Chapter eighteen is the final chapter before Luke began his account of the Passion story. The chapter begins with two parables not included in the other Gospels. The explanation of the first parable (vs. 1-8) is in verse one: we “should always pray and not lose heart.” To illustrate this, Jesus told of a widow who kept pestering a judge to provide her justice, until he finally relented. If an unrighteous judge will finally relent, how much more will God give justice to those he loves if they would only ask?
The second parable (vs. 9-14) is the famous story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. In this story the Pharisee stood before God in pride of his long list of good deeds. He saw himself as better than others, and he expected that God did, too. The tax collector, on the other hand, knew how God viewed him and begged for mercy because of his sin. Jesus said that this man was righteous before God because of his humility. A wonderful reminder for Christians is that God cannot be any more merciful on us than he was at the cross. We do not have to beg for mercy, only confess and live out his forgiveness.
The next two teachings are recorded by the other gospel writers with varying levels of detail. In verses 15-17 Jesus insisted that even little children were worth his time. With his continued talk of death, it seems that the disciples began to act more like bodyguards than apostles and ministry partners. When they tried to stop parents from bringing their children, Jesus had to correct the disciples’ thinking in this regard. Young children, he said, are a great example of the innocent and humble attitude God wants us to keep before him, like the tax collector of the previous parable.
The encounter with the rich young ruler and the following teaching in verses 18-30 is found in Matthew and Mark as well. Matthew noted that he was young (19:20), while Mark wrote that he ran urgently to Jesus (10:17). His concern was that he was doing enough of the right things to get into Messiah’s kingdom. When Jesus asked him about how well he kept God’s law, he was happy to say that he did so very successfully. However, Jesus knew that actions do not always accurately reflect one’s heart. Even though the man did all of the right things, he still loved his wealth more than God. Jesus told him that God wanted his heart and that his money was holding him back. It was true; he walked away from Jesus “very sad, because he was extremely wealthy.” The principle is not that a person has to sell everything and give it away to the poor for salvation. Instead, Jesus told his followers, only full trust in God alone can bring someone to the Messiah/Savior. Because it was assumed that wealth automatically meant God’s blessing, this was confusing to them. Jesus responded that submitting everything to God would result in far greater reward in this life and in heaven than money could ever buy.
After another prediction of his death and resurrection (vs. 31-34), Jesus came to Jericho, where he healed a blind beggar, another example of his compassion. In this case, the man had expressed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah by calling him the “Son of David” instead of just “Rabbi” or “Teacher.” The man believed that Jesus was the one sent from God, and he placed his life into Jesus hands. The result was that the people praised God for Jesus and his works.