Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Railroad tracks near our place in Bannalec

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 29, Lk 11

Today's reading is Lk 18. Tomorrow's readings are Mt 19, Mk 10.

Luke relates two parables, both of them preceded by a description of to whom they apply and what their object lesson is.

The first parable teaches the disciples to be persistent and patient in prayer (Lk 18:1-8), waiting for God and for His timing in all things but being diligent to pray at all times. 

The second parable condemns self-righteous contempt toward others (Lk 18;9-14). Many of us suffer from this malady. Here's a hint. While reading the parable, do you feel contempt for the Pharisee?

Jesus gives an encouragement to all believers who struggle with these issues. They can grow in their faith and become stronger as they draw closer to the Lord, just as little children grow and become stronger as they innocently and completely trust Jesus. Woe to anyone who hinders either (Lk 18:15-17)! 

Then we see the parable of the rich ruler (Lk 18:18-30) . The popular version of this includes the notion that there was a gate in Jerusalem, "The Eye of the Needle", that was so small, camels had to be unloaded and stripped bare of any burdens in order to get through the gate. The lesson that this supposedly taught was that to enter heaven, you had to divest yourself of worldly things.

It's a quaint notion but it's not the point of this parable nor is it based an any truth about the gates of Jerusalem.

There is no such gate in Jerusalem. There never has been. The danger of this popular notion is that it portrays the camel's passing through the eye of the needle as something possible to do. All the camel has to do is drop everything he has, squeeze through and emerge into the city. That would seem to indicate that all the rich ruler had to do was sell all his stuff to get into heaven.

It's far more helpful, and far more accurate, to see the camel as a real camel and the eye of a needle as the actual eye of a sewing needle. It's impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle...unless the camel is supernaturally transformed. The camel has no way of getting through the eye by any action he can perform. The rich ruler has no way of getting into heaven by any action he can perform.

His question, calling Jesus 'Good Teacher' is, "...what must I do to inherit eternal life?". Jesus responds with "Only God is good." The implication is that, if Jesus is truly good, then Jesus is God. The ruler doesn't fully comprehend all this. He thinks Jesus is just a good teacher. The ruler doesn't see the truth of what he just uttered. 

In answering the ruler's question, Jesus recites a short list of commandments, but not all of them. The ruler has met the short list...but not all. He has certainly missed the first two: "You shall have no other god before me" and "You shall have no idols". He quite obviously does not worship God. All he wants is eternal life. As will soon be made clear, he struggles with covetousness and, perhaps, pride. He's looking for the blessings Jesus brings but not for Jesus!

Jesus gives him the answer he's looking for. He simply doesn't get it. Jesus does not tell him it is impossible for the camel to enter through the eye. He says it is "...easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle..."  then follows it with, "What is impossible for man is possible with God." In other words, it's impossible for the ruler to do anything to get eternal life but it is possible for God to give it to Him through Jesus, who stands right in front of him. But to do that, God has to be his highest priority. He will have to be willing to surrender everything to walk with Jesus.

The ruler leaves unchanged, walking away from the only hope for his transformation, the only hope for eternal life. Instead he clings to the idols he's fashioned in his life, his money and his belongings. Tragically, he turns his back on Jesus. 

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