Luke, ever the artist, is building up his great picture with colour after colour, layer after layer of paint, until he draws the eye towards the great scene he has in mind when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. He has given us Jesus’ lessons on humility and gratitude. He has given us two parables about God’s vindication of his people, both in the future and also, for those with humble and penitent faith, in the present. He now builds on both of these, still leading us towards Jerusalem, and speaks here of the extraordinary challenge of entering God’s kingdom, of sharing the life of the age to come.
Luke emphasizes how young the babies were that people were bringing to Jesus. Jesus’ rebuke to the disciples rings out still today in a world where thousands of children are treated as sub-human, as disposable commodities. These are the ones, he says, who most truly show us what it means to accept and enter God’s kingdom. There is something about the helplessness of children, and their complete trust of those who love and care for them, which perfectly demonstrates the humble trust he has been speaking of all along. Jesus doesn’t offer a romantic or sentimental view of children; he must have known, in the daily life of a village, and through growing up as the oldest of several children, just how demanding and annoying they can be. But he sees to the heart of what it means to receive God’s kingdom; it is like drinking in one’s mother’s milk, like learning to see—and to smile!—by looking at one’s mother’s eyes and face.
By contrast, the rich ruler who appears so confident, so well organized, so determined, looks into the face of the one he calls ‘good’ and turns away sad. He had hoped to impress Jesus with his piety and devotion; unlike the ‘sinners’ of whom we have heard so much in the previous chapters, he had a clean moral record in keeping the well-known commandments. His question, Jesus’ answer, and the subsequent conversation with the crowd and the disciples, enable us to see to the heart of what is going on as Jesus approaches Jerusalem.
~N.T. Wright, from Luke for Everyone
Lots of people want to be Christians but a lot less want to follow Christ. Today’s reading is about a successful young business man who was, by all appearances, a pretty good guy. On top of being wealthy and powerful, he was also moral and a religious man. He even sought out Jesus and asked for more direction to improve himself. All of this was going pretty well until Jesus touched on the one thing that was most important to him. When Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, the man simply couldn’t do it. He went away sad.
We can’t be too hard on that guy, right? I mean really now – everything? This might sound harsh, but we get a little more insight from the Gospel of Mark where it says that Jesus looked at him “and loved him”. Jesus knew his heart and he knew that money was more important to him than anything.
Jesus couldn’t be his Lord because he already had one.
Luke 18: 18-29
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
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.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”