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Principle on the Road

Luke 18:18 -- 43

Lesson audio

It often seems that, as you read through the Gospel, that some of these incidents “just happened.” In this lesson we see some of these encounters. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the Crucifixion; we are privileged to walk with him a little while along the road.

In these vignettes we see certain principles. Among these are:

·         Perfection. This is not the same thing as sinlessness; rather, it means something which is perfectly suited for a particular task. For example, a blacksmith might have the “perfect” piece of metal to hammer into an axe. It is perfect – but needs to hammered to be useful.

·         Sacrifice. It is always the best, always the thing you cherish most, given with no strings attached.

·         Persistence. No matter what the crowd says, know what you want and pray persistently.

The pursuit of perfection

A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. "You know the commandments, 'DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'" And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! "For 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." They who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." Peter said, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life."

(Luk 18:18-30 NASB)

(A more conventional look at this passage is found in the Life of Christ study.)

I submit to you the concept that the rich young ruler is a man pursuing perfection – and finding it elusive indeed.

  • He knows, somehow, that he has missed something. He has come to the new rabbi to answer for this hunger.
  • He correctly phrases his question in terms of obtaining eternal life – something the Old Testament just hints at.
  • He has been a man of “ordinary holiness” – as Jesus confirms here.

He is righteous; he is not perfect. It seems he deals well with people (the list of the commandments tells us that) but his relationship to God is not so good. Something is wrong.

Jesus gives him the answer:

  • First, if you want ultimate, eternal answers you must seek them from the Ultimate Authority. Nothing else will work. When you seek forgiveness, the world’s authorities will sell you forgetfulness. Go to God for eternal solutions.
  • In this instance, the man’s money is in the way. So Christ tells him to chuck the money away to the poor and follow him. The Jews held that riches were a sign of divine favor (which may be true); even a good thing may be thrown out if it’s preventing the ultimate thing. The good is always the enemy of the best.
  • Then – it is too simple – follow Christ. It is simple; it is not glamorous; it may involve things utterly mundane. But if Christ calls you to mop floors in his name, get a bucket.

The disciples are amazed at this. Their perspective is that this fellow was much closer to God than they were. Look at how God had favored him! In his reply Jesus points out the perils of money. Taken from life, here are some:

  • You may worry over money – how am I to get more, how should I invest what I have, how much is enough.
  • Or you may let it give you a sense of false security.
  • Sometimes the problem is that you are spending your money in the same way “the crowd” is. Now you are ruled by your money and your mob.
  • Still true: you cannot serve two masters.

This sounds so radical to their ears – Karl Marx had yet to tell them that the rich are always their enemies – that Christ must assure them of one point: with man, it’s impossible for a rich man to be saved. But with God, all things are possible. Sometimes it just isn’t easy.


Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. "For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

(Luk 18:31-34 NASB)

The disciples didn’t get this. Later, after the Resurrection, they remembered and understood.

Christ is about to become our sacrifice for sins; our Passover lamb. We seldom hear about sacrificing for God (or to God) these days; the word seems so harsh. But let us see if we can discover why Christ bothered to teach them about his coming sacrifice. Here are some of the principles that we should be familiar with:

  • A sacrifice to God must be the best you have. In the Old Testament, the sacrifice for sin had to be “unblemished.” We understand the differences, at least. The check you write for your tithe hurts more than the bag of old clothes given to the Salvation Army. One is a sacrifice; the other a fortunate convenience. Christ, our Passover lamb, was without sin. He is the best mankind has.
  • A sacrifice to God comes from the things you cherish most. In the Old Testament, you had to redeem your first born son – because he was dedicated to God. The other children did not need this. This is not always in money. Many of us cherish our time (“I am too busy to work at the church”), our pleasures (“Back next week, I have a golf game this Sunday”), and even our privacy (the preacher might hit upon your secret sin by “accident.”) Is there anything you cherish more than your life? Christ gave that as a sacrifice for us.
  • A true sacrifice comes with no strings attached. This means that you don’t get tangled up in the strings. Give, and go on. Some of us make our sacrifices like a yo-yo; always ready to be yanked back. God takes no yo-yo’s.


As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

(Luk 18:35-43 NASB)

Whenever someone complains that their prayers are not being heard, we are quick to point out that this is due to some hidden sin in their life (Job went through 40 chapters of that). As most of us have skeletons in our closets, we go away satisfied with the answer – but with no solution.

Persistence. That we should see that this is the answer in our time is very difficult, for the solutions we see on TV rarely last more than an hour. Let us see what principles might be harvested from this incident:

  • Ignore the crowd. They change their minds with any change of wind. Have you ever seen kindergarten kids play soccer? No matter how carefully coached to stay in position, the game quickly deteriorates into “killer bee” soccer – everyone swarms the ball. Now you know the difference between a crowd and a team. Listen to your teammates; ignore the crowd.
  • Know what you want. “Oh Lord, here is my laundry list. Thank you. Amen.” Separate out the trivial from the important. Separate out the urgent from that which is not – which implies you know importance and urgency (from God’s point of view).
  • Pray with persistence. Prayer is an act of spiritual daring. That, sometimes, is why we aren’t persistent. We got away with talking to God once; did you want to push your luck? Yes, please push your “luck.” God answers those who pray in faith.

One last thought: prayer needs a good beginning and a good ending. A good beginning is to acknowledge who you are and who Christ is. Let him know that you do fear Him – and with good reason.

Then, when all is over, do not fail to give the glory to God. Some of us actually like to brag (modestly, of course) about how good we are at prayer. The ones who really are good at prayer, those whose prayers are answered consistently, are the ones who acknowledge God as the one who did the work. It’s amazing what you can get if you don’t try to take credit.

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