SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- The chapter opens with a parable about a widow who pestered a mean judge to seek justice. He was so annoyed with her that he finally gave in to her request.
- The following parable includes a comparison of two men. One was a Pharisee, considered the most holy people of that time. The other man was a tax collector, considered the most evil people of that time. In Jesus' story, both men approach God in prayer. The Pharisee thinks highly of himself, making sure God knows how worthy he is. The tax collector is aware of his short-comings and comes humbly to God, seeking mercy. Jesus makes it clear that the Pharisee will be humbled for his attitude, but the tax collector is justified for his humility.
- In verse 15 we see people bringing their babies and children to Jesus. The disciples were appalled and offended by this. Why? In ancient times, children were viewed as property, not family. When a baby was born, the midwife would put the baby on the floor. If the man of the house picked the baby up, it was accepted into the family. If the man walked the other way, the baby was taken outside to be abandoned on a dump heap to die or to be taken into slavery. So, when Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me," it was revolutionary.
- The ruler asks Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments. The man responds that he has all his life. Jesus then tells this rich man that he needs to give away all his possessions. Jesus interacted with other wealthy people, but never said this to any of them. Apparently, Jesus could see that this man put money before God, so Jesus addresses the issue. The man is devastated and walks away sad because he greatly valued his wealth and material possessions.
- Jesus again predicts his death and resurrection, but again his disciples do not understand.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- We should pray and not give up. Sometimes we don't have what we want simply because we did not ask, or stopped asking.
- Like the tax collector, we have all sinned and made mistakes. We should always approach God in humility and gratefulness.
- Like Jesus asked the rich young ruler, if we are to follow Jesus in this life, and into eternal life, we must be willing to freely let go of anything that stands between us and God.
- When looking at the story of the blind beggar, it seems odd that Jesus asked him what he wanted. He was blind and poor. Wasn't it obvious? But Jesus wanted the man to express what he needed. We need to recognize and let God know what we really need.
- Jesus is for the broken. Jesus points out the plight of the "less than"-- the powerless, the corrupt, the abandoned, the throwaways, the sick, and the poor. Just as Jesus reached out to them then, he calls us to reach out to them today, in his name.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Is there a situation in your life in which you need God's help? Have you asked him? If not, start praying today. He may not answer right away, but just like the widow and the beggar, don't lose heart. Keep on praying until the answer arrives!
- Are you like the Pharisee, thanking God for how awesome you've turned out and how great you are? Or are you like the tax collector, fully aware of and dependent God's grace and mercy that washes away every failure and past mistake you've ever made? Take time to praise God for his unending grace and love today toward you today.
- What is standing in the way of your complete commitment to following Jesus? Maybe, like the rich young ruler, it's tough for you to let go of material things. If something is holding you back, talk to God about it and take steps to love him more and the things of this world less.