Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7 - Luke 18

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 18. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

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 was a comparison of two men. One was a Pharisee, or religious leader of the day. The other man was a tax collector. Ancient tax collectors were considered some of the most evil, corrupt, and sinister people in the community. They were known for extorting people's money.  Both men approach God in prayer. However, the Pharisee thinks rather highly of himself. Instead of praying to God about his own faults and mistakes, he makes sure that God knows he is wonderful and criticizes others for being low-lifes. The tax collector, on the other hand, is aware of his short-comings and acknowledges them before the Lord and begs for mercy. Jesus makes it clear that the Pharisee will sadly 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 picked up into slavery. So, when Jesus says "Let the little children come to me," it was a pretty big deal.
  • The ruler asks Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus tells him to follow the commandments, which the man responds that he has all his life. So, Jesus takes things one step further: he tells the young man to give away all his money and follow him. The man is devastated and walks away sad because he greatly valued his wealth and material possessions.
  • Jesus predicts his death and resurrection one final time to the disciples, but they still do not understand.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We should pray constantly and never give up. Sometimes our prayers aren't answered simply because we did not ask.
  • Like the tax collector, we have all sinned and made mistakes. We should always approach God in humility and gratefulness for the gifts he has given us.
  • Does the story of the rich young ruler mean we must all give away our money before we can be followers of Jesus? No. Jesus knew that the man loved money more than he loved God. If we are to gain eternal life with Jesus, 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 so needed. Just like in any relationship, in our relationship with God communication is extremely important.
  • 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 and 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 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.