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Luke 18:15-30 – Children and a Rich Ruler

Jesus is a beautiful person. People brings their very young infants to Jesus – and he gives them time. Lord of the universe and he holding little babies is not beyond him.

Then he says: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” What is it about babies and toddlers that we are to emulate? Not innocence – because they are not. Not trusting nature – because they are not always. It is no quality in of themselves. What makes them such a model of an appropriate receiving of the kingdom is their dependence. Children do not contribute to the accumulation of the household wealth – they are dependents. Jesus is saying that unless you become dependent like a young child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the next passage a ruler comes up to Jesus, presumably the ruler of a synagogue. The ruler desires to inherit eternal life. He calls Jesus a good teacher and Jesus gently reminds him that only God is good – an invitation to view Jesus as God. Jesus asks the man if he has obeyed the commandments – which he says he has. The ruler sounds much like the Pharisee in the previous parable – but in that parable we learned that this kind of righteousness is deficient.

Jesus answers the ruler that he lacks one thing – he must sell his possessions and give them to the poor. The ruler’s response is to become very sad because he was very wealthy – he walks away. The one thing he cannot do is become dependent like an infant (see the previous passage).

This prompts Jesus to say: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” This doesn’t simply mean it is really difficult – it means that it is impossible! The disciples are shocked because they viewed rich people as the recipients of God’s favor evidenced in his having blessed them with wealth – so if they cannot be saved then who can?

Wonderfully, Jesus says that what is impossible for man to accomplish is possible for God to achieve. The demonstration of this truth will follow shortly in Luke’s gospel as we will soon see.

Finally, Peter asks if he and the disciples, having left everything and having become as dependent as a child will inherit the kingdom. Jesus answers in the affirmative and assures them that not only will they inherit eternal life (the equivalent of entering the kingdom) but even in the present age they will receive the blessing of possessions and family through belonging to God’s family. Those who desire the gift of eternal life cannot have a low view of God’s other gift of people.