Last week about an hour after my golf game on Tuesday, I developed a sudden acute upset tummy. It improved by Thursday morning but relapsed severely by the evening. By late evening I was facing the prospect of a weekend, without medication and the possibility of finding any or even any access to a doctor. Then it dawned on me: the Lord had led me to the edge of the Red Sea so that I would be “forced” to stop trying to find all sorts of ways out and turn to Him as the only real deliverer. It came to me that in Psalm 146:2 it says “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.” So I sank to my knees and asked forgiveness for my “self reliance” and desperately looking for a “prince or doctor” to save me and turned the whole problem over to Him. I wasn’t instantly cured but there was a change in how I felt and slowly over the weekend I have recovered, except for feeling a bit shaky. On reflection I had spoken to the Lord about the matter, but without real conviction that He should have been my first place to flee to. This is not the first time this has happened to me, to remind me of the need to trust Him first and then take the route He shows me.
So this morning in my worship time, I see in my mind’s eye a calm sea – “Calm”, the word comes to me – as I watch, the sea is lit by a light, reflecting beautiful colours – “I give you calmness – I give you peace. After the reminder of the world-changing events, remembered this weekend through the Easter celebrations and the storm that affected you these last days – I give you the sort of calm I gave the disciples after I calmed the storm they were in. The battle is over – the victory is won! But the ongoing expedition to conquer the world for the ‘kingdom’ still lies ahead – gird yourself for action, but the victory is assured”.
So to God’s Word: After the announcement in Luke 16:16 that the kingdom of God is breaking into the world and the question in 17:20 “when will this happen”? Luke puts together 6 stories from 18:9 to 19:10 which give us different facets of how entry into the kingdom would happen. Why don’t you read these stories, think them through, and determine what point Jesus was making in each, which would help the reader to know how to enter the kingdom. This may take a bit of time but will reward you when you have done it.
Here is what I found: “The Pharisee and the tax collector” contrast two attitudes that people have as they approach God and His kingdom. On the one hand self-assured, confident that by keeping all the religious laws and regulations he had already gained entry, while the other only aware of his total lostness, nothing to offer as merit for his acceptance. The comment in vs 14 explains how the latter attitude is the one acceptable to God. The story of the “little children” underlines this and explains and illustrates the same point. Little children have no merit to call on and are totally dependent. Then the rich ruler is presented as a lay copy of the religious Pharisee. He also thinks he has managed to “earn” his way into the kingdom. He is shocked by Jesus’ requirement of repentance and slinks away. Clearly Luke wants us to perceive the contrast in attitudes and what is necessary to approach God for salvation.
Jesus then makes the astounding statement about the camel and the needle, which has had people over the centuries trying to explain it, but the point is it is obviously impossible. The disciples are distraught “who then can be saved?” they call out V 26. This cry gives the central point of all these stories, with Jesus’ answer: “What is impossible with men is possible with God”. That’s the ultimate point isn’t it? Only God can save and it is always miraculous. Salvation is far more difficult and miraculous and impossible than just passing a camel through a needle!
But the vss 31-33 are key, it is necessary for Jesus to die and be raised again, for salvation to be won for mankind. There is no other way that you can be saved, but through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Is that not what we have just spent the whole weekend celebrating?
To underline the fact that it all comes from God, Luke adds the story of the blind man being given sight. For any man to be saved Jesus must miraculously open their eyes.
So what is our response to be in all this? How do we share in this miraculous, supernatural action? Well you guessed it – by faith of course. 18:42.
And how does one who has been saved look like? 18:43, He recognizes God and His part in this whole process and just wants to praise Him for what He has done for him. Just like Zacchaeus in the next story, his life totally transformed, from a mean, crooked official to: repentance for his past sins, recompense to those who he had stolen from and a joyful generosity to all, ending with a happy fellowship with Jesus Himself, 19:5 By their fruit you will know them!
Wow what a story! There are several subthemes and points to ponder, but this seems to me to be the main thrust of all these stories strung together like this.
And what did Jesus say to me? As the mists cleared and I could see this thread more clearly, like the blind man, I was filled with joy and just wanted to praise God and share the “good news of the kingdom of God” Luke 16:16.
May this fill you too with joy and awe and motivate you to share this wonderful news.