Apr 17 2013 - Luke 18:18-43 – Many homes
Quite a number of people in the UK now own a second home, but very few can be said to have many homes. Yet this is Jesus' promise to those who give up all manner of things to follow him. "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.'” (Luke 18:29-30). What is quite remarkable about these words, as they are recorded by Luke, is the promise of receiving back in this age many times what has been sacrificed. What can Jesus mean?
Some, of course, use such texts to preach a prosperity gospel; "God wants you to be rich and will give plenty of money, fine houses and fast cars to those who follow him." The experience of the majority of Christians in the developing world gives the lie to such claims. But Jesus' promises are not empty words. Those who follow him become part of a vast international family and find that they have a welcome into many families and many homes. Jesus does not promise vast personal possessions; he promises a place in his kingdom in which he says, "All that is mine is yours" (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:21-23). We become part of the family of him who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
We who belong to Jesus Christ have untold riches now, "and in the age to come eternal life."
These are encouraging words, but they do not alter the fact that many Christians go on living lives of desperate poverty. How is this promise addressed to them? We have to recognise that the promise is realised by them only as we share with them what God has given us; we are their brothers and sisters in the kingdom and our homes and possessions are theirs also. This is the implication of Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler which we have read this morning. Jesus tells him to use his riches to meet the needs of the poor.
In his seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978, p. 163), Ronald Sider writes, "I must confess my fear that the majority of affluent 'Christians' of all theological labels have bowed the knee to Mammon. If forced to choose between defending their luxuries and following Jesus among the oppressed, I am afraid they will imitate the rich young ruler." His book made a deep impression on me as a young Christian. But I wonder how much impression it has really made upon my life.
This morning’s passage concludes with Jesus’ encounter with a blind beggar sitting by the Jericho road. Jesus heals Bartimaeus (cf. Mark 10:46) of his blindness. We read in 18:43, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Jesus has opened our eyes that we might follow him, and that in following him we might bring blessing to the lives of others and so cause them to praise our God.
Heavenly Father, I am sad when I read of the rich young man turning away from Jesus but I am glad that begging Bartimaeus received his sight and followed the Lord Jesus. You have opened my eyes to see the incomparable riches of your grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to follow him and to use all that I have wisely in the service of his kingdom. Strengthen me by your Spirit that I may keep myself from idols.