The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Luke 19

Luk 19:1

"There is little good in knowing Jesus from a distance" (WGos 538).

Luk 19:2

Luke's interest in tax-collectors: Luk 3:12; 5:27; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10; 19:2.

ZACCHAEUS: A Heb name sig "just" or "pure". Must have been thought a mockery by the men of Jericho; a "tax collector" was the furthest thing from purity and justice!

A CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR: A supervisor of other tax collectors, and therefore very wealthy. "He would have been thought of about as fondly as a high-level drug dealer" (Deff). "Jericho was a likely post for a tax officer of some standing, and one who would inevitably become rich. The city was an important customs station at the main ford of the Jordan, some 17 miles from Jerusalem on the major route between Judea and lands east of the river. Besides controlling an extensive carrying trade, Jericho produced and exported costly balsams" (NIDNTT).

Luk 19:3

HE WANTED TO SEE WHO JESUS WAS: // Joh 12:21. Zacchaeus had some prior knowledge of Jesus. Had he heard of other tax collectors who listened to Jesus gladly (Luk 5:30; 7:29)? Jesus, a man who attracted tax collectors and other "sinners" (Luk 15:1,2).

Luk 19:4

RAN AHEAD AND CLIMBED: Desire and dedication.

CLIMBED A TREE: "Zacchaeus climbed a tree, and he withstood the sneers and grumbling of the crowd. His, too, was the experience of rejection and humiliation. The cross of Jesus Christ is a cross of rejection and humiliation. Our Lord willingly bore this cross. But the way to that cross is often also through rejection and humiliation. But what a blessing that way is, when it leads us to the Prince of Life, to the forgiveness of sins, and to His mercy. Let us gladly seek the cross through the valley of rejection and humiliation, for this is the way our Lord came to His cross" (Deff).

SYCAMORE-FIG: Nathanael was under such a tree (Joh 1:48). Such a tree sym Israel (Luk 21:29). A type of great wide fig tree, not related to sycamores in America. Often planted by wayside, easy to climb (LB 23). The fig-tree (Israel as a nation, with its laws and types) was a good place from which to view Jesus. But one must leave it behind to get closest to Jesus. In fact, one must take Jesus into his house.

Luk 19:5

Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name (Joh 10:3), to leave the "fig tree" nation of Israel and follow him the Good Shepherd.

Luk 19:6

In ct fig tree at Jerusalem (Mat 21:19), there was "good fruit" in this fig tree!

AND WELCOMED HIM GLADLY: Ct Luk 18:23: the rich ruler who could not welcome (or "receive") Jesus.

Luk 19:7

HE HAS GONE TO BE THE GUEST OF A 'SINNER': There were many "holy" priests in Jericho (a priestly city!); why would Jesus ever choose to stay with a tax collector? May Christ be our guest, although we are sinners!

"The human need to despise those of our own kind is really obvious in the attitude of the Pharisees, isn't it? We despise those that we see as sinners, forgetting for the purpose of the exercise, that we too are sinners. Forgetting this fact is dangerous. This lesson comes to us from the Pharisees on several occasions. Let us be sure to heed it: Luk 5:30; 7:34,39; 15:2; 18:9-14" (PC).

Luk 19:8

HERE AND NOW...: This is Z's fresh response to Christ's coming -- not a characteristic of his past life (ct Luk 18:22,23). Claims would soon be coming from the people who stood listening to this promise.

I WILL PAY BACK FOUR TIMES THE AMOUNT: A man who stole more than 25% of all his possessions cannot say this. Cp Exo 22:1; 2Sa 12:4,6; ct Lev 6:2-5; Num 5:7. Cp the actions of the "unjust steward" in Luk 16:6-8.

Luk 19:9

TODAY SALVATION HAS COME TO THIS HOUSE: Being "rich" is not enough!

A SON OF ABRAHAM: Z's actions mirrored those of Abraham when visitors arrived: cp Gen 18: he "hurried" (vv 2,6,7) to offer hospitality to the visitors, and "stood" (v 8) as a servant.

