Are you up a tree? Zacchaeus was but came down for Jesus (19:5-6). Are you a risk taker for Christ? Jesus says, “Use it or lose it” (19:26). He also says, “If we are quiet the stones will cry out.” (19:40 ) He sheds tears for the lost city (19:41-42), and kicks booty in the Temple (19:45-46). Great reading today!
Jesus & Zacchaeus / 19:1-10
In Jericho, Jesus invited himself to the home of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. Apparently Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector. Although he was despised and hated, he became an impressive example of a rich man coming to salvation. With Zacchaeus, Jesus accomplished the impossible. He sought out a wealthy sinner and called him to repentance and salvation.
19:1-2 After healing a blind man outside the city (18:35-43), Jesus entered Jericho. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, influential and very rich. To finance their great world empire, the Romans levied heavy taxes on all nations under their control. The Jews opposed these taxes because they supported a secular government and its pagan gods, but they were still forced to pay. Some of their own countrymen became tax collectors, lured by the wealth such a position promised.
- LIFE APPLICATION – LOVE FOR ALL
- In every society, certain groups of people are considered outcasts because of their political views, immoral behavior, or lifestyle. Don’t give in to social pressure to avoid these people. Jesus loves them, and they need to hear his Good News.
19:3-4 Zacchaeus, like the rest of the people in Jericho, was curious to see this man whose healings and teachings had been astounding people all over the country. Moments earlier, a blind man sitting on the side of the road had been healed (18:42-43). The news had spread, and Zacchaeus wanted to get a look at Jesus. The text reveals another detail about this wealthy tax collector: he was so short that he could not see over the people in the crowd. Zacchaeus would not be put off. He ran on down the road and climbed a sycamore tree. The sycamore tree was easy to climb, it was like an oak tree with wide lateral branches.
19:5-7 Up in the tree, Zacchaeus watched the approaching crowd. He wanted to see Jesus, and apparently Jesus wanted to see him. Many places in Luke reveal Jesus having knowledge of people’s inner thoughts and needs (see 5:22; 6:8; 7:39-40; 8:46; 9:47). As always, every act of Jesus was part of a divine plan—he said he must go to Zacchaeus’s home. Zacchaeus climbed down quickly and took Jesus home.
But why Zacchaeus? In fact, many in the crowd were unhappy with Jesus’ choice of hosts: the crowds were displeased that he had gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner. Zacchaeus must have been a pretty bad character, for the crowd reacted with great displeasure that Jesus would have chosen him out of everyone. No one else in the crowd could have known that Jesus’ visit would change this tax collector’s life.
- LIFE APPLICATION- TAKING THE INITIATIVE
- Jesus took the first step in reaching out to Zacchaeus. He cut through the exclusivity of the Jews and approached this outsider. Often the first step in making a friend is the most difficult one. Take the initiative.
- Avoid prejudgments based on appearance or social status.
- Learn something about the other person before you approach.
- Let your overture be open and your demeanor engaging. Don’t demand friendship; offer it.
- Spend time. Listen attentively and share something personal.
19:8 Some grumbled, but Jesus knew that Zacchaeus was ready for a change in his life. After Jesus took the initiative with him, Zacchaeus took the initiative to follow wherever the path of obedience to Jesus might lead. The rich young man had come asking and had gone away empty, unable to give up his money and possessions (18:18-23). Zacchaeus, however, was able to give away his wealth in order to follow Jesus. This is the heart attitude that Jesus was looking for. Perceiving it in Zacchaeus, he quickly brought this man the Good News. So eager was Zacchaeus to rid himself of the shackles of wealth that he said he would pay back four times as much of the overage that he had charged people. His attitude was correct, and his actions showed his inner desire to obey. Zacchaeus was setting his priorities right and he would be ready for the Kingdom.
- LIFE APPLICATION – FAITH AND ACTION
- Judging from the crowd’s reaction to him, Zacchaeus must have been a very crooked tax collector. But after he met Jesus, he realized that his life needed straightening out. By giving to the poor and making restitution—with generous interest—to those he had cheated, Zacchaeus demonstrated inward change by outward action. It is not enough to follow Jesus in your head or heart alone. You must show your faith by changed behavior. Has your faith resulted in action? What changes do you need to make?
19:9-10 This tax collector was perceived as a traitor by his people, so they would not have considered him a son of Abraham. Yet, by opening his heart to Jesus, he proved himself to be not only a son of Abraham in the sense of a Jew looking for the Kingdom, but also a son of Abraham in the truest sense of the word because he experienced salvation. Salvation came to Zacchaeus, not because he did good deeds, but because he truly believed in Jesus and set aside anything that might get in the way of obeying him. To the grumblers, detractors, and self-righteous, to those who thought they were saved simply because they were descendants of Abraham,*Jesus explained his mission—he came to seek and save those who are lost.
