The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Luke 18

Luk 18:1

Vv 1-14: "Prayer is the greatest privilege of the believer. It enables conversation between the believer and the Father. It complements the Word, by which Yahweh communicates with His people. There is a need for patient, persistent prayer, and the Master employed the parable of the Unjust Judge to demonstrate this principle. There are two parables on Prayer: The power of persistent prayer (vv 1-8), and the need to pray aright (vv 9-14). The vital lessons of humility, and sincerity are stressed throughout this chapter. The Pharisee was a hypocrite; he searched his heart and found only good; he stood apart in pride; he stood upright in confidence. On the other hand, the Publican was a worldling. He searched his heart and found only evil; his stood apart in shame; he stood with head bowed, recognising his need. He demonstrates the first essential of acceptable worship: recognition of our need of God. Following the parable, the Master gave practical examples of the principle. He blessed infants (vv 15-17), explained the difficulty of the rich to enter the kingdom (vv 18-27); revealed the reward of self-sacrifice (vv 28-31). He then instructed the Twelve about his death (vv 31-34), and healed a blind man (vv 35-43). It was a time of great instruction; great activity; great importance" (GEM).

See Lesson, Prayer.

ALWAYS PRAY: Cp lessons of morning and evening incense: Exo 30:7,8. Also, Dan 6:10; Psa 55:17. Prayer with special ref to 2nd coming: Luk 17:20-37; 18:8.

"Jesus has sent his church into the world on the same errand upon which he himself came, and this mission includes intercession... the church is the world's priest? Creation is dumb, but the church is to find a mouth for it. It is the church's high privilege to pray with acceptance. The door of grace is always open for her petitions, and they never return empty-handed. The veil was rent for her, the blood was sprinkled upon the altar for her, God constantly invites her to ask what she wills. Will she refuse the privilege which angels might envy her? Is she not the bride of Christ? May she not go in unto her King at every hour? Shall she allow the precious privilege to be unused? The church always has need for prayer. There are always some in her midst who are declining, or falling into open sin. There are lambs to be prayed for, that they may be carried in Christ's bosom? the strong, lest they grow presumptuous; and the weak, lest they become despairing. If we kept up prayer-meetings four-and-twenty hours in the day, all the days in the year, we might never be without a special subject for supplication. Are we ever without the sick and the poor, the afflicted and the wavering? Are we ever without those who seek the conversion of relatives, the reclaiming of backsliders, or the salvation of the depraved?" (CHS).

ALWAYS PRAY AND NOT GIVE UP: KJV has: "and not faint."

"[What is the context? In Luk 17...] Then there follow solemn words about the hardship and difficulties which they will have to face in seeking to keep true to their calling. He says that if they would keep their life they will have to lose it. He enforces his warning by reminding them of the days of Noah and the days of Lot, and tells them in effect that their experience will be similar. They will have to face stress and strain in holding fast to the faith. Indeed, later on he will tell them of a day when men's hearts will faint for fear when they see awful things coming upon Jerusalem. And therefore he spake a parable unto them, to this end, that they ought always to pray and not to faint.

"Think what fainting means. The dictionary says that to faint is to become weak, to be feeble, without strength -- to lose courage, to give way. In the Bible it has to do with weariness, for Paul says, 'Be not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not' (Gal 6:9). It look as though not to be weary is not to faint. We must understand what weariness is. It is not tiredness. Tiredness is a blessed thing which comes from working and which makes us rest so that we are restored and ready to work again.

"But weariness is different -- it is not a blessing but a curse. It is losing heart. It is a feeling that things are not worth doing. It means beginning each task with a sigh instead of a smile. It is being dispirited, without motivation. It is losing hope. The words of Isaiah can help us to understand fainting: 'Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall" (Isa 40:30). The young men represent the strongest and most virile force in the nation -- those most likely to keep the city, to hold fast and remain true. Even these shall fail and their awful failure is described in these words: fainting and weariness.

"On the other hand, mark those who triumph, for the contrast is a revelation: 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa 40:31). Here is a definition by contrast: to faint is to be without eagle wings; not to run, not even to walk. In Bible terms it is an awful disability; a paralysis leading to impotence; withered by weakness and wasted by weariness.

"Jesus says that if disciples desire to avoid fainting they must pray. He does not seem to admit of any middle position. It is one thing or the other. If men pray they will not faint and if they do faint it will be because they have ceased to pray" (GD).

Luk 18:2

THERE WAS A JUDGE: For Israel during her long exile and persecutions, God has become a harsh "Judge" and no longer a loving "Husband".

Luk 18:3

AND THERE WAS A WIDOW: And Israel has become the "widow" deprived of her Husband!

ADVERSARY: "Antidikos" = an opponent at law.

Luk 18:5

God, a judge of widows (Psa 68:5). Cp idea, Lam 1:1; Isa 54:4. God's vengeance in Isa 59:14-18; 62:4,6,7,11.

