Reading Luke and Acts in 2020
Week 18 | Luke 18
Luke 18 Reflections and Questions
By Rev. Dr. Dana Everhart
In Luke 18 we have six very familiar stories; so familiar that I fear we don’t give them much thought for our living today. Most of Jesus' stories were told before audiences, people who were interested in Jesus’ life and ministry or others who happened to be hanging around or perhaps involved. They were told in simple ways that those who heard them could relate and live them out.
Luke 18:1-8 lays before us the situation of a self-centered judge (one who has everything from power and status to wealth and health) and a widow (who is one of the least in society) who has needs that only the judge can accommodate. The widow begs the judge not just once in a while but daily for help, to bring justice to her situation. The judge ignores her for some time but because she is so dog-gone persistent and won’t hush, the judge gives in to her request. Not for justice's sake but for some peace and quiet. Not an unfamiliar sight in Jesus' day … nor ours. Jesus reminds all that God (who has all the power and status, if you will) is never slow to give justice to those who seek it and cry out for it from deep within. God is faithful to God’s people. The question is will God find us faithful when God looks upon us?
Who are you in this story? Are you the judge, the widow, the audience, or maybe Jesus? How you see yourself matters to how you understand the story.
Luke 18:9-14 is so close to home for so many. While God hears the prayers of all God’s children they are all different and they all come from different perspectives of need. The religious expert (a highly honored position) took the time to focus on his goodness and of his judgment of others. The tax-collector (another person who was least in the society at that time) would not even look up to the heavens but with downcast eyes and heart, he muttered to God that he was a sinner and needed God’s mercy. God desires a humble heart whose desire is to be filled with the love of God. For many, there is no room for the love of God when there is such love of self. The religious leader got what he wanted --- self-satisfaction but the tax collector received mercy, love, grace, and a new life.
Who are you in this story? Do you remind God how great you are and judge the rest of the world by your standards? Do you humbly lay yourself before God and seek God’s mercy; each day? Are you on the outside looking in wondering does God hear our prayers?
Luke 18:15-17 Jesus loves the little children, they have a place in His heart and in the kingdom of God. This is atypical in the ancient world. What is typical is to rebuke children and have them “seen but not heard … from a distance even” and that is what the disciples, thought was right. Jesus blesses them and gives them the kingdom. Children are a part of Jesus' plan and we can find strength for our support of infant baptism here. It is not just a blessing but acknowledgment that the kingdom now belongs to them. John Wesley strongly believed these words gave us the call for infant baptism.
Who are you in this story? Are you a parent desiring to have your child blessed and a part of the kingdom? Are you a child, unknowing but also desiring the love of God? Are you those who think children have no place in the story let alone the church? Are you Jesus, welcoming and blessing all who come and climb upon your heart?
Luke 18:18-31 The ruler was perhaps a ruler of the local synagogue, not a Roman official according to the Wesley Study Bible. How many commandments did Jesus share with the ruler? Why only 9 of the 10? Why does coveting keep us from having eternal life? Perhaps when we want eternal life with all the other things of “life” we find there is no room for both. The ruler is sad by the realization that perhaps he isn’t as good as he thinks he is. How does one obtain eternal life? It is suggested in the Wesley Study Bible that it is “not by doing but by believing in God who performs the impossible for humans.”
Who are you in this story? Are you the ruler and wanting life? Are you the left behind by one who has left all to follow Jesus? Are you a counter and checker who makes sure you check all the boxes? Are you sad? Are you Jesus who has to share the hard truth and cut through all the excuses?
Luke 18:32-43 This is a time when Jesus shares about his death and resurrection. While the ruler wanted to live forever, Jesus spoke of the end of life so new life could be achieved. Jesus shared it all, the tough moments and the final event. He then moves to the resurrection which most have really blown the minds of the disciples. Scripture says it was hidden from them. From there Jesus heals the blind man. He heals him even after the disciples once again try to hush him up or rebuke him for bothering Jesus (sounds like the previous verses with the children). When Jesus does heal him, the people are amazed.
Why can’t the disciples understand this? Why hide it from them or was it their own misunderstanding that would not give way to a new teaching that hid it? Why can’t people see Jesus for who He is? Who are you in this story? Are you the disciples who can’t seem to understand, who can’t learn from the past, or who don’t know what they really want? Are you the blind man, needing sight and knowing what you want? Are you the people in the crowd amazed by the healing? Are you Jesus reaching out and touching others with healing and love?
God is doing a great thing through Jesus if we only open our eyes and hearts to it.
The Rev Dr. Dana A. Everhart is Director for the Center for Clergy Excellence and Senior Pastor Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta.