For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

18:1.  “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;”

Having given warning concerning the coming terrible Tribulation years, the Lord here instructs His own relative to prayer, for if ever there was a time when prayer was needed it will be during those days.

If we but grasped more clearly what is available to us through prayer we would spend a lot more time in the exercise of this privilege of meeting God at the throne of grace.  Look for example, at some of the promises relative to prayer.  “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it,” Jn 14:13-14.  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you,” Jn 15:7.  “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you,” Jn 15:16.  “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” Jn 16:23-24.  “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him,” Mt 6:8.  “Ask, and it shall be given you ... for every one that asketh receiveth....” Mt 7:7-8.  “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,” Mt 21:22.  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord,” Jas 1:5-7.  “... ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts,” Jas 4:2-3.  “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight,” 1 Jn 3:22.  “... if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him,” 1 Jn 5:14-15.

We must note also, however, that these promises are not unconditional.  What we ask in Christ’s name will be done for us, but Jn 15:7 adds the condition that we must be abiding in Him, and His Word abiding in us; and Jn 15:16 adds the further condition that we must be producing fruit.  Mt 6:8 tells us that our Father knows what things we have need of.  We don’t, and the obvious implication is that since He loves us, and knows what is best for us, He sometimes denies our requests.  We should therefore accept His will, knowing that it is best.  Mt 21:22 adds another condition: we must have faith to believe that we will receive what we ask for, keeping in mind, of course, the conditions already mentioned.  Jas 1:5-7 indicates the kind of things we ought to ask for.  We should ask for spiritual, rather than temporal riches.  Jas 4:2-3 explains why many of our requests are denied: we ask for things that are evil.  1 Jn 3:22 tells us that obedience is necessary if we want to receive even the things that are good, e.g., God won’t give good things if we are being disobedient, for that would be to condone sin.  1 Jn 5:14-15 reminds us that God hears us when we ask for the things that are according to His will, and will give them to us, if the other conditions are being met.  So we see that prayer isn’t just a simple matter of asking in order to get whatever we want.

18:2.  “Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:”

18:3.  “And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.”

18:4.  “And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;”

18:5.  “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

In this the Lord is teaching the need of persistence in prayer, not because God is a reluctant giver, but because He would have us demonstrate that we are in earnest about the things we ask for.  After all, there would be no point in His giving us what we wanted so little that we weren’t willing to keep asking for it, and this applies to spiritual things as well as to temporal.  In the natural realm the child who asks for something just once or twice won’t convince his parents that he really wants it; but if he keeps asking day after day, they will realize that he wants it very much, and they’ll very likely make an effort to give it.  If we’re really in earnest about getting what we ask of God, and it is for our good, He isn’t likely to refuse our request.  Take the matter of spiritual wisdom, for example: do we really desire to have that blessing?  Then we should demonstrate our sincerity by continuing to ask, not to inform God of our need, but to prove to ourselves that that is what we really want. 

Relative to temporal things, we should be very thoughtful about what we ask for, in view of such Scriptures as Heb 13:5 “... and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  There is the very great danger that such requests may be simply to gratify pride.

18:6.  “And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.”

18:7.  “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?”

18:8.  “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

Avenge here is used in the sense of giving just judgment rather than executing vengeance, but the thought of vengeance can’t be entirely dismissed, and in that connection it is to be viewed in the context of its still being a Jewish, not Christian age when the Lord spoke.  Jews, in a Jewish age, as it was in the days of the Lord’s earthly ministry and as it will be again in the coming Tribulation era, may legitimately cry for vengeance, but Christians may not: they are to pray for their enemies, see Mt 5:44 “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”  God will answer imprecatory prayers when the Lord returns in power and glory to establish His millennial kingdom, see Re 6:9-11, His delay in doing so now being because He is “... longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pe 3:9.  His patience, however, isn’t infinite, and when it comes to an end He will execute swift and terrible judgment.

His elect, incidentally, are not a special group predestinated to special blessing apart from the activity of their will, but rather, they are those who make themselves elect by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  In other words, they are believers of all ages, and we should note that the blessings reserved for them differ according to the dispensations in which they became believers.  For example, only believers of this Church age constitute the bride of Christ.