Other examples of importunity: Luk 18:39,42; Mat 9:27-29; 15:22-28; Mar 4:38; 2Co 12:8; 2Pe 3:9,15; Rev 6:10; Psa 74:10; 94:3.

Luk 18:7

// Jam 5:4; Gen 4:10.

HIS CHOSEN ONES: Repentance of "elect" nation of Israel in last days.


Luk 18:8

//Mat 7:13,14; 24:37.

FAITH: An individual, persistent faith, as that of the widow. The faith of v 42.

WILL HE FIND FAITH?: Answered in Rev 13:10: "Here is... faith of saints."

ON THE EARTH: Or, "in the Land".

"This question seems to grow more significant as we increase our knowledge of history and humanity. The Truth has come to light many times and been lost again. It might very easily be submerged once more in these closing days of the Gentiles.

"It is the recognition of this grim possibility that makes some of the older brethren so insistent in their exhortations to 'Hold fast.' Many of us, if we were dying and hardly able to speak, would make those two words last our last message to the Brotherhood. We are convinced that the saving truth of the Gospel has been brought to light, and the greatest need for these days is that we should hold fast to the Faith and build up character on this true basis.

"We differ in temperament, and we may differ in judgment as to the right course to pursue in time of danger, but among those who have taken an active part in the Truth's welfare for the past thirty years there will be absolute agreement as to the need of this exhortation to 'Hold fast' " (IC).

Luk 18:9

TO SOME WHO WERE CONFIDENT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOOKED DOWN ON EVERYBODY ELSE: "Human nature is such that we so easily fall into this trap. It is so easy to think that we are right, and that therefore we are righteous -- and despise those who have not yet found the truth as revealed in the gospel. We know this is not the way it should be and this parable that follows (vv 10-14) is very revealing. Who do we relate to in this parable? Well, the publican, of course. But is that who we are? Pro 30:12. Isa 65:2-5 (esp v 5)" (PC).

Luk 18:10

// Pro 30:12,13; Isa 65:5; Eze 33:13.

Luke's interest in tax-collectors: Luk 3:12; 5:27; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10; 19:2. "Tax-collector" synonymous with "sinner": Luk 5:30; Mat 9:11; Mar 2:16. Rabbis considered them a criminal class, to whom it was even permissible to lie (LTJM 1:516). But Christ found friends among this class (Luk 18:9-14).

Luk 18:11

Vv 11,12: The prideful approach: the Pharisee was self-centered and conceited. His morality was based on negatives. His worship was based on externals.

I THANK YOU THAT I AM NOT LIKE OTHER MEN... LIKE THIS TAX COLLECTOR: "Pride is so subtle that if we aren't careful we'll be proud of our humility. When this happens our goodness becomes badness. Our virtues become vices. We can easily become like the Sunday School teacher who, having told the story of the Pharisee and the publican, said, 'Children, let's bow our heads and thank God we are not like the Pharisee!' "

Luk 18:12

I FAST TWICE A WEEK: Strict Pharisees would fast every Monday and Thursday, during weeks between Passover and Pentecost, and again between Feast of Tabernacles and Dedication of Temple (Temple 198).

Luk 18:13

The penitent approach: The publican was humble before God and man, and was more aware of his own sins than those of others. He was not concerned about obtaining material wealth. He was conscious of his standing before God.

AT A DISTANCE: Like the lepers: Luk 17:12.

WOULD NOT EVEN LOOK UP: Cp Psa 34:18; 40:12.

BEAT HIS BREAST: A sign of sorrow and humility (Luk 23:48).

One day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation. Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent. "Well," remarked Frederick, "I suppose you are an innocent victim too?" "No, sir, I'm not," replied the man. "I'm guilty and deserve my punishment." Turning to the warden, the king said, "Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!"

Luk 18:14

JUSTIFIED: Though "at a distance" (v 13), he was justified!

Luk 18:15

// Gen 48:14.

See Lesson, Laying on of hands.

WERE ALSO BRINGING: "Prosphero" = to offer, as a sacrifice! Just previously (Mat 19:1-12; Mar 10:1-12), Jesus was talking about the sanctity of marriage; the children are a large part of his reason.

TO HAVE HIM TOUCH THEM: All the occasions of Jesus touching, or being touched, in the context of healing (notice that not one of them is in John's gospel): Mat 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; Luk 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44-47; 18:15; 22:51.

Luk 18:16

Note: faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38), not ignorance (Eph 4:18), is essential to salvation.

TO SUCH AS THESE: That is, to those who are similar (in some respect) to these. Similarity? A childlike faith: cp Mat 19:23; Mar 10:23; Luk 18:24; 1Pe 2:2; 1Co 14:20; Mat 18:3,4; Psa 131:2.

Luk 18:17

RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE A LITTLE CHILD: But of course this cannot mean that the kingdom is closed to those who would first come to it as adults!

Luk 18:18

A CERTAIN RULER: Simply called "a man" in Mat 19:16; Mar 10:17.