Luk 19:12

WENT TO A DISTANT COUNTRY TO HAVE HIMSELF APPOINTED KING: Provincial governors and lesser officials commonly journeyed to Rome to receive sanction and authority from the emperor to rule. Jesus may have had in mind such a state visit made recently by Archelaus upon the death of Herod the Great (LTJM 1:220).

Luk 19:13

PUT THIS MONEY TO WORK: Or, simply, "Occupy" (as AV). In the days before Connecticut became a state, an incident occurred there that has become known as "the dark day". Suddenly thick darkness -- probably the result of an abnormal atmospheric condition -- blotted out the sunlight. The colonial legislature was in session at the time, and some of its members concluded that the day of judgment had come. The cry went forth, "It is the day of judgment! Let us go home and get ready!" However, an old church deacon who was in the legislature stood up and said, "Brethren, it may be the day of judgment -- I do not know. the Lord may come. But when he does, I want Him to find me at my post, doing my duty up to the very last moment. Mr Speaker, I move that candles be brought in and that we get on with the business of the colony."

"Until I come": put this money to work (Luk 19:13); judge nothing (1Co 4:5); proclaim Lord's death (1Co 11:26); be sincere, without offence (Phi 1:6,10); listen to word (2Pe 1:19); hold fast (Rev 2:25).

In ct to parable of talents (Mat 25:14-30), this parable shows equal distribution to every servant -- suggesting the gift of the gospel itself.

Luk 19:14

SENT A DELEGATION AFTER HIM: As with Archaelaus (v 12n)... A Jewish delegation followed him to Rome, asking for his removal.

Luk 19:16

YOUR MINA HAS EARNED TEN MORE: "They speak as though all the virtue resided in what their master had left with them , and not their own dutiful efforts (1Co 3:6; Act 21:19; 15:4,12)" (WGos 543).

Luk 19:17

Vv 17-19: Varied degrees of reward/responsibility (1Co 15:41; 2Co 9:6; Rev 11:18).

YOU HAVE BEEN TRUSTWORTHY IN A VERY SMALL MATTER: George Washington Carver once asked God to tell him about the universe. According to Carver, the Lord replied, "George, the universe is just too big for you to understand. Suppose you let Me take care of that." Humbled, he replied, "Lord, how about a peanut?" The Lord said, "Now, George, that's something your own size. Go to work on it and I'll help you." When Carver was finished studying the peanut, he had discovered over 300 products that could be made with that little bit of God's universe.

Luk 19:20

I HAVE KEPT IT LAID AWAY IN A PIECE OF CLOTH: "Now when a man purchases a servant, he does not buy him to sit all his days with a bushel on his head in complacent quietude. A 'doulos' or slave, owns nothing, neither himself, nor any thing belonging to self before he became a slave. Such is the relation of brethren to Christ their Lord and Master. A complacently quiescent Christian is one who will never inherit the kingdom, though his faith be ever so orthodox, or his baptism ever so valid. He is an unprofitable concealer of his Master's property in a napkin. He is the napkin, and the property the truth he has received, and concealed within himself. Woe be to the Christian brother who presents himself at the tribunal of Christ with nothing else to offer but a hidden truth. Ill-starred will he be who can only say, 'I received the truth and was immersed, and henceforth enjoyed myself in silence!' Quietude and silence are not the prerogatives of the saints in this present evil world. Their duty is to 'cry aloud and spare not; to lift up their voice like a trumpet and show the people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.' They have nothing to do with results and consequences -- let them make the truth known, and leave the rest to him who gives the increase" (JT, Herald Oct 1858).

