Scriptures

Luke 18

Introduction

‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

What Is A parable?

The word ‘parable’ comes from the Greek word ‘parabole’, which literally means a placing beside, a comparison, equivalent to or to compare. Some say that a parable is ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning’ but really a parable is more than that.

The dictionary defines a parable as ‘a short figurative story, designed to convey some truth or moral lesson.’ Or ‘a brief story using events or facts of everyday life to illustrate a moral or spiritual truth.’

Here in Luke, we find Jesus teaching in parable form that He wants us to speak to the Father in prayer, especially in times of need. The Father longs to hear from us, He longs for us to talk to Him, sadly when times get tough a lot of Christians simply switch off, they go everywhere else to find someone to talk to, instead of speaking to the Father who longs to help His children, Luke 11:5-10 / Ephesians 6:18 / 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

It’s so easy to give up when difficult times come our way, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God doesn’t hear our prayers or God won’t answer our prayers or as in the case of this parable, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God just doesn’t care about the injustices in our lives, but Jesus reminds us not to give up, why?

The Parable Of The Persistent Widow

‘He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ ‘For some time, he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ Luke 18:2-5

The Judge

It’s quite clear that Jesus is teaching us that anyone who doesn’t fear God in the first place, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, anyone who doesn’t respect His ways and commandments will usually have no respect for anyone else.

There’s no doubt that the kind of judge Jesus is describing here is the kind of judge who would only listen to those who were willing to ‘pay’ him for his time.

In other words, he would only listen and act on behalf of someone else, if it was for his own benefit if he was going to gain something out of it.

The Widow

It’s also clear that someone at some point in time, had done something wrong against this widow and so, she was perfectly within her right to plead for justice.

I don’t believe her plea for justice was in terms of spiteful revenge, but simply in terms of her enemy wronging her in some way and she simply wanted justice.

God has always had a special place in His heart for widows and He always wanted them protected and cared for, Deuteronomy 10:18 / Psalm 68:5 / Isaiah 1:17 / James 1:27.

The Judge

The judge doesn’t seem to care about his duties as a judge, he doesn’t seem to care about the widow and her plea, he seems to be more interested in getting rid of this ‘nagging’ widow.

Notice that the judge admitted within himself at least, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t care what people thought about him, this is what was really going on inside of him and this reveals just how evil he was, he was full of himself, he was arrogant and cared for no-one else except himself.

We’re not told how long she kept pleading with the judge, but the good news is that the widow didn’t give up, her persistence paid off as the judge finally listened and acted in dealing with the one who unjustly treated her.

But please note, he did this, not because he genuinely cared about the widow, he did this because he simply wanted to get rid of the widow, he was tired of her.

The NIV tells us that he gave in to her pleas, ‘so that she won’t eventually come and attack me’, which can be misleading. We’re not to think that somehow this widow was eventually going to get the judge and beat him up if he doesn’t help her.

The original text literally says, ‘lest she gives me a black eye’, which unlike today’s understanding of someone giving you a ‘black eye’ in terms of being physically assaulted, the judge is thinking in terms of his reputation as a judge, in his opinion he is a ‘good’ judge, with a good reputation which he wants to maintain. Matthew 6:1.

Like so many today, he possibly believed that doing this righteous deed for this widow would be accepted as a righteous act, but the truth is, Jesus is telling us that if our motives are wrong, God won’t accept them as righteous acts, Proverbs 16:2 / 1 Corinthians 4:5.

‘And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.’ Luke 18:6-7

The Point

Jesus quickly gets to the point of the parable which is simply this, if a judge who doesn’t fear God and doesn’t care about others, if this judge who cares about no one except himself will act upon the requests of this persistent widow, how much more will God hear and act upon the pleas of His children who are seeking justice because of the persecution their facing, Hebrews 10:37 / 2 Peter 3:8-9 / Revelation 6:10.

Hence why the answer to the first question is ‘yes’, God will bring justice to those who are pleading for justice because they are being persecuted, and the answer to the second question is ‘no’, He will not keep putting them off because He cares for and loves His children so much, He won’t ignore their pleas but will act justly against the persecutors.