*Saving the lost is what Jesus is all about.
Jesus Tells the Parable of the King’s Ten Servants / 19:11-27
Because the crowd was expecting the coming Kingdom of God, Jesus told them a parable that corrected their misunderstanding about the nature of the Kingdom. Here, as in 12:35-40 (the parable of the servants waiting for their master), Jesus tied responsible stewardship of resources to the coming Kingdom of God. The first parable emphasized the importance of being alert and watchful, for the master may return suddenly and at any time. This parable encourages listeners to wisely use their resources for the master’s benefit. The implication is clear. Believers are accountable to Jesus for the way they use their time, money, and abilities.
19:11 The people still hoped for a political leader who would set up an earthly Kingdom and get rid of Roman domination. The fact that Jesus had been steadily heading toward Jerusalem fueled speculation that he was going there to begin the Kingdom of God. So Jesus wanted to correct this wrong impression. This story showed Jesus’ followers what they were to do during the time between Jesus’ departure and his second coming. Because believers today live in that time period, it applies directly to them as well. Christians have been given excellent resources to build and expand God’s Kingdom. Jesus expects them to use these talents so that the Kingdom grows.
- LIFE APPLICATION – ALERT LISTENING
- The crowd did well to listen to Jesus, but clearly they were hearing, not his message, but their own wishes for a leader to send Roman troops packing. How easy it is to project one’s own needs and expectations onto Jesus.
- When you hear God’s Word preached or taught, do you immediately interpret it based on your own agenda?
- Screen out items that don’t match your personal desires?
- Take notes but file them away without applying them to your life?
- God will challenge and change your life, but you must listen and learn. Don’t put God’s Word in your file drawer; use it to reorganize all your files. Alert listening means hearing God despite our “earplugs” of prejudice and self-assurance. It requires a willingness to act.
19:12-13 In the world of the Roman Empire, when a man was going to become king, he would go to Rome to receive the appointment, and then return to his land to begin his rule. This nobleman was called away. Since this trip could take several months, the man in this parable made sure that his financial situation did not become stagnant while he was gone. He gathered ten servants and gave them ten pounds of silver to invest for him while he was gone, each servant receiving one pound.
In these words, Jesus was making it clear that there would be a time interval between his presence with them and the time when he would come to set up his Kingdom. Like this king, he would go away to a distant country (heaven) and would be gone for an undetermined amount of time. In the meantime, his servants here would be given responsibilities to handle.
19:14-15 The king in this parable had subjects who hated him and did not want him made king. After his return, he called in the servants to give an accounting for what they had done with the money and what their profits were. He fully anticipated that they had made more money with his money through wise business and investments.
19:16-17 The first servant reported a tremendous gain—he took the money entrusted to him and made ten times the original amount. The king, knowing that his servant had been trustworthy and wise with that fairly small amount of money, told this servant he would be entrusted with far more responsibility. So the king made him governor of ten cities. The servant would share in his master’s rule because he had shown faithfulness with the little that had been entrusted to him (see also 16:10).
*A time of accounting will come for all believers. Christians can know they are saved and will be with God in his Kingdom, but they will be judged for how they have used what God has entrusted to them during his absence and their time on earth. God will reward faithful servants.
19:18-19 The second servant also had a gain—not as much as the first, but still he had done a fine job and was commended by the king. This servant also was rewarded in proportion to his ability—five cities for earning five times the original amount.
19:20-21 We are not told of the other seven servants, but this third servant received mention because of his failure to do what his master had expected of him. There would have been only two groups: those who used the master’s money well (the amount they made seems to have been inconsequential), and those who did nothing, as this servant here who brought back only the original amount. He had hid it and kept it safe. This servant was afraid of the master, and that fear had led him to inactivity. He was afraid that his master expected too much, so he did nothing at all. Perhaps there was a bit of anger that he had to do all the work, while the master took the profits—taking what wasn’t his.
- LIFE APPLICATION – RISK TAKING
- The problem with Mr. One Talent was his giving lip service to doing his master’s will (he agreed to do it), but he did not make the necessary effort. This manager’s cover-up for his laziness and disobedience was “I played it safe.” Christ will not reprimand his followers for risk taking and failure, but for unfaithfulness. Do you seek the safe and secure solution to the demands of discipleship? Christ was the great risk taker; he forsook all to be your Lord. In your service for Christ, playing it safe may amount to squandering your opportunity.
