Luke 18:23

“And when he heard this,
he was very sorrowful:
for he was very rich.”

~ Luke 18:23

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each relay an account of the exchange between the rich young ruler and Jesus. They each gauged his reaction to Jesus’ words the same way:

“he went away sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22)

“he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved” (Mark 10:22)

“he was very sorrowful” (Luke 18:23)

His reaction is interesting, but to see why, we need to flesh out his character from the accounts. The most obvious fact about him is his wealth. Matthew and Mark reported that “he had great possessions.” Luke added that “he was very rich.” The words here indicate an abundance of possessions, meaning the number of them was a great number. He owned many more things than the average person in his community.

The next fact is that he was a man of morality and integrity, or at least appeared to be. He seemed to have a good reputation, which is not exactly the same as being worthy of the reputation. He responded to Jesus’ statement of the commandments by saying he had kept them from his “youth.” I believe it’s safe to conclude he probably lived a careful life concerning the laws and customs of the Jews, though he missed the point of Jesus’ words. Nevertheless, he had a good standing among the people of his day.

Luke reports the next fact that this man was a “ruler” (Luke 18:18). The word indicates a magistrate. He was a ruler among the Jews, some sort of civil magistrate. In addition to his wealth and good standing, he had power and influence. The people honored him. He was a public figure.

Matthew adds to his profile that he was a “young man” (Matthew 19:20). It is hard to put an exact age on him. Given his accomplishments, he was at least an adult. His reference to his youth in response to Jesus was probably a reference to his early childhood. To our modern way of thinking, we would put him somewhere between 18 to 35 years old. That’s probably not a bad assumption.

The importance is not in his exact age but in the fact he was young. With a normal life expectancy, he had many, many years ahead of him, and many years of health and strength. Jesus was not telling an old man to sell his stuff and give Him the last couple of years remaining of his life. He was telling a young man to do this, and it grieved him to hear it.

Now we come back to his reaction. He was sad, sorrowful. The words indicate a great sorrow, an exceeding or heavy grief. This man was deeply saddened by Jesus’ words. His reaction is very interesting when you consider the alternatives. Why was he not angered? Why was he not offended, or insulted? Why was he sad?

He could have stormed off thinking that Jesus really was mad and didn’t know what He was talking about. He could have thought to himself, “How dare Jesus try to tell me how to live my life. Who does He think He is? Who does He think He is talking to?” He could have thought Jesus had publicly humiliated him by suggesting he was not “perfect.” It could have been an affront to him for Jesus to tell him to give up everything and become a poor, wayfaring disciple. Instead of any of that, he was sad. Why?

Sorrow was an appropriate response if his request was genuine. If he only wanted praise from Jesus for his assumed perfection, he would have been very angry and insulted by Jesus’ words. If he was only curious, it could have been possible that he would have been indifferent to Jesus’ words. If he was being deceptive in hopes of humiliating or exposing Jesus as a false teacher, he would have been angered by what happened. If, on the other hand, he did have a sense that something was missing and truly wanted to know the way to eternal life, sorrow was appropriate. He was sad that he could not do what had to be done to gain what he truly desired.

I believe the young ruler was sincere and there are a few reasons for that in the text. We can find sincerity when we take the account as a whole and then look at some of the parts. Mark wrote of how this man came “running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17). His approach suggests an urgency that is consistent with sincerity. He knelt before Jesus and addressed him very respectfully with his question. It could be supposed that he was mocking or even just being courteous, but when kept in context, his manner suggests genuineness.

Another indicator of his sincerity is how Jesus responded to him. Mark wrote, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him” (Mark 10:21). I cannot think of any time in the Gospels that this is said of Jesus about the rulers, Pharisees, or Sadducees that came to Him with sinister motives. His manner and words were pointed, harsh, and enigmatic. Jesus had compassion on this young ruler.

The other indicator is the young man’s reaction. It was the very words of Jesus that brought sorrow and heaviness to him:

“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22)

“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved” (Mark 10:22)

“And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful” (Luke 18:23)

He was grieved that eternal life would cost more than he could pay. It saddened him that eternal life would not be his because he could not do what was required. His sorrow reveals that he believed Jesus and he was wounded by what He said. Of himself, he could not pay the cost.