Faith On Earth

‘However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ Luke 18:8

The whole crutch of the parable is found in Jesus’ third and final question. Not only are Christians encouraged to pray when they’re facing trials, but they’re also encouraged to keep the faith whilst going through those trials, James 1:2-8. We get the idea that this persecution will be so intense that many will fall away because of it.

What kind of faith is this? To keep the answer to this question in its proper context, it must be the kind of faith that endures, the kind of faith that knows that God hears our cries during times of persecution and the kind of faith that acknowledges that God will help us in our time of need and will act justly. In other words, don’t stop praying for justice, don’t give up when we’re being persecuted.

It’s clear that Jesus has in mind that the persecution of His children will be ongoing persecution until He returns to judge the world, we read about this persecution happening within the early church, Acts 7 / Revelation, and throughout history, even to our present day, hence why we need to keep praying about it and trusting that God will deal with it.

Think About It!

Imagine going through trial after trial and being persecuted time and time again because you’re a Christian, it’s so easy to stop praying and give up because we’ve convinced ourselves that God isn’t listening, or He doesn’t care.

God wants us to have an enduring faith that never quits, which never stops believing that God will deal with our persecutors, 2 Peter 3:1-13 / Matthew 24:12-13.

Over the years I’ve heard many a sermon and sat in many a Bible study where we were taught that, just like the widow, we should keep ‘nagging’ God in prayer until He finally gives in and answers our prayers. That’s not the point of the parable, in fact, it’s the complete opposite, God is the complete opposite of this unjust judge because He really does care about His children.

The context isn’t about ‘general prayer’, it’s all about justice and being mistreated, we don’t have to keep ‘nagging’ God in prayer because we’re promised He hears our prayers and we’re promised that He will take action and unlike the unjust just, quickly at that.

In this context, Jesus is encouraging His followers to pray for deliverance in times of persecution because God promises to act and bring judgment upon anyone who persecutes His children.

We must trust that God will deal with them at the appropriate time, Romans 12:19. As Christians, we need to believe that in times of trouble, God is always longing to hear from us in order to answer our prayers and help us.

Anyone who says, ‘become a Christian and your life will be a bed of roses’ has lied because the Bible promises the exact opposite, 2 Timothy 3:12.

As Christians we will go through many trials and tribulations in this life and there may be times when we’re facing real persecution, but Jesus promised that if we endure the persecution we will be blessed, Matthew 5:10-11, but let’s not forget that Jesus’ question here still applies to us all today, will we have the enduring faith that lasts until He returns?

The Parable Of The Pharisee And The Tax Collector

‘To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable.’ Luke 18:9

Self-Righteousness

Self-righteousness is a problem that many people struggle with in one way or another, sadly this also applies to some Christians, who start measuring their righteousness against others, they start measuring how many times they attend meetings comparing themselves with others, how much money they put in the offering, how well they know the Scriptures etc.

In the context here in Luke’s account, it was all about those who had become legalistic and measured their religion by the things they were doing, law-keeping, fasting public praying etc, Matthew 6:1-18 / Luke 10:29 / Luke 16:16.

The mindset in Jesus’ day with the Scribes and Pharisees was very much like measuring their religion against others and if you didn’t match up to theirs, then you were condemned, Proverbs 30:12 / Colossians 2:20-23.

This is what the whole point of this parable is about, it’s about those who are self-righteous and trust in their good works to be right before God and those who are humble enough to rely on God and His righteousness because they understand that they can never be right before God no matter how many good deeds they do. Isaiah 64:6.

The Parable

‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.’ Luke 18:10

The Pharisees

The word Pharisee is derived from an Aramaic word meaning, ‘separated.’ Over the years, they believed in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and punishment in the future life. They believed that punishment was based upon how a person behaves in this life.

They believed that the souls of the wicked would be in prison forever under the earth but those who were righteous would live again. If you remember this was the opposite of the Sadducees, who taught that there was no resurrection, no angels, no spirit but the Pharisees believed in all of these things, Acts 23:8.