It must be understood, however, that there is also corporate election according to God’s sovereignty and apart from man’s will, the nation of Israel comprised of believers and unbelievers alike, being the prime example of such election, but the election referred to here in verses 7-8 is not corporate: the reference is to believers only.

But the question, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” reminds us that one condition necessary for effective prayer is faith to believe that God will grant our request.  Such faith is rare today, and will be also apparently in the coming Tribulation era.  The context makes it clear that the faith spoken of here is not the faith exercised by the sinner when he trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, but rather the faith exercised by the believer relative to prayer.

18:9.  “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:”

The parable was undoubtedly directed to the self-righteous Pharisees, but applies with equal force to all who hold such views of themselves.  Few things are more abhorrent to God than self-righteousness, for it carries the implication that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ was either inadequate or unnecessary, for it is simply the outward evidence of trust in one’s own good works for salvation.

18:10.  “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.”

The publicans were Jews hated and despised by their own people because they had taken service with Rome as tax collectors, and in addition often extorted more than was due.  The two men represented the antipodes of society, the Pharisee symbolizing self-righteousness; the publican, unrighteousness; yet both prayed; and it is the same today: whether good or bad, most men pray at least some times, even if only in deep distress.

18:11.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

It is instructive to note that he “prayed ... with himself.”  Self-righteousness has no access to God, nor does its darkened mind know anything of the Divine standard of measurement.  It can only evaluate itself by the flawed standard of its own creation.  The Pharisee couldn’t see that his very self-righteous pride was worse than any of the sins he mentioned, for pride heads the list of things which God hates, as it is written in Pr 6:16-17 “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look....”

18:12.  “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”

This twice weekly fasting was not mandated, but any merit there might have been in it was lost by his self-righteous attitude.  Fasting was the symbolic demonstration of refusal to cater to the lusts of the flesh, and has no place in the life of the Christian during this present Church age.  The symbol is to be replaced by the actual refusal to indulge the flesh.  And as for his tithing, it was nothing about which to boast, for he was only doing what was commanded, the tithe being the acknowledgment of God as the Giver.

18:13.  “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a (the) sinner.”

The correct rendering is “the” not “a” sinner.  This penitent publican wouldn’t just classify himself as one of many sinners, but rather as “the” sinner, i.e., a vile sinner with nothing to commend him to God.  This is the acknowledgment of unrighteousness which must be made by every man who would be saved and justified in God’s sight through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

18:14.  “I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

This verse needs little comment.  It declares the imperative of one’s taking a low place before God in order to be forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He who refuses to take that low place and exercise that faith will be cast down to hell.

“Justified” describes the state of the believer, and embraces the idea of being freed from guilt, accepted by God, approved of God, forgiven, acquitted of all sin, on a perfectly just basis: Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary.  It reminds us that believers’ sins have been fully atoned for.  The life forfeited by the sin of Adam, the federal head of the human race, has been yielded up to God at Calvary by the last Adam, the federal Head of the new creation, believers.  All the claims of His holy throne have been met, and a basis of perfect justice laid, upon which He can come out to the penitent sinner and declare him guiltless.  Man has no part in it except to receive its blessings, for all the work necessary to make it possible was finished at Calvary when the Lord Jesus Christ said, “It is finished.”

18:15.  “And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.”

It isn’t disclosed what benefits the parents of these infants expected to come to the children as a result of the Lord’s touch, nor is it stated what blessing did attend His touch, but one thing has to be ruled out: it did not confer salvation.  No infant is capable of the mental processes involved in being saved, for that requires the ability to understand the consequences of sin, and to grasp even in the most general way that salvation comes only to those who confess themselves sinners going to hell, and who believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has died in their place, for their sins, and that in response to that faith God pardons their sin, and bestows His gift of eternal life.

No infant is capable of such reasoning.

This is not to say, however, that only adults can be saved.  Many who were saved as children have gone on to demonstrate the reality of their conversion; but at the time of conversion they were old enough to engage in the reasoning mentioned above.  No age can be set as to when a child reaches this point, for obviously all children don’t develop at the same rate.

Why the disciples rebuked the parents isn’t disclosed either, though possibly it may have been that they were afraid the children would distract the Lord while He was speaking, or perhaps prevent Him getting needed rest.  The reasons are of little consequence, for the incident is recorded to teach a much higher truth, as is made clear in the next two verses, though before examining those verses, it is necessary to consider a few practical truths relative to bringing infants and young children to meetings.

