Enter the Kingdom
If Luke 18 needed a chapter heading, it would certainly be ‘How to Enter the Kingdom of God (according to Jesus).’ Or something like that.
Luke presents three episodes to present Jesus’ answer.
Episode #1 – The sinful tax collector
We know it well. We have the religious Pharisee, “confident of (his) own righteousness” He went up to the temple and thanked God he wasn’t like the sinful tax collector who stood next to him.
As for the tax collector, he couldn’t even lift his head. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus is clear, “this man went home justified before God.”
To enter the kingdom is to be broken before God by the real presence of sin in your life.
Episode #2 – The little ones
People were bringing babies to Jesus to receive his blessing. Characteristically his disciples didn’t get it; they turned them away. Jesus rebukes them and calls the little ones to his side.
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
To enter the kingdom means finding life from outside of yourself. For the new-born, from their mother’s milk; for you, from the righteousness that Christ alone offers.
Episode #3 – The one who loves Jesus
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich man asks; How do I enter the kingdom?
Jesus rehearses the truth; he must keep the Mosaic Law. The man awkwardly claims to have kept it. Jesus disagrees, demonstrating the man’s condemnation under the Law.
“Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The rich man went away “sad.”
He didn’t love Christ; he loved his wealth. And so he didn’t enter.
Entering the kingdom means loving Jesus before all else.
Epilogue - The blind man who enters
Luke finishes his chapter with a man who exhibits all three of these. He is blind – as dependent as a child, no hope of autonomy or pride before God. For the rich it is “hard to enter the kingdom.” But this man he has nothing to his name.
As he hears that Jesus is passing, he echoes the tax collector: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He wants to see. Jesus opens his blind eyes for his faith had made him well.
He had entered the kingdom through calling on God’s mercy. He’d entered like a toddler asking her dad to lift her up. He was poor; he had nothing to give Jesus.
And yet he received everything from him.
This is how we enter the kingdom.