When we read through the Gospel we can clearly see that the Pharisees practised righteousness externally, and it appears they were more concerned with the outward appearance than the inward feeling, Matthew 23.

It was the Pharisees who introduced traditions to the Jewish religion, Matthew 15:2-6. There’s no doubt when it came to persecuting Jesus and His followers the Pharisees were leading the way.

The Tax Collectors

Most people know that a tax collector wasn’t highly esteemed in Biblical times, in fact, most were hated because they were considered either a traitor or a thief. This is because Israel was occupied by Rome and all the taxes collected went to Rome.

The Romans demanded a certain amount of tax, but the tax collector could add more to bump up his wages, Luke 3:13. The tax collectors were called ‘publicans’, which is the equivalent of what we would call the Inland Revenue.

Their job was to collect not only Roman taxes but the temple tax which was paid yearly, about a month before Passover, in order to support those who worked with the religious services of the temple, Exodus 30:13-14.

The Pharisees’ Attitude

‘The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ Luke 18:11-12

Remember the Pharisees were an elect group of Jews, who were of the ruling class of people, he truly believed that what he practised was right before God.

Notice that he wasn’t all that bad either, he wasn’t a robber, he wasn’t an evildoer and he wasn’t an adulterer, those are positive things. His devotion to keeping God’s commands was ‘good’ in his eyes, as he practised and did more than what God required.

Those are the ‘positives’, but when we read the words of the Pharisees it’s clear that all that matters to him is his own self-righteousness, he went through his religious checklist, I’m not a robber, check, I’m not an evildoer, check, I’m not an adulterer, check, I fast twice a week, check, I give a tenth of my income, check.

Notice also that he ‘stood’ this suggests that he struck the pose, the idea of doing this so that others could see him doing it, it’s like he is saying, ‘look at me, look how wonderful I am’, Matthew 6:5.

Just as a side note to show you just how self-righteous the Pharisees had become, he mentioned that he fasted twice a week, well according to the law of Moses they were commanded to fast only one day a year and that was on the Day of atonement, Leviticus 23:26-28.

The Pharisee says that he gives a tenth of all he gets but again the law of Moses only asked for tithes from the production of the field and cattle, not from all grains, not everything, Leviticus 27:30-33.

Despite acknowledging God in his prayer, the Pharisee’s prayer is interesting because he doesn’t ask for his needs to be met, he doesn’t ask God for a blessing, he doesn’t admit he’s a sinner, he doesn’t ask for mercy.

We really get the idea that this is all just lip service with no heartfelt meaning behind them. We could say that even though he had two eyes, both of which should have been on God, one eye was on himself and the other eye was on the tax collector, whom he insults.

In other words, he was measuring himself by his deeds and comparing himself to others and thought that he wasn’t as bad as some other people, Luke 7:41-42, and thus came to the conclusion that all his law-keeping would satisfy God and God would have no choice but to accept him because he was so good, Romans 3:20 / Galatians 2:16.

The Tax Collector

‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Luke 18:13

Remember that the collectors were social outcasts, and no doubt he felt ashamed of the part he was playing in the oppression and humiliation of his own nation by the Romans.

No doubt he was well aware that he was nothing like the Pharisee in terms of law-keeping and good deeds. He couldn’t keep up with the Pharisees’ righteousness and may have looked at him as the example of righteousness and he was failing miserably.

Whilst the Pharisee proudly stood publicly to be seen and heard, the tax collector ‘stood at a distance’, why? Simply because he was judged as unrighteous by the Pharisees.

He may have stood at a distance from the Pharisee, but he certainly stood close to God because he recognised his own spiritual shortfalls, Matthew 5:3-10. He couldn’t even bring himself to look heavenwards, because he recognised his sinfulness, he beat his chest, showing his sorrow and remorse Luke 23:48.

Notice the Pharisee used 33 words, but the tax collector only used 7 words, again this shows the character difference between them both. It’s so often the case that fewer words speak a lot more, his prayer was informal, it was warm and honest, it was prayed by a man who was burdened with sin.

The tax collector first asks God for mercy. You see, justice is when we do get what we do deserve, mercy is when we don’t get what we do deserve, and grace is when we do get what we don’t deserve. He then admits his sinfulness before God, Romans 3:23.

‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ Luke 18:14

Interestingly, the Pharisee received nothing after praying, although we could say he didn’t ask for anything. The point is that his prayers weren’t accepted by God because his prayers were insults to God. The tax collector’s prayer resulted in him being justified before God because his prayer was short, honest and to the point.

Notice Jesus didn’t say the tax collector went home justified before God because of his perfect law-keeping or his good deeds, he went home justified because he recognised he was a sinner who was in need of God’s grace, Romans 1:17 / Galatians 3:11 / Hebrews 10:38.

In other words, he recognised his own spiritual unworthiness but trusted in the grace of God for justification which simply means ‘just as if I’ve never sinned’.

Make no mistake about it Jesus, saying that anyone, who practises self-righteousness will be brought back down to planet earth with a thump but those who humble themselves will be raised up by God. James 4:6. I believe it’s always a wise choice to humble ourselves, rather than God having to humble us. John 17:1-17.

Sinner’s Prayer

I heard many preachers and teachers using this text as an example of the ‘sinner’s prayer’ where they teach that the tax collector’s prayer is an example of a prayer for salvation.

Like the Pharisee in the parable, well-intentioned people are simply going beyond what is written, 1 Corinthians 4:6 or in the case of the ‘sinner’s prayer’, not going far enough.

First of all, we need to notice that the tax collector was already a child of God, he was Jewish and after his prayer, he was still a Jew, still under the old law.

He didn’t become a Christian because Jesus hadn’t died on the cross yet, Colossians 2:14. There is no example of the ‘sinner’s prayer’ anywhere in Scripture, even after Jesus died on the cross.

The Scriptures clearly teach us what a person must do in order to be saved, we must hear God’s Word, Romans 10:17, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, John 3:36, we must confess His name before men, Romans 10:9-10, we must repent of whatever sin that is in our lives, Luke 13:3 and we must be baptised for the forgiveness of our sins, Acts 2:38.

If we’re honest with ourselves, when we look at the Pharisee and the tax collector’s attitude, maybe there are times when we see a touch of both of them in us.

What I mean is that we sometimes can just go through the ‘routine’ of worship, we hear the same old sermons being recycled, but we leave and go back to ‘normality’ without being moved in our hearts, we hear the same prayers being led week in and week out.

We sing the same hymns without the words moving us and we partake of the Lord’s Supper without giving any thought whatsoever as to what it really means to us as individuals.

To the Pharisees it was, ‘them’ and ‘us’, but as Christians, humility is a virtue that must be practised, otherwise we too can fall into the trap of self-righteousness religion.

We must accept that everyone, including ourselves, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s desire for us, Romans 3:10 / Romans 3:23.

When we pray we must remember that the only audience we’re praying to is God Himself, He’s not interested in hearing longwinded prayers about how wonderful we are, and He certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of what His Word says.

The prayer of the tax collector was honest, short and to the point and maybe there are times when we’re ‘broken’ and honest with ourselves about our own sinfulness, we just don’t have the words to express ourselves and all we can do is ask for mercy while admitting our own sinfulness.

The Little Children And Jesus

‘People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:13-17

The disciples never seemed to want Jesus to be bothered, so they were constantly trying to keep certain kinds of people away from Him, Mark 10:46-52. In this case, it was children, Matthew 19:13-15 / Mark 10:13-16.

Mark writes that when these children were brought to Jesus, He took them into His arms and blessed them, Mark 10:16 / Luke 18:17 / 1 Corinthians 14:20 / 1 Peter 2:2.

When Jesus saw that they were hindering the children from approaching Him, He was indignant and rebuked them. He said that the kingdom of God itself belongs to people who become like children.

He took the young people into His arms and began to bless them. He always had time for children. The kingdom of God belongs to those who humbly submit to Jesus, as these children do, Mark 10:15.

These children were simply brought to Jesus for blessing and prayer, a practice that was common in Israel. When the disciples hindered the little children from coming to Jesus, Mark records that Jesus was greatly displeased, Mark 10:13.

