Sat, 23 February 2008
Our study in Chapter 18 begins with two classic parables that urge religious individuals to go substantially deeper in their faith: The Corrupt Judge and the Pharisee and the Publican. In the first, Jesus again (cf. 11:5-10) teaches His disciples to persist in prayer, "you ought always to pray and not lose heart." In the second, He exhorts His disciples to humility and upbraids the haughty and self-righteous.
Verses 15-17 describe Jesus blessing the children faithful mothers bring to Him; these seldom-used verses form some of the Scriptural basis for infant Baptism. Far more than a magical bath, one can trace infant Baptism throughout the Early Church in the writings of Hippolytus and Origen.
In verse 18, a pious, precocious rich man questions Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Jesus speaks rather coldly to him at first, but looks with love upon this young man's earnestness. He says to him, "There is one thing further you must do. Sell all you have and give to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me" (v. 22). Jesus advises us to take on worldly obligations only when we are confident they are God's will for us: "I solemnly assure you, there is no one who has left home or wife or brothers, parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive a plentiful return in this age and life everlasting in the age to come" (v. 29-30). He seeks to teach us that only in freedom from wealth and debt can we love to our brothers and sisters as He would.
Taking the Twelve aside, Jesus then foreshadows what will happen to Him in Jerusalem, but "His utterance remained obscure to them, and they did not grasp His meaning" (v. 34). Traveling through Jericho on the way up to Jerusalem, He then heals a blind man because of his persistence and faith.
Upon reaching Jericho, Jesus meets the short, chief tax collector named Zacchaeus. Because of his diminutive stature, this man climbs a tree to see Jesus. At the sight of this man in the tree, Jesus calls "Zacchaeus, hurry down, I mean to stay at your house today" (19:5) In the course of a meal with Jesus, this rich but sinful man confesses, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much" (v. 8). In a powerful scene, the Son of God responds by saying, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost" (v. 9-10).
As He and the Twelve draw near to Jerusalem, He describes the Parable of the Sums of Money, a profound teaching that concludes our study. Also known as the Parable of the Talents, many are familiar with the premise: "A man of noble birth went to a faraway country to become its king, and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves and gave them ten talents each, saying to them, 'Invest this until I get back'" (v. 12-13).
When the nobleman returns, he summons these slaves before him in order to see what they have done with their gifts. Learning that the first slave, whom he gave ten talents, has made a profit of ten more talents, he gives this slave authority over ten cities. The second slave has done likewise, gaining five talents, and gains control of five cities. However, one slothful or perhaps fearful slave reveals that he has buried his talent and gained nothing. The master casts this slave out after giving his one talent to the man who had ten. Thus Jesus speaks to God's expectation that we will make a spiritual return on those gifts He has bestowed upon us, and warns"whoever has will be given more, but the one who has not will lose the little he has" (v. 26). This is the lesson He seeks to teach the Twelve as He enters Jerusalem to be captured and crucified.
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