We are less than a week away from Christmas, and no doubt quite taken up with all of the preparations for the day. Gifts have been bought, cookies are being made, homes are glowing. And we are still on our journey with Doctor Luke as he writes to the most excellent Theophilus his “orderly account” of “all things from the very beginning” of Jesus life and ministry on the earth. I have learned much from Doctor Luke this month, and am thankful I took up that Facebook challenge.
Today’s reading brought an interesting collection: the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the blessings of the little children, and the story of the Rich Young Ruler. My “Aha!” moment jumped out at me when I saw the connection between the beginning and the end of the chapter.
Chapter 18 starts with Jesus sharing a parable to illustrate the necessity “always to pray and not lose heart.” Known as the Parable of the Widow and the Judge, it contrasts the unjust judge, who eventually avenged the woman for no other reason than she refused to quit asking, and God, who “will avenge them speedily.”
The chapter ends with the Healing of the Blind Beggar Near Jericho. Sitting by the roadside, begging, he heard a crowd approaching. When they came near, he asked what was going on. Told that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he started crying out, loudly, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!” Over and over he cried out. Those around him told him to be quiet, but he ignored them, crying out the more, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
After stopping and commanding that the blind man be brought to him, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do?” Some might have been offended at that question; couldn’t Jesus see what he needed? But the man humbly replied, “Lord, grant that I may receive my sight.” And it was done.
My lessons from it all?
First, not to think that if my prayers aren’t answered right away God doesn’t want to grant my request. There are many examples in the scriptures of those who continued asking, even when Jesus delayed the answer. It isn’t arrogant or foolish to keep asking, or presumptuous to keep expecting. Given all Jesus said about prayer, I should expect to receive.
The next lesson was about humility. We saw it in the Tax Collector. We saw it in the woman before the judge, even though it might not have looked like it. And it was there in the beggar by the road. It simply means to come before God as a child would, bringing nothing of my own except my trust and faith, and, perhaps, my willingness to ignore the naysayers and cling to his mercy, goodness and lovingkindness—-and coming with persistence. Elsewhere in scripture we see that casting our care on the Father is not only an act of trust; it is an act of humility as well. When I do that, or even try to, I am acknowledging that I need help: I am not self-sufficient. I need Him to fulfill His promise to take care of those things I have entrusted to Him.
And when we do that, don’t we show that we aren’t too proud to ask? Didn’t we see that attitude in both the woman with the judge and the blind man on the road? Neither of them cared what others thought of them. Neither tried to maintain their dignity or their reputation. Neither lost heart. Both of them prevailed.
And Jesus called it faith. (vs 8, 42)
There was one more lesson for me in this chapter. When Jesus foretold his death and resurrection, yet again, (vs 31-33), the disciples understood none of what he said. From our perspective it looks pretty clear, but they had their own preconceptions about what his future would be, so they didn’t comprehend his message. Perhaps it would help us all if, when we open our Bibles, we consider it an opportunity to hear, afresh, what It is saying.
This year, I think I will look upon that baby in the Manger with new eyes.
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)