He was greatly displeased because the children represented the nature of those who would accept His kingdom’s reign in their hearts.

The Rich And The Kingdom Of God

‘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, honour 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.” Luke 18:18-30

The young man who addressed Jesus here was rich, Matthew 19:16-30 / Mark 10:17-32. However, we must also remember that he was a ruler with some position in society. The positions for which James and John sought in the following case of Mark 10:35-45 is what this young ruler had but could not give up.

A rich young man ran up to Jesus requesting information on how to receive eternal life. Jesus first told him to keep the commandments, which the man said he had done.

Then Jesus ordered him to sell all that he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and start following Him. The man wanted eternal life, but not at that price. He turned away, saddened. The problem with the young ruler was not with his outward manifestation of religiosity, but with his heart.

To come into a right relationship with God, this particular rich person had to relieve himself of that which emotionally kept him from dependence on God. He was self-sufficient in his riches and self-confident in his performance of law from youth. He, therefore, felt that he didn’t need to trust in the grace of God.

Many follow in this young man’s steps. They desire eternal life, as long as they don’t have to make too many sacrifices. Jesus referred to these people when He remarked about how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter heaven.

He said that it is easier to thread a camel through a needle than for a rich man to be saved. The disciples were shocked. The Lord explained that with God all things are possible, but that it is hard for rich people to go to heaven, because of the tendency to trust in material possessions and not in God.

They believed that one’s wealth was a sign that God was working in one’s life. They were wrong. The conclusion that righteousness was based on perfect keeping of the law of God was also wrong. No man can be justified before God by keeping law, for all sin, Galatians 2:16.

The Lack Of One Thing

As Jesus talked to the rich man, He observed that he lacked only one thing, he only needed to get rid of his possessions. It became obvious that Jesus had properly diagnosed the man’s need because the man was unwilling to do so. He indeed was valuing his possessions over the Lord.

To follow Jesus, we must give up anything in our life that is more important to us than He is. Interestingly, this man lacked only one thing. Some people have the idea that one sin is not all that bad.

They think that while they may be failing in one area, at least they serve the Lord faithfully in all the others. This story shows clearly that even one thing can keep a person from being accepted by God. Is there one thing in your life that is separating you from faithfulness in the Lord’s service?

Jesus Predicts His Death A Third Time

‘Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.’ Luke 18:31-34

For the third time, Jesus warned the disciples about what was going to happen when they got to Jerusalem, Matthew 20:17-19.  On the road to Jerusalem Jesus prepared the disciples for what was about to happen in all their lives. He talked here about His death and resurrection.

He tells the disciples that in Jerusalem, He would be delivered over to the chief priests and teachers of the law and it would be them who would condemn Him to death, Isaiah 53.

Jesus knows exactly what is going to happen to Him, Matthew 16:21 / Matthew 17:22-23. He knows that He will be handed over to Sanhedrin, Matthew 26:15, and He knows He would be handed over to the Gentiles, that is, the Romans to be mocked and flogged.

Jesus knows He suffers all the humiliation of a common criminal. Flogging was means of a whip, which was made up of broken bones or sharp stones that were tied at the end of binding of numerous strips of leather.

Jesus knows that the Romans would be the ones who would carry out the crucifixion, Matthew 27:2 / Acts 2:23 / Acts 3:13-15 / Acts 4:27 / Acts 21:11.

The good news is that Jesus also knows that He will rise again on the third day, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, despite His disciples being saddened by Jesus even speaking about His death, Matthew 16:21-28 / Luke 9:22 / Luke 18:31 / Luke 24:46.

Notice that the disciples didn’t understand its meaning because it was hidden from them.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It was not hidden in that Jesus did not want them to understand. It was hidden because of their reluctance to accept it.’

A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight

‘As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.’ Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus passed through Jericho, a blind beggar cried out. The crowds tried to silence him, thinking that the Lord should not be bothered with such unimportant people but Jesus called the blind man to come to Him and healed him. The beggar began to follow Him. Few rich men followed the Lord, Mark 10:17-22, but many of the poor and downtrodden did.