Suggestion: the rich young ruler was Joseph Barnabas -- who later does in fact heed the exhortation of Jesus (Acts 4:36,37).

WHAT MUST I DO?: Note stress on the word "DO"!

INHERIT: There was no good work learned from any good rabbi that could EARN eternal life. Cp Rom 9:31,32.

Luk 18:19

NO ONE IS GOOD: There was no "good" work, or any combination of "good" works, learned from any "good" rabbi that could EARN eternal life (cp Rom 9:31,32). Possibly a roundabout argument also: 'But if I really am good, then I must be from GOD!'

Luk 18:22

YOU STILL LACK ONE THING: An allusion to Psa 23:1, LXX: "I shall want (or lack) nothing." The rich young man lacked but one thing -- ie Yahweh as his shepherd. Thus he lacked all things, ie all things meaningful. The remedy: "Come, and follow ME."

AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN: "The crisis will come at last and it may come any moment. The slave of instinct has to give it up and everything. He has to lie down and die; he has to take time to do that, although he could spare so little for Christ; and then where are the wealth and the honour, and all the fine things that he has set his heart upon? All gone; nothing left behind -- absolutely nothing! He goes to corruption; he descends to the grave without a hope. Having laid up no treasure in Heaven, he is buried a spiritual bankrupt, for whom there is no prospect but tribulation and wrath and anguish. That is a fine harvest for a man to reap! That is a fine result for a man to work so hard, and so diligently and so skilfully for! Dangerous! dangerous! dangerous! to put off Christ with the idea that we are going to do differently 'by-and-by.' We don't know whether we will have a 'by-and-by' to do different in. The only time we can reckon upon is the present; and that time is not our own at all if we are Christ's" (SC 66).

Luk 18:23

VERY SAD... GREAT WEALTH: Few would think to link these two concepts so closely together!

A MAN OF GREAT WEALTH: "He had great wealth" (Mat 19:22; Mar 10:22). Or rather, his wealth "had" him (Deu 6:10-13). "If your hand offends you, cut it off" (Mar 9:43). Ct Mat 20:34; Mar 10:52; Luk 18:43: the rich man loses all; the poor man gains all. Also ct Zaccheus, a wealthy man who gave it up (Luk 19:6,8).

Examples of prophetic reluctance: Exo 4:10; Jer 1:6; Eze 3:14; Jon 1:3; 1Ki 19:10; Luk 5:8,10; 9:59; 18:23; Act 13:13; 18:9. Ct Isa 6:8.

Luk 18:24

THE RICH: Or "those who TRUST in riches" (Mar 10:24). It is possible righteously to have riches, but not to trust in them: Abraham, David, Zaccheus. A theme of Christ's parables: Luk 12:15-21; 16:19-31.

Luk 18:25

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: "The proverbial saying... refers to the absolutely impossible... Attempts to weaken this hyperbole by taking 'needle,' not as a sewing needle, but as a small gate through which an unladen camel could just squeeze and only on his knees are misguided. This conjecture may come from some of Jerome's allegorizing" (EBC).

An old Heb proverb: "Open a needle's eye to God, and God will open to you a gate large enough for camels."

"These words of Jesus covered not only the rich but the poor also. The rich man glorying in his riches is far from the Kingdom of God, but the poor man trusting in his hard-earned pittance is no nearer. Indeed the poor man may clutch his few pounds more tightly than a rich man his thousands. The emphasis in each is upon the same thing. Our trust must not be centred upon riches, great or small, or upon honour, or men, but upon God" (MP).

Luk 18:26

WHO THAN CAN BE SAVED?: For every man of this world is "rich" is something: "rich" in pride, if nothing else.

Luk 18:31

UP TO JERUSALEM: His face set like a flint (Isa 50:7). The good shepherd going before his sheep (Joh 10:4).

Luk 18:35

Was Jesus leaving (Mat 20:29; Mar 10:46) or approaching (Luk 18:35) Jericho? Prob he was between an old part of the city and the new part of the city -- hence the difference.

JERICHO: The city of palm trees, who lift up righteous hands to heaven (Psa 92:12; Song 7:7). Also the city of the curse (Jos 6:26).

A BLIND MAN: Named Bartimaeus (Mar 10:46). There were actually two beggars (Mat 20:29). Typifies the blind Gentiles, healed by Christ, the "Light of the world".

BEGGING: A man must be conscious of his poverty before he starts to beg.

Luk 18:37

OF NAZARETH: The despised Branch of healing (Mat 2:23n). Nazareth = "netzer", branch: cp Isa 11:1 ("Branch out of root of Jesse").

Luk 18:39

HE SHOUTED ALL THE MORE: Like the widow in Luk 18:1-8.

Luk 18:40

ORDERED THE MAN TO BE BROUGHT TO HIM: A second-hand call: a great test of faith.

Mar 10:50 adds "Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus."

Luk 18:43

AND FOLLOWED JESUS: He left the city of the curse (v 35), and followed Jesus to the city of blessing!

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