19:22-23 If the servant had been so afraid, he should have at least put the money in the bank in order for it to earn some interest. There were several reasons for his failure and for the king’s anger. The king punished the man because he didn’t share his master’s interest in the Kingdom; he didn’t trust his master’s intentions; his only concern was for himself; and he did nothing to use the money.
Like the king in this story, God has given you gifts to use for the benefit of his Kingdom. Some people, like this servant, don’t mind being identified in a nominal way with Jesus, but when given responsibility or expectations, they refuse to do anything and do not want to be made accountable to God. Are you willing to use faithfully what he has entrusted to you? The results, the “earnings,” are ultimately in God’s hands, but believers are responsible to use what they have to glorify God.
19:24-27 The king took the money away from the faithless servant and gave it to the one who had proved to be responsible with it. Although the others standing around wondered why the king would give more to the one who already had the most, the king was acting wisely in giving more resources to the most effective servant. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given so they can continue to produce. Those who are unfaithful because they refuse to take advantage of any opportunities they have—will end up losing even what they had been given.
The parable ends with the ultimate judgment on those who had actively rebelled against the king. They would be slaughtered. When Jesus returns, his enemies will be judged and sentenced to eternity without him.
- LIFE APPLICATION – ACTIVE FAITH
- Jesus’ parable teaches the importance of investing for the kingdom. Unused resources and opportunities disappear. Undeveloped relationships and ideas fall by the wayside. For Jesus’ faithful servants, faith is not being passive while others are active, waiting while others are busy, or stalling while others are problem solving.
*Faith makes maximum use of talents and resources, operates freely without worry and self-centeredness, energetically pursues God’s mission in the world, and shows increasing love for people on the fringes. Are you a faithful and productive servant for Christ?
Jesus Rides into Jerusalem on a Donkey / 19:28-44
Until this point, Luke presented a sampling of Jesus’ ministry—his teaching and his miracles. But with this description of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, Luke, just like the other Gospel writers, slowed down his narrative, taking time to present the powerful details of Jesus’ final week leading up to the cross.
19:28-31 Jesus and the disciples approached Bethphage and Bethany, two towns about one mile apart, situated on the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem. Bethany was the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus whom Jesus had visited before (10:38; see also John 11:1). When Jesus spoke these words, they were probably in Bethphage, sending two disciples to bring a colt. By this time Jesus was extremely well known. Everyone coming to Jerusalem for Passover had heard of him, and, for a time, the popular mood was favorable toward him. The Lord needs it was all the disciples had to say, and the colt’s owners gladly turned their animal over to them. The specification that this be a colt that has never been ridden is significant in light of the ancient rule that only animals that had not been used for ordinary purposes were appropriate for sacred purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7).
19:32-35 The two disciples did as they were told, and found the colt exactly as they were told. Donkeys and colts were valuable; what the disciples did amounted to coming along and taking someone’s car. But they said what Jesus told them to say. Mark wrote that Jesus also said the colt would be returned (Mark 11:3). The owners let the colt go, and the disciples brought it to Jesus. In Matthew, a donkey and a colt are mentioned (Matthew 21:2). This was the same event, but Matthew focused on the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 which indicates a donkey and a colt, thus affirming Jesus’ royalty. The disciples then threw their garments over the colt, making a seat for Jesus. With this act of entering Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy and affirming his messianic royalty. He came in royal fashion, not as a warring king on a horse or in a chariot, but as a gentle and peaceable king on a donkey’s colt.
19:36-37 The custom of spreading coats on the ground ahead of a royal personage can also be seen in 2 Kings 9:12-13. This was Sunday of the week that Jesus would be crucified, and the great Passover festival was about to begin. Jews would come to Jerusalem from all over the Roman world during this week-long celebration to remember the great Exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 12:37-51). Many in the crowd had heard of or had seen Jesus and were hoping he would come to the Temple (John 11:55-57). People lined the roads, and Jesus already had a crowd of followers who, when they saw what he was doing, began to shout and sing as they walked along. According to the other Gospels, many others joined the celebration of praise. The Gospel of John (12:13) also describes the people cutting down branches from the trees, probably from olive or fig trees, to wave in welcome.
19:38 The expression “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord” may have been recited as part of the Passover tradition—as a blessing given by the people in Jerusalem to the visiting pilgrims (see Psalm 118:25-26). The people lined the road, praising God, waving branches, and throwing their cloaks in front of the colt as it passed before them. “Long live the King” was the meaning behind their joyful shouts because they knew that Jesus was intentionally fulfilling prophecy.