Men of the world will give up everything and suffer much to buy a few more moments of life on this corrupted, painful earth, but they will not do the same for eternal life. They gain the whole world and lose their soul. They save their life and find they have lost it.

This man had won life’s lottery. He was rich. Most men would choose riches if they could have nothing else. He was also powerful. He was also young. Men are striving, grasping, and selling their soul today to be in the same position. Some few get there and cannot let go their idols. But multitudes more are nowhere near this man’s status and yet they don’t find it any easier to turn from their idols to the living God.

We don’t know what became of this man, but it is a hopeful sign that he was grieved. He discovered the paradox of eternal life—it cannot be bought and paid for like a commodity, yet it comes with a great cost. When Jesus afterward spoke of the difficulty of rich men going to Heaven, He explained that He meant it was “impossible” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27). It is only by the grace and power of God that our hearts can be turned to the true treasure of Heaven and earth—Jesus Christ.

Luke 18:7

“And shall not God avenge his own elect,
which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them?”

~ Luke 18:7

Our verse contrasts God with “the unjust judge” in the previous verses. This man was unrighteous—he “feared not God” (Luke 18:2). He was also without compassion and mercy—he “neither regarded man” (Luke 18:2). He refused to hear the case of the plaintive widow “for a while” (Luke 18:4), though she was oppressed by an “adversary” (Luke 18:3). The widow was one who had no power to avenge herself. She was easily oppressed and taken advantage of, if none would intervene on her behalf. For all of this, the unjust judge was neither compelled to relieve her by duty nor by love.

However, eventually, the woman was avenged. Interestingly, the judge’s heart did not soften to her pitiful estate; neither did his neck bend to transcendent justice. He was made neither righteous, nor caring, but the widow won her case only by “her continual coming” (Luke 18:5). She found neither love nor mercy with this wicked judge, but she did find justice, although it was served both tardy and cold.

The contrast, and the lesson learned by it, could not be more blatant. God is “the righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8) and “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God cannot forsake justice. Though He is “slow to anger,” He “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). The unjust judge did not consider the widow in her estate, but God is “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows” (Psalm 68:5).

Ah, but the contrast continues. In His judgment, God is neither petty nor austere. With Him is found mercy and love in abundance: “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). All of His judgments of His people are bathed in mercy: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). It is not only that He can show mercy, but “he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18). Mercy is His delight and rejoicing.

Furthermore, the judge had no personal connection with the widow. She was simply another demand on his time. He found her an inconvenience—“this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (Luke 18:5). What was it to him whether she found justice or not? So, the contrast is furthered by considering the relation of the Righteous Judge to “his own elect, which cry day and night unto him.” These are His people that cry unto Him. Though a woman could discard “the son of her womb,” refuse to “have compassion,” and “forget” him, God says to His people, “yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15). He declares, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continuously before me” (Isaiah 49:16).

In light of this testimony, our text is a conclusion that cannot be otherwise. The context of our verse is a parable, and a peculiar one at that. It is peculiar because it is prefaced by the primary purpose for the parable. The first verse tells us, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The whole must be interpreted in light of this purpose, especially our text. If this widow found justice at the hands of an unjust judge solely by her perseverance, how could it be possible that the people of God shall not be delivered when they cry day and night unto their Father? And, shall their deliverance not be much greater through the hands of their benevolent Father in heaven? Christ also answered the question, “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:8).

We must not think that our faith shall not be tried in this matter. Christ frames the promise saying, “though he bear long with them.” As the people of God labor for His cause in the world, as they go forth to war for the sake of His kingdom, they meet with opposition and oppression. This word is spoken to us not to despair of His deliverance, for it seems to us He delays it. It not only seems that way to His people, but also to their enemies. For this cause, they revile and mock, as they did David: “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:3). Do we think the man after God’s own heart should have to wait patiently on the Lord’s salvation and we shall not suffer the same? Though we wait on the vindication of Christ in us, we must not despair. “He will avenge them speedily.”

