Now Playing: What is our true character in the sight of God ?
The religious and the spiritual;
The next section of our Gospel sets forth, first by a parable, then by facts, lastly by the words which passed between the Lord and the twelve, the characteristics which suit the kingdom of God. The connection is with this as we know it now, rather than with its display when the Son of man comes in judgment of the quick as in the preceding parable. Indeed, the exceeding breadth of the lesson about to be taught we learn in the words with which the Evangelist opens:
"And he spoke also to some, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and made nothing of all the rest [of them], this parable."
It is no dispensational picture of the Divine ways with Jews and Gentiles; it is a moral delineation which tells us how God regards those who plume themselves on their correctness of ways as a ground of confidence with Him, and what His estimate is of those who are broken before Him because of their conscious and now to themselves loathsome sinfulness.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a taxgatherer. The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus to himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this taxgatherer. I fast twice in the week, I tithe every thing that I acquire.* And the taxgatherer, standing afar off, would not lift up even his eyes to heaven, but was striking upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me the sinner. I say unto you, this [man] went down to his house? justified rather than that [other]; for every one who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
The Pharisee represents the religious world in its most respectable shape;
The taxgatherer, such as had no character to lose, but whatever he may have been,
now truly penitent and looking to God's compassion in selfjudgment. How different are the thoughts of God from those of men! A delicate difference is implied in the two forms of the word which we translate "standing" in each case. With the Pharisee the form (staqeiv") implies a stand taken, a putting himself in position, such as one might naturally do in addressing a speech to an assembly. With the taxgatherer it is the ordinary _expression for standing in contradistinction to sitting (eJstwv")
Again, the essence of the Pharisee's prayer, if prayer it can be called, is not a confession of sin nor an _expression of need even, but a thanksgiving; and this, not for what God had done and been for him, but for what he himself was.
He was not, like the rest of men, violent and corrupt, nor even as the taxgatherer, of whom he cannot speak without a tinge of contempt "this taxgatherer." He finally displays his own habits of fasting and of religious punctiliousness. Not that he laid false claims; not that he excluded God, but he trusted, as a ground for acceptance, to his righteousness, and he made nothing of others'.
He never saw his own sins in the sight of God.
The taxgatherer, on the contrary, is filled with shame and contrition. He stands afar off with not even his eyes raised to heaven, and beats withal on his breast, saying,
"God be compassionate to me, the sinner if ever there was one."
From the homily on lowliness in view of our sins we are now to receive another, lowliness because of our insignificance.
"And they brought to him also infants that he might touch them; but the disciples when they saw [it rebuked them. But Jesus calling them to [him] said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter into it." (Matt. 18: 3.)
The babes were of great price in the eyes of Jesus, not of the disciples, who, if not rabbis themselves, would have lowered their Master to the level of such an one in contempt of little ones. But this could not be suffered, for it was not the truth. Neither the Son nor the Father so feel toward the weak and evidently dependent. Nor is this. all: "of such is the kingdom of God." Those who enter into His kingdom must by grace receive the Saviour and His word as a child that of its, parents. Selfreliance is excluded and replaced by dependence on God in the sense of our own nothingness. Luke 18: 1830.Matt. 19: 1629; Mark 10: 1730.
Next comes the young and rich ruler, who went away sorrowfully from Christ rather than give up the selfimportance attached to his manifold possessions.
"And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Teacher, having done what shall I inherit life eternal? 457a And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.*458 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother.458a
And he said, All these things have I kept from my? youth. And Jesus on hearing [this]? said to him, One thing is lacking to thee yet: sell all that thou hast and distribute to poor [men], and thou shalt have treasure in the heavens?; and come, follow me. But he on hearing these things became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich. And Jesus having seen him [become very sorrowful]|| said, How difficult shall those who have riches enter? into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter through a needle's eye than for a rich [man] to enter into the kingdom of God."
The case is plain. The young ruler had no sense of sin, no faith in Christ as a Saviour, still less did he believe that a Divine person was there, which indeed He must be to save sinners. He appealed to Jesus as the best _expression of goodness in man, the highest in the class in which he counted himself no mean scholar. The Lord answers him on the ground of his question. Did he ask the Lord as the good master or teacher, what thing doing he should inherit eternal life? He took his stand on his own doing; he saw not that he was lost and needed salvation. It had never occurred to him that man as such was out of the way, none good, no, not one. That Jesus was the Son of God and Son of man sent to save was a truth to him unknown.
The Lord brings in the commandments of the second table: but his conscience was untouched: "All these things have I kept from my youth."458b "One thing is lacking to thee yet," said Jesus to the self-satisfied yet dissatisfied ruler, conscious that he had not eternal life and that he had no solid security for the future "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me." The conscience which had resisted the test of law fell at the first touch of Jesus. "And hearing this he became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich."
Yet how infinitely did the demand fall short of what we know and have in the Master, good indeed, God indeed, who never laid on others a burden which He had not borne,"" who bore one immeasurably greater and under circumstances peculiar to Himself, and for ends redounding to the glory of God, and with the result to every sinful creature on earth of a testimony of grace without limit, and of a blessing without stint where He is received! To the ruler it was overwhelming, impossible, the annihilation of all he valued; for indeed now it was evident that he loved his riches, money, mammon, a thing he had never suspected in himself before; but there it had been all along, discovered now in presence of and by Him Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. 2 Cor. 8: 9.
The ruler valued his position and his property, and could not bear to have nothing and be nothing. Oh, what a contrast with Him who "counted it not a matter of robbery to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking a bondsman's form, born in likeness of men; and who, when found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself by becoming obedient as far as death, yea death of the cross." Phil. 2: 6ff. W Kelly, Luke 18