There are those who use this passage to teach that infants and young children should be brought to every meeting, including the Lord’s supper, it being deemed that even though the children can’t understand what is being said, there is some virtue just in their being there.  The intentions of the parents may be virtuous, but it is impossible to conceive what possible benefit can accrue to the infant.  There is, however, an overwhelming weight of evidence to indicate the wisdom of keeping infants and unruly children at home. 

It has to be remembered that there is a very great difference between an open air meeting, and one being held indoors; between the informal teaching and preaching given by the Lord outdoors, and that given in the more formal setting of a building.  In the open air, noises and movements are very much less distracting to speaker and audience alike than they are indoors.  The writer has seen many a Lord’s supper spoiled by the activities and noises of children who should have been kept at home.  He can recall one in which a mother, supposed to be there to worship, changed her crying baby’s diaper, with the result that no one was able to worship.  At another he witnessed a baby being permitted to crawl among the worshipers, and pull itself to its feet by grasping the leg of a brother who was standing up praying!  And at yet another he saw a father walk across the circle of worshipers nine times to take his crying baby to the bathroom, and later when the elders spoke to the man he was highly indignant, and went off to another church.  He has seen a brother who was giving thanks for the bread, drowned out and obviously distracted by the crying of his own baby, yet the mother made no attempt to silence it or take it out.  Many times he has seen parents at the Lord’s supper, leafing through picture books with their children, and others by their whole demeanor indicating that they were far more interested in their infants or children than in worship.  He has witnessed a brother standing up to speak at the Lord’s supper, having to stop and let the assembled worshipers wait while he tried to settle a dispute between two of his very unruly children.

The very high number of prayer and Bible study meetings, of solemn Gospel meetings ruined by disruptive infants and young children, indicates that many professing Christians have little concern for the fact that reverence becomes us in the presence of God.  The failure of elders to put a stop to such irreverence indicates that they may have equally little concern; or if they do, that they fear man more than they do God.

18:16.  “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

18:17.  “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

As noted above, what may be acceptable at an open air meeting isn’t therefore acceptable also indoors where movements and noises are much more distracting to speaker and audience alike.  But the primary lesson the Lord would teach in this instance isn’t the distinction between what is appropriate conduct at a meeting, and what isn’t.  He wished to demonstrate that simple childlike faith is needed by those who would enter the kingdom of God; and this is simply a continuation of what He had been teaching in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.

18:18.  “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

It is significant that the one who was ignorant of the way of salvation was a ruler, one who should himself have been able to instruct others; and it is of further significance that his question was “What shall I do, etc?”, for this reveals the attitude of the natural man: he is convinced that he must do something in order to be saved, the implication being that he doesn’t consider the work of Christ sufficient.  He, however, who fails to recognize the sufficiency of the Lord’s sacrifice at Calvary, cannot be saved, for that recognition is the very essence of salvation.

It is instructive to note that a child never thinks he must do something to earn food, clothing, toys, etc.  He just accepts them without question, and that same attitude must mark every man who would receive God’s gift of eternal life.

18:19.  “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.”

It is worth noting that the Lord, instead of answering the man’s question, asked instead this seemingly irrelevant question.  But it wasn’t irrelevant, for the clear implication is that since only God is good, then all men are not good, as it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one.... there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” Ro 3:10-12.  Before a man can be saved he must accept God’s indictment, and acknowledge, as did the publican, that he has no righteousness.  It is refusal to make this confession that keeps multitudes out of heaven; and the reason the Lord emphasized this fact when dealing with the questioning ruler, was because, like the Pharisee in the temple, the rulers refused to admit that they were sinners, and that they needed a Savior.

18:20.  “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.”

The Lord Who perceives the thoughts and intents of every heart, knew what was in the ruler’s mind.  He was of the same ilk as all the Pharisees: he was convinced that law-keeping was the way to heaven, and he may have been convinced that he kept the law, though his question may also indicate that he may perhaps have had an uneasy feeling as to whether he kept it well enough to fit him for heaven.

18:21.  “And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.”

