Spring 2021 Bible Reading Plan, Week 15: Luke 18 - A Persistent Widow, A Pharisee & A Tax Collector,

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This week's Scripture passage is Luke 18.

(Click here for a PDF of this week's study.)

 

Verses 1-8:  The Parable of the Persistent Widow - A Loving Heavenly Father Answers Faith-filled Prayer 

Jesus teaches that God will answer the fervent prayers for justice to His elect, especially as it pertains to His second coming which is the immediate context of this teaching  (Luke 17:20 -18:8). We should always pray for and never give up the hope of Jesus' return.  In other passages,  Jesus teaches the same principle of persistence in general prayer. See Luke 11:1-13.

Verses 9-14: The Pharisee and The Tax Collector - Self Righteousness or Humility & Dependence On God

Luke gives us the reason for the parable in Luke 18:9 - He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.

Jesus tells the story of two men going to the temple to pray. He contrasts the boastful, self-righteous Pharisee to the humble repentance of a scorned tax collector. Jesus says it is the tax collector who goes home justified, saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Verses 15-17:  Jesus, Little Children and The Kingdom of God - Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child

Jesus blesses and welcomes children, even small infants. The disciples rebuked those bringing them, but Jesus said, “...do not hinder them. Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17) Complete dependency and simple faith and trust in Jesus are hallmarks to entry into His Kingdom. 

Verses 18-30: The Rich Ruler - What Must One Do to Inherit Eternal Life? 

A ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus quotes five of the commandments and the man says he has done all five from his youth. Jesus then gets to the root of the sin in his heart, telling him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and follow Him. The ruler, being extremely rich, was sad and evidently not willing to do so. Jesus then says it is difficult for wealthy people to enter His Kingdom. He said it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Acknowledging the difficulty of the task, those listening ask, 'Then who can be saved?' Jesus answers, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' (Luke 18:26-27)

Human achievement and effort, even trying to live a good moral life will never be sufficient nor lead to salvation. Only the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit can bring a spiritually dead person to life, enabling true repentance and faith in God to exist in our hearts. See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

Verses 31-34: Jesus Foretells His Death & Resurrection the Third Time

In both Luke 9:22 and 9:43-45,  Jesus talked about His coming death and resurrection. Here for the third time, He tells His disciples again, this time in more detail. But they still do not understand what He is saying.  In continuing obedience to His heavenly Father, Jesus remains committed to go to Jerusalem fully knowing what awaits Him there.

Verses 35-43: Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar

A blind man sitting along the road begging asks, 'Who is passing by?'  'Jesus of Nazareth,' he is told. He acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah when he calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:39).  He is rebuked by the crowd, but he persists and calls out to Jesus again. Jesus stops and heals him, telling him his faith has made him well or saved. The blind man's sight is restored and he begins to follow Jesus, glorifying God!

 

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. In the parable of the persistent widow and the healing of the beggar there is a lesson on persevering faith that touches the merciful heart of God. What can we learn about both persevering faith in prayer and also the Lord's heart to answer those prayers?  See Luke 5: 1-13.
  2. Meditate on Luke 22: 39-46 as Jesus prays in the garden before His crucifixion. He prays, '...not my will, but yours, be doneone'. What is the connection, the dynamic between persistent faith on our part and submission to the Father's will in those things we are asking of Him? 
  3. Luke 22:44 says, 'Jesus, being in an agony, prayed more earnestly'.  There is spiritual warfare involved in prayer, especially when we are praying against the strategies of the enemy or praying for God's strength when we know the road ahead that He is leading us down will be difficult. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul teaches us to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Learning about effective, fervent prayer is a lifelong journey. What have you learned about persevering faith towards God in prayer that would encourage others?
  4. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, and His encounters with the little children and the rich ruler, Jesus is teaching and showing us that, as it pertains to our salvation, all our 'righteous deeds' are like filthy rags, polluted garments before God. (Isaiah 64:6). His requirements are humility, repentance, and faith, trusting in Jesus' righteousness, not our own.
  • It is a good spiritual discipline to 'preach the Gospel to ourselves' regularly to remind our minds and inform our hearts of this never-changing truth.
  1. Consider that every truth Luke records in the accounts in chapter 18 is dependent on Jesus going to the cross, dying for our sins and the Father resurrecting Him so that we too might walk in newness of life. See Romans 6:4. 
  2. Meditate on Luke 18:26-27.  'What is impossible with man is possible with God'.  Both Jesus' call to come to Him and His command to follow Him wholeheartedly can only happen through the grace of God, His undeserved favor and His enabling power.