Matthew 20:29-34 mentions that there were two blind men. In Mark’s account of this healing, he mentions only the outspoken blind man of the two who approached Jesus. Jesus, Son of David was a common Jewish term that was used in reference to the Messiah.

On His way to the cross, Jesus received this proclamation of who He was. He was the Prophet, the Seed of the woman who was the fulfilment of all messianic prophecies, Genesis 3:15 / Luke 24:44.

It’s interesting to note that these blind men recognised who Jesus was, but the theologians of Jerusalem who claimed to know the Scriptures couldn’t understand what they clearly saw.

Though many warned this blind man to be quiet, he cried out even louder his belief that Jesus was the Son of David. He cried out his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. His outcry would be the work of all disciples after the events of Acts 2.

Since Jesus fulfilled all prophecies concerning the Messiah, then He is the Messiah. Their plea would be that Israel accepts Him as the Messiah.

When Did This Happen?

According to Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-52, the miracle took place when they were ‘leaving’ Jericho. According to Luke 8:35-43, it appears the miracle took place as the Lord was ‘approaching’ Jericho.

At that time, there were two cities named Jericho, the city destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 6:24-26 which was rebuilt and destroyed several times and one subsequently built a little further west by Herod the Great.

The ruins of these are still evident. The curing of the blind men could have taken place after the Lord had passed through the tolls of old Jericho and before he entered Herod’s Jericho.

Bible critics point out that the accounts of the healing of the blind men at Jericho as recorded by Matthew and Mark on the one hand, and Luke on the other, reveal ‘an apparent discrepancy’. The verses we should read are Matthew 20:29 / Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35.

Matthew tells us that as the Lord was ‘leaving Jericho’ two blind men were sitting by the roadside. Mark’s account also states that, as He was ‘leaving Jericho’ Jesus healed a blind beggar, who Mark identifies as ‘Bartimaeus’.

He translates this name for his readers as ‘son of Timaeus’. Luke describes the healing of a blind man occurring as Jesus ‘approached Jericho’.

Two questions call for answers, and they are 1. Were two blind men healed, or only one? 2. Did the healing occur on leaving Jericho or on entering Jericho?

It’s sometimes suggested that in order to resolve the perceived ‘conflict’ in these accounts we should assume that these verses record two separate events, but I believe that this explanation is unnecessary.

How Many Blind Men Were There?

I have no difficulty accepting that there were, as Matthew states, two blind men healed. This is stated so plainly that there can be no argument. The reason why Mark specifically names just one of them, Bartimaeus, is that he was apparently well-known in the Jericho region.

This is suggested by the fact that the Greek text of Mark 10:46 translates quite literally as ‘the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus the blind beggar’. The naming of the father in this way probably indicates that he was a man of some standing in Jericho.

Notice, also, the use of the definite article, ‘the blind beggar’, not ‘a blind beggar’. There would be little point in naming the father and son in this way if they were unknown in the community.

This also suggests that the healing of Bartimaeus was given more prominence than that of his blind, anonymous companion because he was a familiar figure in Jericho.

It was quite common for beggars, whether blind or otherwise disabled, to become familiar figures in the towns and cities in which they lived.

We have examples of this in John 9, which records the healing of another blind man, and also in the account of the curing of the lame man, mentioned in Acts 4. Both were clearly very familiar figures.

Again, it may even be that Bartimaeus was the more vociferous, more vocal, of the two blind men in clamouring for the attention of Jesus. This seems to be suggested in Mark’s account.

Where Did The Miracle Occur?

Remember that Matthew and Mark say, ‘leaving Jericho’ whilst Luke says, ‘approaching Jericho’. Now, this appears to be a very clear contradiction. Is it possible to reconcile the two accounts? Well, I suggest that, if we spend a short time looking at Jericho’s history and geography, we shall find it easier to resolve the problem.

Old Jericho

Although this event is one of only two references to Jericho found in the Gospels, we must remember that it was a city that, by that time, had already existed for many centuries. This is a fact firmly established by archaeological research.