If he did entertain any doubt he obviously wasn’t ready to admit it.  Like the Pharisee already mentioned, he focused attention on his punctilious keeping of the law, and there are many today who make the same fatal mistake, not realizing that it is beyond the ability of any man, save the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep God’s perfect law.

18:22.  “Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”

The Lord’s reply touched the very heart of the matter, not only for that Jewish ruler, but for every man who would be saved by law-keeping.  In chapter ten of this same Gospel, the Lord when dealing with another ruler asked that lawyer to give a summation of the law, and the man’s response, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself,” elicited the Lord’s comment, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live,” Lk 10:26-28.

Love for God and man is the essence of the law, and a cold legalistic attempt to achieve an outward conformity to each part falls very far short of keeping the law.  The truth is, in fact, that it is impossible for any man, except the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep God’s holy law, for no man is capable of the degree of love which it demands.  The law wasn’t given as a means of justifying men, but of showing them their inability to keep it, and therefore bringing them to Christ to obtain the salvation purchased by His death at Calvary, and offered as God’s gracious gift to all who will receive it by faith.

Nor does the Lord’s command, “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me,” teach that good works can buy salvation.  What is being taught in this is that good works are the evidence of saving faith, and the man’s refusal to obey the Lord proved, in spite of his assurance that he had kept the law from his youth, that he wasn’t saved.  He who professes to be a believer, but who refuses to obey the Lord, would be well advised to reexamine his profession.

A further lesson we might learn, incidentally, is that God isn’t afraid to test profession, nor should elders interviewing those seeking fellowship in a local church.  Unfortunately the quest for numbers, together with the fear of giving offense, has led to an unquestioning acceptance of every profession, however unconvincing it may be, and the result is that many unconverted are received into fellowship, to the detriment of the assembly, and terrible danger to the man’s soul; for his being accepted into fellowship simply reinforces his delusion, with the result that he is likely to drift on unaware of his true state, until he wakes up in hell, to curse eternally those whose negligence helped to take him there.

The profession that won’t survive testing on earth, won’t save men from hell and fit them for heaven.  It is a terrible injustice to any man to accept his profession of faith without any question, for the inquiry that may reveal its unreality provides also the opportunity to point him to the Savior.

18:23.  “And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.”

If he continued to the end of life valuing his riches more than his soul, then his eternal sorrow would be infinitely greater, for he would bewail for ever in the torment of the lake of fire the folly which had impelled him to clutch a little gold to the exclusion of God’s priceless gift of eternal life, his remorse being the greater from discovering that what he refused to give up voluntarily, he was compelled to relinquish at death.  So will it be with every man who sets his heart on this world’s wealth, his pursuit of it causing him to lose his soul.

18:24.  “And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!”

18:25.  “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Since literal riches were one of the evidences of God’s blessing upon His earthly people, the Lord’s words must have been inexplicable to His audience, but the point He was making was that the love of money was evil, a truth also emphasized by Paul in 1 Tim 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

Satan has few weapons in his arsenal more powerful than money for keeping men from Christ, and for keeping saints from obedience to Him.

Since it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a literal needle, so is it also impossible for any man to be saved who values this world’s wealth more than he does his soul.  This is not to say that rich men can’t be saved.  They can, but they must not allow their concern for their wealth to stand in the way of trusting Christ as Savior, and demonstrating the reality of their profession by obeying the Lord relative to the use of the money of which they are but stewards.

The Lord’s command to the rich ruler is clearly not a universal requirement of salvation, for others who were obviously of considerable means were saved apart from meeting any such condition.  In his case it was obviously to test whether he was prepared to trust Christ implicitly, and clearly he wasn’t.

18:26.  “And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?”

18:27.  “And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

God can give the wisdom to assess correctly the relative worth of earthly riches and salvation.

18:28.  “Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.”

The Lord’s reply seems to indicate that Peter’s remark implied the question as to what reward might be expected for having sacrificed earthly things in order to follow Him; nor may his implied question be taken to indicate regret at having made such a sacrifice, but rather the very legitimate question as to what advantage the believer has over the unbeliever who gives up nothing.