19:39-40 The Pharisees thought that the crowd’s words were sacrilegious and blasphemous. They asked Jesus to keep his people quiet. But Jesus said that if the people were quiet, the stones would burst into cheers (see Habakkuk 2:11)
- LIFE APPLICATION – THE STONES WILL CRY OUT
- Jesus confronted these Pharisees who rejected his authority. They had political interests to protect, so any praising and confessing of Jesus as the Messiah threatened their position. Today, believers still face pressures that make them uncomfortable when they should witness for Jesus. If you truly know who Jesus is and love him as God’s true Messiah, speak out for him.
19:41-42 Only Luke recorded this lament by Jesus. In contrast to the great joy of the crowd, the man on the donkey began to cry at the sight of the city. The name of the city has “peace” as part of its meaning (Hebrews 7:2), but the people of the city did not know what would bring them peace. The “city of peace” was blind to the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). If the people had known what was truly happening and had recognized it for what it was, they could have found peace. But the Jewish leaders had rejected their Messiah (19:39, 47); they had refused God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ when they were visited by God himself. Now the truth would be hidden, and soon their nation would suffer.
- LIFE APPLICATION- ON THIS DAY
- Christian faith often seems like a long, long process. God’s Word had been delivered to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for many centuries. Jesus wept because the people of Jerusalem had failed to see God’s truth. Those who delay their commitment to Christ make the same mistake. Encourage others not to postpone Christ as if he were second priority. Their acceptance of the Savior is of utmost importance, and their service to his kingdom is needed.
People highly desire this peace that only Christ can give. Share with others the good news of God’s gift to them. Urge them to accept the gift before the opportunity passes.
19:43-44 About forty years after Jesus said these words, they came true. In a.d. 66, the Jews revolted against Roman control. Three years later Titus, son of the Emperor Vespasian, was sent to crush the rebellion. Six hundred thousand Jews were killed during Titus’s onslaught. This would occur as judgment because though some of the people believed (such as the disciples and other faithful followers), most had rejected the opportunity God offered them. But God did not turn away from the Jewish people who obeyed him. He continues to offer salvation to both Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus Clears the Temple Again / 19:45-48
Jesus directly confronted those who dared to try to make an exorbitant profit in the very Temple of God. He had expelled these people before (John 2:12-25). Here Jesus again stood for what was right, confronting those who dared to participate in wickedness under the guise of religiosity.
19:45-46 This is the second time that Jesus cleared the Temple and drove out the merchants from their stalls. These “merchants” were the people who sold goods to worshipers. Jesus told them, in no uncertain terms, why he was so angry and why he acted as he did in throwing these merchants out of the Temple. He quoted from Isaiah 56:7 explaining that God’s purpose was for the Temple to be a place of prayer, but the merchants had turned it into a den of thieves. Their treatment of pilgrims who had traveled and needed to count on them for service, their exorbitant rates, and their cheating of the customers had made them no better than thieves hiding out together in a “den.” But this “den” was God’s Temple—no wonder Jesus was angry.
- LIFE APPLICATION- HOUSE OF PRAYER
- Jesus said that the temple was to be a place of prayer. How do people describe your church? Has busyness or neglect turned your church away from its mission to pray? What can you do to understand prayer better? Practice prayer more regularly? Lead others in the church toward prayer as a priority?
19:47-48 During his last week on earth, Jesus was still busy—teaching daily in the Temple. He traveled into the city each morning, then retired out to the environs, perhaps to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany (Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11). Jesus had many enemies who kept looking for a way to kill him. These enemies were the Jewish religious leaders themselves—the people who, above everyone else, should have been the first to recognize and rejoice in the arrival of their Messiah. The leaders of the people probably included wealthy leaders in politics, commerce, and law. They had several reasons for wanting to get rid of Jesus. He had damaged business in the Temple by driving the merchants out. In addition, he was preaching against injustice, and his teachings often favored the poor over the rich. Further, his great popularity was in danger of attracting Rome’s attention, and the leaders of Israel wanted as little as possible to do with Rome.
Despite their plans, however, these people could not do anything. The man they wanted to kill came daily to the Temple, but he was far too popular with the people.
* He cleansed the temple for us. He is the temple (place of worship) for us. He now lives in our temple (our body when we receive him) Jesus is everything!
Until tomorrow, Darrell
Sources: Bible Knowledge Commentary, Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, New American Commentary, Preaching the Word
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