This servant no doubt had the cleanest pound of all, but it had not grown! He had not been totally indifferent to his lord's gift, but his fear of failure had compelled him carefully to "protect" his pound. So he had wrapped it in a cloth and laid it up in some safe place, perhaps checking it from time to time, maybe even bringing it out, like some housewives do with fine silver, to polish and admire it. Our attitude toward the Gospel truth we have received can be similar to the attitude of this man. If we are fearful that we may "lose the Truth" and conscious only of "keeping the Truth pure", then we are in danger of forgetting what we are told to DO with it! The gospel is not a frail greenhouse flower that must have just the right temperature and humidity, and just the correct amount of light and water in order to survive. The gospel is very hardy; it is meant like the pound to be carried into the "market" of life, to the highways and byways, and to make gain for its user. We need have no fear for the Truth itself -- it springs from God and is impervious to corruption. We must only be careful that we put it to the use for which it is intended.

This same point is subtly made in other parables of Christ -- for example, the parables of the sower and the wheat and tares (Mat 13). Is it enough that we as husbandmen of the Lord's "field" be concerned with the uprooting of "weeds" or "tares"? Is it enough that we keep the field "pure"? There must be at least as much effort -- and more, much more -- directed toward the positive endeavor of sowing the seed. The farmer expects some imperfection in his field, and he puts up with it, knowing that his paramount interest must be in the production of grain. The harvest is soon enough for the last weeds or tares to be separated from the good grain.

It is so simple when we see it this way. But how many frustrated "sowers" have consumed their lives in the Truth in worry and agitation about the "purity" of the "field", so to speak, and never gotten around to their real duty? Let us strive for a proper balance in our service in the Truth, lest our intolerable and unbalanced attitude condemn us outright before our Judge (Luk 19:22).

LAID AWAY IN A PIECE OF CLOTH: Such a person will at last be "laid up" in a cloth of graveclothes -- the one coin lost in the house (Luk 15:8). This is what higher criticism has done to the Bible: covered up its message, keeping it out of sight (cp 2Co 4:3,4). Cp Achan's buried treasure (Jos 7); treasure hid in a field (Mat 13:44).

"Do you realize what ETERNITY means? It means that -- if worthy -- you will be given a billion years of perfect, joyful life for every SECOND you have spent serving God. And you could make that one hundred billion years -- and still be understating it. In the light of this, how can anyone claim to love God and not give Him the total full-time devotion and service that He asks? How can anyone be so cheap and selfish as not to give every possible effort to manifest love and gratitude in service? No wonder the verdict is to the napkin-wrapper -- 'Thou wicked and slothful servant! Cast him into outer darkness' " (GVG).

Luk 19:21

Stressing negatives ('thou shalt not') instead of positives (increase, preach). 'I knew you were going to gain your profit anyway... so I played it safe!'

HARD: "Austere" (KJV), "exacting" (NAS). Cp Mat 25:24.

Luk 19:23

WHEN...: See Lesson, AN, Conditional deferment.

INTEREST: From same root as "offspring".

Luk 19:27

ENEMIES: The "subjects" of Luk 19:14, in ct "servants" of Luk 19:15,22.

Luk 19:28

HE WENT ON AHEAD, GOING UP TO JERUSALEM: Thus completing the journey begun in Luk 9:51, where "Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem".

Luk 19:29

BETHPHAGE: "House of figs", natural Israel.

BETHANY: "House of dates", spiritual Israel. Upright palms of the Gentiles. The home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

AT THE HILL CALLED THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem" (Zec 14:4).

Luk 19:30

COLT: Colt of an ass, humble -- used by kings rather than the horse. Peaceful burden-bearer.

WHICH NO ONE HAS EVER RIDDEN: "No man can serve two masters." Uniqueness, separateness. Cp the tomb of Jesus.

Luk 19:35

"An unusual sympathy between rider and mount for an unbroken colt to walk quietly in the midst of a shouting crowd" (SMk 152).

THREW THEIR CLOAKS ON THE COLT: Sig Christ the burden-bearer (Mat 11:28-30).

Luk 19:37

MOUNT OF OLIVES: Jesus would be coming from the east and standing on the Mount of Olives: cp Zec 14:4; Eze 43:1,2.

"Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.' The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you" (Zep 3:14-18).

Luk 19:38

Disciples sing, "Peace in heaven". Angels sing, "Peace on earth" (Luk 2:14).

Psa 118:19-26: a familiar psalm sung at Passover and Pentecost, including: "open the gates... rejected stone... blessed is he that comes... bind sacrifice to the horns of the altar..." (Quoted by Christ himself as applicable to the Messiah: Mat 21:42.)

"This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" (Est 6:6,9).

Luk 19:40

In Heb, stone (eben) // son (ben). Stones to be raised up as sons of Abraham (Mat 3:9). Stones, taken out of earth, can be part of God's eternal Temple!

Luk 19:45

DRIVING OUT THOSE WHO WERE SELLING: The purging of the leaven from the house of God (Exo 12:19). "And that no man should carry any vessel": Mar 11:16.

"The action of the Lord in cleansing the temple is often quoted as an example of righteous indignation. Yet in all the four records (Mat 21, Mar 11, Luk 19, Joh 2) it is nowhere stated that the Lord was angry. Certainly it was not righteous indignation which drove back those soldiers, ordered to arrest him (Joh 7:46); nor was it righteous indignation which made armed men retreat and fall to the ground in Gethsemane (Joh 18:6). Was not the same power at work in the temple incident? But even if we concede that the Lord might have been expressing righteous indignation, what right have we unrighteous ones to claim that we can also show righteous indignation? It is more likely that we are confusing righteous indignation with wrathful feelings of revenge, personal provocation, and wounded pride. Certainly the Lord never lost his temper. Every word and action was under complete control" (Bilton, Xd 114:218).

"There is much cause for righteous anger in the world; the travesties and misrepresentations of religion, the hypocrisy of politics, the perversions of justice, and the abomination of modern warfare. Cruelty and injustice often go hand in hand with professions of kindness and mercy; an affectation of extreme righteousness is often used as a cloak to cover dishonesty. There are still men who try to thwart good work while parading their excessive piety, whether in zeal for the Sabbath as in the first century, or in some more modem way. Yet these evils do not often excite a righteous anger. When we find an angry man he is not often protesting against the prevalent perversions of divine law. Far more frequently it is a matter of personal interests or personal feeling. The anger of worldly greed and pride is manifest every day while righteous anger is a rarity. It is not quite unknown however. Brethren have sometimes been stirred up by flagrant perversions of truth and have done some of their best work in a spirit of righteous anger. How good it would be if this was the only kind of anger ever known among us" (PrPr 204).

The tables of moneychangers, overturned by Jesus, while the coins fall on the floor (Mat 21:12; Mar 11:15; Joh 2:14). Cp this with Judas throwing the 30 pieces of silver into the temple (Mat 27:5). Imagine the coins clattering and clanking along the floor, while the priests scurried here and there to gather up and hide the evidence. In both cases, this was money paid for "sacrifices"!

Jesus cast out the moneychangers, and then GAVE AWAY his blessings (vv 47,48)!

// Mat 21:12-16 / Mark 11:15-19: Here is the second temple cleansing (cp Psa 69:9). The other sacrifices are driven away; Christ is soon to become the one true sacrifice... and so "the zeal for your house has consumed me" (as though he were an offering on the altar).

Luk 19:46

A HOUSE OF PRAYER: Cited from Isa 56:7. Not just a house where prayer is offered -- which is true enough -- but also a "house" (a spiritual house) built up by and consisting of prayers offered by many individuals. With our prayers we "build" the "house" in which God dwells.

The Isa 56:7 quote also has: "for ALL NATIONS"! A symbolic indication that the court of the Gentiles was henceforth to be holy also (Gal 3:28). This scene took place in the court of the Gentiles (LTJM 114). By using this area for moneychangers, the leaders had forgotten their delegated role of witnessing to the Gentiles (Zec 9:8).

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