18:29.  “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,”

18:30.  “Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

For all of these things which believers might have given up in order to obey Christ, there was recompense, not only in eternity, but here also on earth.  The homes of Christians would be made available for lodging as they went from place to place in the Lord’s service.  The places of earthly parents would be taken by spiritual fathers and mothers, i.e., those who led others to the Lord; and spiritual brethren and sisters would take the place of literal siblings.  The love of a wife would be compensated for by the spiritual love of other believers.  Likewise those willing to deny themselves the daily enjoyment of their literal children would find the lack made up in the joy of begetting spiritual children, i.e., men and women led to the Savior.

But beyond earth there was the certainty of the enjoyment of eternal life in heaven, and an abundant recompense for everything sacrificed on earth for Christ’s sake.

18:31.  “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.”

Having taught what men must do to enter the kingdom of God, the Lord then instructed the twelve, and through them, us, what He Himself must do to save men from hell and fit them to enter heaven.  Man’s part is easy, requiring nothing more than the acknowledgment of sin, and the exercise of simple childlike faith to believe God’s Word; but the Lord’s part was difficult beyond description: He must suffer more than finite minds can grasp, and give His life to make atonement for man’s sin.  And Jerusalem was the place where that great work was to be done, for in spite of all the outward religious form so much in evidence there, it was in Jerusalem that sin in its worst form - hypocrisy - reigned supreme, the hypocrisy so great that it made man righteous, but God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, a blasphemer!

The magnitude of Divine grace, however, is disclosed in the fact that even before God had made man, He knew, not only the terrible harvest that would result from the disobedient sowing of Adam, but also what man would do to the Lord Jesus Christ when He would come down from heaven to deliver men from the consequences of their folly.  He had caused His servants the prophets to announce it during the long years that intervened between Adam’s sin, and the coming of the last Adam to make atonement for that sin which is imputed to all men, for it is to be remembered that as federal head of the human race Adam’s sin is imputed to all his descendants.  Men don’t become sinners by committing sin: they commit sin because they are born sinners, and all of man’s rebellion against that imputation doesn’t alter it.  But man’s rejection of the Divine indictment has blinded him to the fact that imputation is also the principle which brings salvation through the Gospel.  Man, because of the choice made on his behalf by Adam, is born into this world a sinner; but such is the grace of God, that man, by an act of his own choice to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, has his sin put away, and has imputed to him all of Christ’s righteousness.

What folly it is for a man to remain heir of eternal torment because of the choice made for him by Adam, when by his own choice to trust Christ as his Savior, he can make himself an heir of eternal life and blessing.

An incidental lesson we may learn from its being said that he took unto him “the twelve” is that since twelve is the number of those under God’s government, and since the doctrine taught by those twelve is the foundation (Christ of course, being the great foundation) upon which the Church is built (Eph 2:20), He would have us similarly instructed in all that pertains to Him.

18:32.  “For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:”

18:33.  “And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.”

All these things are found written by the prophets, and the miracle of spiritual blindness is that the Jewish leaders could, out of those same  Scriptures, inform Herod of the place of the Savior’s birth, and yet remain blind to what was also written concerning His death and resurrection.  This is just another example of the fact that the natural man can neither understand the Scriptures, nor anything else that relates to the Spirit.

18:34.  “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”

Were it not that it is recorded in God’s Word, it would be impossible to believe that the Apostles themselves should have been unable to understand such plain language, but such was the case, and it reminds us that apart from the illumination given by the Holy Spirit, we would be equally ignorant of the meaning of Scripture. 

But an obvious question presents itself here.  Since, with the exception of Judas, they were all believers, why couldn’t they understand?  The explanation is that the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet been given, as it is written, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of (by) himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you,” Jn 16:12-14.   

18:35.  “And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:”

Before considering this verse it is necessary to note that Matthew and Mark also record what appears to be this same incident, but with differences which have led some to conclude that the accounts are contradictory.  While Mark, like Luke, speaks of one blind man, Matthew mentions two; and Matthew and Mark declare the miracle to have occurred, not as the Lord was entering Jericho, but when He was leaving it.

There are, of course, no contradictions in God’s Word, so another explanation must be sought for this seeming contradiction.  As to there being two blind men, Matthew may have been describing a second miracle involving two men, or Mark and Luke may have focused on one of two who was also healed spiritually, similar to the healing of the ten lepers, only one of whom was healed spiritually as well as physically.

As to whether He was entering or leaving Jericho, there were two Jerichos: the old and the new, so that an observer might have described the Lord as entering one, or leaving the other, without there being any contradiction.