We must give heed that His people “cry day and night unto him.” I see no promise without this cry. Our resolve must be as the Psalmist who declared, “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:16-17). This fervent prayer was not birthed from personal desire for success, nor was it for deliverance from inner personal struggle. His heart was “sore pained” with the “terrors of death” upon him (Psalm 55:4). He cried, “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me” (Psa. 55:5). Why? “Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me” (Psalm 55:3).

Oh that we would take up the cause of Christ in the world today! Oh that we would be so jealous and zealous for His honor that we would “cry day and night” in prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Oh that we would cry unto God day and night that the nations would be subdued under His feet and that they would give Him the glory due unto His name (Psalm 96:7-8)! Amen!

Luke 2:37

“And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,
which departed not from the temple,
but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.”

~ Luke 2:37

The birth of Christ was very humble, yet He was not without honor. He was greatly honored in the temple on this day; first by Simeon and then by Anna. Anna is one of the minor characters in the New Testament, yet she was highly favored by God in that she saw the Christ of God with her own eyes before her death. She like Simeon, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel;” which Simeon saw in Jesus and proclaimed, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

It is not clear from the text whether she was eighty-four years old at this time or if she had been a widow for eighty-four years. Either way, she had been a widow for a long time and she had been serving God devoutly for a long time. She “had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity.” She had had only one husband and after his death, she chose rather to devote her life to God than to remarry, for “she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34). This is not a negative statement about the remarriage of one whose spouse has died, but it is commendable that she chose to remain single in order to serve God. “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12).

The verse tells us she “served God” and that is where I wish us to invest our attention now. Anna is called a prophetess in the thirty-sixth verse of this chapter. That may indicate no more than that she was a teacher of “the young women,” or she may have been a foreteller. You will recall that Jezebel called herself a prophetess and undertook to teach others (Revelation 2:20). It is not a great matter in what way she was a prophetess for that is not in consideration in our text. The fact that she was a prophetess is not included here in the testimony that she “served God.”

Anna here teaches us some things about the service of God. In the first place, it is not only the duty of the religious officers to serve God. It is certainly expected of such officers to be engaged in and devoted to the service of God. However, some seem to think that only those in official capacity are to be daily employed in God’s service. Additionally, there are those that think only the officers can serve God. In other words, unless we are acting in some great capacity or involved in a highly visible work, we cannot serve God. This widow woman proves this untrue as she “served God… night and day.”

In the second place, we notice of what her service consisted. It is first said of her that she “departed not from the temple.” She was faithful to attend the house of God. At this time, the church was not established, so there was no New Testament assembly as such. The temple was the place for the public corporate worship of God. However, after the establishment of the Lord’s ekklesia, the church is the place for the corporate public worship of God and public ministry of His Word. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:21, 23).

Our private home with our families is the proper setting for private and family devotions, but this will never fulfill our responsibility to the services of the church. We are commanded by the writer of Hebrews, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Therefore, faithful attendance to the Lord’s house was a part of her life to which the Holy Spirit testified, “She… served God.”

The second part of her service was that she “served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” What a testimony of personal holiness and godliness! It was not that she observed the “hour of prayer” (Acts 3:3), but rather she prayed “night and day.” She was always at the business of prayer. She must have relished communion with God to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer was no drudgery or mere perfunctory service. She delighted in conversing with God and heaving praise upon Him that was her joy and strength. She must have exclaimed, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

Dear Christian, how is it with your testimony at this hour? Could it be said of you that you “served God with fastings and prayers night and day?” Let us daily be occupied in this blessed service to our faithful God. When the Lord was telling Ananias that Saul of Tarsus had been saved, He said, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11). Prayer is a mark of the true child of God. Prayer is also the very beginning of service. We cannot do anything without prayer. We are instructed to do “everything by prayer and supplication” (Philippians 4:6). May we learn from this humble widow and be more frequent upon our knees doing serious business with God.

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