The first excavation of the Jericho site was carried out by a team of German archaeologists in the years 1907 to 1909, and their work was followed by an expedition by the British School of Archaeology led by Professor John Garstang, which lasted from 1929 to 1936, and which was followed in 1952 by that of the American archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon.

The latest, and I believe the last, work on what is known as ‘The Garstang Trench’ was done in 1957, after which the political climate in Palestine virtually ended the archaeological work of foreign nationals.

Many Jericho’s

However, the most important result to emerge from this work was the discovery of the earliest stratified levels revealing human occupation, ever found at any archaeological site anywhere in the world.

The mound at Ancient Jericho has revealed periods of human occupation down to a level of 45 feet, and scholars now believe that the top, most evidence of human occupation of the site occurred about 1700 B.C., whilst the lowest remains, found on the bedrock of the trench, are thought to date from 7000 B.C.

Remember, that the current site of ancient Jericho is actually a mound that ‘grew’ through thousands of years. It ‘grew’ simply because when the original settlement built on the bedrock, was abandoned, those who later resettled the site did not clear it but merely built upon it.

In this way, the level of the occupied site was raised, strata upon strata, until it became the mound it is today. The various levels can be clearly seen on the sides of the 45-feet deep trench.

This means that Jericho was an ancient Canaanite city long before it was destroyed by Joshua, Joshua 4:24 and there is evidence that, after its destruction by the Israelite army, in the course of its long history, the city was destroyed several times.

After the city had been conquered it was given to the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:21. Later, during the time of the Judges, it was occupied by the Moabites, led by their King Eglon, at which time it was known as ‘The City of the Palms’ Judges 1:16 / Judges 3:13.

Later still, we read in 1 Kings 6:14, that it was ‘rebuilt’ by Hiel of Bethel, in the time of King Ahab. And it was yet again destroyed at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, and later rebuilt once more.

Between The Testaments

It was during the Inter-Testamental Period that Jericho came under Roman control and was governed by a ‘Captain’, ‘Strategos’, in Latin, and during its time under the Romans, the city was given to Cleopatra, by Mark Anthony, and she ‘leased’ it to Herod the Great for 200 talents.

King Herod then built a new city south of the old one, complete with a castle, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome, and beautiful gardens with various water features, and Jericho became his winter residence. This is where he died in 4 B.C.

This city, known as ‘Herodian Jericho’, later suffered the fate of earlier cities. It was destroyed by the Emperor Vespasian, in 68 A.D. But the important fact is that this city, virtually adjoining the old site, was the city that Jesus knew.

We could continue to follow Jericho’s turbulent history through succeeding centuries, turbulent because it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Moslems destroyed it in 638 A.D. Egyptian soldiers destroyed it in 1840. In 1871, it was destroyed by fire. And after each destruction, it was rebuilt.

Jesus And Jericho

But, although it would be interesting to study this later history, what concerns us at the moment is the fact that the miraculous healing occurred when Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem for the last time, after leaving Galilee in the north, Matthew 19:1.

Jericho was the last halt for pilgrims when they travelled to ‘The City of David’ from Galilee and Perea. They came by way of Jericho, to avoid passing through Samaria, and Jesus, descending from the north, would first enter and pass through what archaeologists call ‘Canaanite Jericho’ that is our ‘old Jericho’, where the ‘Garstang Trench’ has been excavated, and he would then enter ‘Herodian Jericho’.

In other words, there was a point at which he left the ruins of the ancient city and passed into the modern city built by Herod. When we take into consideration the geographical proximity of the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ cities, it is not difficult to reconcile the statements made by the Gospel writers, He was ‘leaving’ Canaanite Jericho and ‘entering’ Herodian Jericho.

The Gospel records, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, contain no contradictions when we take into consideration such matters as their geographical and historical setting.

There is no contradiction between the Gospel accounts and don’t miss the thrust of what He is teaching. Jesus accepted the humble, even though the disciples tried to turn them away.

He accepted the man who worked for Him but wasn’t in His personal company. He welcomed the children, He invited the blind beggar, He rejected those we might have accepted, a rich ruler with so much to offer, and all those who sought position and greatness. The great one in the kingdom is the servant.

Go To Luke 19

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

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