age to come)?’
Jesus said to him, “Why call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t’ swear falsely, honour your father and mother.”
He said, “I have kept them all since I was a boy.”
When Jesus heard it, He said to the ruler, “there is just one thing you are short of. Sell everything you own, and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
When the rich ruler heard it, he turned very sad because he was extremely wealthy.
Jesus looked at the ruler, and He said, “How hard it is for those with possessions to enter God’s kingdom! Yes, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom.” (vv.24-25)
Jesus is not against rich people, but against “people who obtain security from the many possessions they have’. Their sense of security comes from possessions like, ‘wealth, fame, status, serving experience, and knowledge of the law.” The rich ruler belonged to this group who are so confident, so well organized, so determined, even looking into the face of the one he calls ‘good’, but eventually had to turn away feeling sad.
This kind of people refuses to submit to God’s command, because that would demand them to effectively depend on God solely rather than their possessions.
Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” (v.26)
When we realize that we are helpless, weak and fragile like babies, and we humble ourselves to solely relying on God’s grace, grab hold on God, we will enter into God’s kingdom and receive the life of the kingdom.
Let’s grab hold unto God, find refuge in Him and be obedient to his will. We will once again mount up like an eagle!
God's People Are to Freely and Joyfully Follow Jesus
The following text verses 35-43, says that as Jesus and disciples were approaching Jericho, there was a blind man sitting by the road, he was begging. When he heard that Jesus is coming by, he shouted out, ‘Jesus—son of David, have mercy on me!’
The people told him to be silent, but he yelled out all the more, “son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and told them to bring the blind man to him. When he came up, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
He said, “Master, I want to see again.” Jesus said, ‘see again, you faith has saved you.” At once he received his sight again, and he followed Jesus, glorifying God. When all the people saw it, they too gave praise to God.
Let’s compare 'babies brought to Jesus "and "blind beggar brought to Jesus”. They both wish to come to Jesus but are hindered by the people. But Jesus clears the way for them to come to Him and receive salvation. They are helpless, deprived groups but Jesus helps them to enter the kingdom of God.
One thing different in the blind beggar; is that he has faith in Jesus. He trusts Jesus so completely that, when offered the chance to ask for money or food, he asks for his sight back again. And he received his sight, and then he followed Jesus, glorifying God, praising Him.
The blind beggar’s reaction is a sharp contrast to the rich ruler who had to turn away very sad!
We notice there is a 'sandwich' structure where ‘the rich ruler’ was inserted in the between ‘babies’ and ‘blind beggar’. Luke's purpose is to emphasise the characteristics of God‘s people, that is ‘grab hold unto God alone’ and ‘follow Jesus joyfully and praising God’.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill all of us, to empower us to follow Jesus joyfully and praising God everyday!
God’s People Make Up a Wonderful New World of Love and Shared Abundance
After hearing Jesus’ illustration of the characteristics of people who enter God’s kingdom, Peter said, ‘Look here, we have left everything and followed you.’ (v.28)
Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth, everyone who has left his house or wife or brothers or parents or children, because of God’s kingdom, will receive far more in return in the present – and in the age to come they will receive the life that belongs to that age.” (Vv.29-30)
By this, Jesus indicates that, in the present time, this new age of God’s kingdom already breaks into our sad old world. Followers of Christ are to leave behind the old ways to form a new community. This community comprises new homes, new families, new fellowship based on mutual love and shared abundance with one another, and all kinds of new possibilities will be opening up for them.
The church is called in every age to be this sort of community, to be a living example of “the age to come”. In this sort of selfless and trusting, living the common life, the world around is attracted to this community and join in. The community of God’s people can now glimpse at what God’s final new world is like, and learn to live out the characteristics of God's kingdom more and more.
Some people may doubt if this wonderful new world does happen in our midst: “It is just a utopia! The communists have tried but they also failed.” Or “It is not happening here at this church, but happening at the other church.”
The whole Bible actually challenges us not to doubt God’s kingdom, but rather to ask a different question, “When this wonderful new world breaks in, where are you? Do you participate in it? Or do you contribute a part to make it happen?”
Dear brothers and sisters, we are all citizens of God’s kingdom: We may be in a season of experiencing setbacks now; we may have lost some things, but we must not lose God, our Heavenly Father. Hold onto God tightly, glorify Him and joyfully follow Jesus closely.
The Holy Spirit’s empowering presence is with us to heal and to bless. There is excitement, heartfelt praise, and celebration of God’s kingdom here and now. Let’s participate in and share with one another the abundance of God's blessings here!