If this is the same miracle as is described by Mark, then the man was Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus (Mk 10:46), and his name means son of one esteemed: son of one unclean, and his father’s name means highly prized.  The meanings combine to declare that while all men are unclean, they are highly esteemed or prized in God’s sight, so much so that He has been willing to redeem them even though their redemption has cost the life of His only Son.

Jericho is a picture of this world, for it is the city which God has cursed, as the world also lies under His curse.  But in the meanings of its name let him smell it: place of fragrance: his fragrance, it is also the symbol of the world from man’s perspective, for though it lies under the curse of God, man would try to forget that fact, and expect God to accept his humanly devised “worship,” incense being the Biblical symbol of true worship.

The blind man’s condition is symbolic of the spiritual state of all men: they are born into this world spiritually blind, and will die in that condition unless born again through faith in Christ as Savior.

His sitting by the wayside begging enhances the typological picture, for man in his spiritual blindness also sits by the highway of life awaiting that moment to which he rarely gives a thought, when he will be called into eternity.  Man in his unconverted state is also a beggar, the bondslave of Satan, begging each day for a few of the worthless baubles with which the arch deceiver lulls his dupes, and distracts them from considering the state of their precious souls.

18:36.  “And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.”

The thoughtless multitude rushing to destruction along the highway of life, makes a great deal of noise, none of it unfortunately having any significance relative to the salvation of souls.  But here and there are the few who will ask the meaning of earth’s clamor, and it is to such inquiring souls that God reveals Himself.

18:37.  “And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.”

Jesus is the name uniquely associated with Christ as Savior, as was announced prior to His birth, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” Mt 1:21.  But Nazareth also has its special significance, for it means a branch: preservation, and at least six times in Scripture the Lord is referred to under the figure of a branch; and in connection with the meaning preservation there is not only the thought of His own preservation through His resurrection, but He is also the only One through Whom men can be preserved from hell and fitted for heaven.

In regard to His passing by, an old Gospel hymn based on this very incident proclaims the solemn warning against procrastination, “Jesus of Nazareth hath passed by.”

18:38.  “And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”

His describing the Lord as the son of David implies that he had some knowledge of the One whom the multitude simply called Jesus of Nazareth, and it is significant that this is virtually the same title as was used by the multitude when the Lord later rode into Jerusalem on the ass’s colt, presenting Himself as the Messiah.  It is for just such a penitent cry that the Lord listens, and no man can be saved until he is so convicted of his sin that those words describe the true attitude of his heart.  The state of soul described by such a cry is very far from the proud complacency which marks the self-righteous who are ignorant of their desperate need of the Savior.

18:39.  “And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.”

There are still those who would silence the cry of the penitent, for such a wail grates on the ear of the natural man who will not confess his own equally great need of Christ.  The reason for their rebuke isn’t recorded, nor is it important for us to know, but a reason easily discerned is that which prompts the same rebuke today: the natural man will neither admit his own spiritual need, nor can he bear to hear another confess that need, for such a cry in some strange fashion reprimands his own self-righteousness.

18:40.  “And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,”

18:41.  “Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.”

The Lord is never too busy to attend to the heartfelt cry of a convicted soul.

18:42.  “And Jesus said unto him, receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”

How easy God has made it for us to receive salvation!  We have but to confess our need, and have faith to believe that He will meet it in a measure exceeding our wildest dreams.  The words “thy faith hath saved thee” rebukes the false philosophy of those who hope to be saved by their vain attempt to keep the law.

18:43.  “And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.”

The healing was instantaneous.  Scripture knows nothing of gradually growing into salvation; nor does it know anything of a genuine conversion that isn’t accompanied by the glorification of God through an obedient life.

The fact that all the people praised God when they saw the miracle may not be taken to imply that they too had trusted Christ.  They were impressed by the miracle they had just witnessed, but only the man had had the faith to believe that Christ could heal him before He did so.  That is saving faith.  Their response simply teaches the lesson that the natural man may be thankful for the transformation wrought in men’s lives through conversion, but their admiration is for the moral, not the spiritual blessings that accrue to society as a result of the changed lifestyle.  The unconverted are all too ready to concede the blessings which Christianity brings to society, but that is very different from their being themselves willing to be converted.

[Luke 19]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough