Dear Student of the Word,
It's been four months since I last updated this study in Luke. Why so long between updates? I began to edit and publish these studies from Matthew, Mark, and Acts late last year, and took a break from this study to focus on that project. I am glad to say that I have published those three studies, but now it's time to get back to editing this study so that I can publish my work in Luke some time later this year. It helps keep me on track to edit these studies by sending them to you, and I thank you for your help in staying on track. I trust I will be able to publish all my New Testament studies before I go home to be with the Lord. I am counting on His help.
In this Study 26, we finish up our look at Jesus discourse with the rich young ruler and move into the story of Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus. For those of you just joining this study, I am adding the full seven-part document at the end of this post. I include a copy of one part of the study here for you to read without having to download the document below. Here is what I wrote in Part One of this particular study:
Study Twenty-Six, Part One
21 "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, 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." 26 Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
18:21 – This man had kept the commandments Jesus listed all his life. The question is: Was he deceived or exaggerating, or did he indeed keep those commandments? Had he ever lied? Stolen? My thinking here is that he had indeed kept the commandments perfectly, at least what we know to be the Ten Commandments. I think he gave Jesus a truthful answer, but there was something bothering the young man. He didn’t feel like he had done enough to gain eternal life and he was correct. That is why he came to Jesus. It isn’t enough to keep the rules; the man must have sensed that it is necessary to be renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
18:22 – Jesus invited this man to an exciting life of discipleship. Jesus was not endorsing poverty and lack of possessions in this case. This was a specific directive to this particular ruler in response to the man’s questions to Jesus. Jesus knew that his possessions owned him—he did not own his possessions. Jesus was telling this man that discipleship isn’t something to be fit into one’s life schedule, sort of like exercise. Instead, it required a total life commitment. Jesus can direct you to sell some or all of what you have, or to give it away. What would your response be if He did?
18:23 – This man’s response was sadness for he had a lot of stuff—he was wealthy. I was in Cuba once and was impressed by the commitment of the believers there in spite of their lack and poverty. I had a favorite shirt with me there that I had obtained in Malaysia. We were all leaving our clothes behind for our brothers and sisters who had nothing, but I struggled for days to give that shirt away. I didn’t own that shirt; that shirt owned a piece of me. I finally left it there, determined that one shirt wasn’t going to own me. Do you have anything that owns you instead of the other way around? What are you going to do about it?
18:24 – Jesus looked at the young ruler and declared that it is hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. He didn’t say it was impossible, just difficult. When you are rich, you have to spend a lot of time and energy maintaining, protecting, or working to increasing your wealth. That doesn’t always leave a lot of room or time for God.
18:25 – During one of my trips to Israel, I learned that a low doorway into a house was called the eye of the needle. This doorway was easy for a man to pass through, but impossible for someone to ride through. In some ways, this was a means of security not to have a high doorway so that someone could not carry out your goods on horseback or with a camel. So this isn’t referring to a camel passing through the eye of a sewing needle, but rather a camel passing through a low door.
18:26 – The disciples were flabbergasted, because they thought that the rich had done something right before God, and therefore were closer to the kingdom of God. Jesus was telling them that the rich were actually farther away from the Kingdom. This shocked them into a question about who could actually be saved! Jesus can certainly ruin your theology and your interpretations of how God operates, that’s for sure.
18:27 – Let’s remember who first asked this question about being saved: It was a man who was hoping that he could do it with a minimum of effort while maintaining his lifestyle. No one, especially a rich person, could be saved like that. But God could save those rich men if they would abandon their desire to be saved through their own efforts and do it through Jesus. The hardest individual case for salvation can be reached through God’s power—it is possible for Him to do. So do you have any “tough cases” in your family or immediate associates? Don’t give up—they can be saved through God’s power, but never through their own (or your) efforts.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the daily devotional entitled The Leadership Walk. Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy this study of Luke's gospel from God's word.