The story of Zacchaeus is exclusive to Luke’s gospel and it is a fitting climax to Jesus’ ministry to the outcasts of Israel on His journey to Jerusalem. The final verse of the account is often viewed as the theme verse of Luke’s gospel, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector. These folks would lease a particular region from the Romans with the right to collect taxes. They would then hire someone to actually collect the taxes and collect a commission from them. This situation allowed Zacchaeus to become very rich. The chief tax collectors were hated even more that their subordinates. He wanted to get a look at Jesus so he ran, which someone in his position would never do, and then he climbed a tree, which was even worse. This was a very undignified act for a man of Zacchaeus’s power and wealth. It shows his genuine spiritual interest in Jesus. Jesus knew his name and invited Himself to his house, emphasizing his divine authority and that this appointment was made by God. The people looking on were very displeased by Jesus choice of dining partner. Jesus’ willingness to associate with sinners always drew criticism. But Zacchaeus was serious about Jesus. Not only did he bring Jesus to dinner with him, but Zacchaeus pledged to return what he had taken from the people…four fold in many cases. Normal restitution for a wrong committed was to add twenty percent to the value of goods lost. It seems that Zacchaeus saw his financial gains as theft and promised the required restoration. Now Zacchaeus has demonstrated that he is a true son of Abraham by descent and he demonstrated faith like Abraham. Jesus told the leaders at Zacchaeus’ feast that He had come to seek and save the lost and it appears Zacchaeus might be lost. The Lord is the shepherd who comes to go after the lost sheep.
We have seen the parable of the ten servants before, in Matthew’s gospel. This parable has two main purposes. The first is to teach stewardship, the need to manage gifts and resources well while the king is away. The second was to correct the impression that the kingdom of God would begin right away upon Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Most of the Jews of that day expected that when the Messiah came God’s kingdom would be established physically in earth, with Jesus at its center. We have seen this story before but here are some thoughts. This account fits the situation in Judea as a client kingdom of the Roman Empire. After the death of a king, claimants to Rome to try to gain support. Jesus would depart first to heaven to receive His royal authority. Later he will return to rule God’s people and judge those who have opposed Him. Because of the servants faithfulness the king gave them major positions in His kingdom. Similarly those who are faithful to Jesus in this life will receive greater responsibility here and great rewards in heaven. Those who are faithful with a little will be entrusted with more. But those who reject Jesus’ reign as king will suffer His judgement. This part of the parable was directed at the religious leaders.
From here we go to Jerusalem to watch as Jesus makes His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. This fulfilled Zechariah 9:9-10 and symbolically announced that He was the Messiah, the king of Israel. Bethany was on the east slopes of the Mount of Olives, two miles east of Jerusalem. It was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It is unclear if Jesus arranged for the donkey ahead of time or whether He used divine insight. Either way, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was a symbolic action. He rode a humble donkey rather than a war horse to confirm that He was fulfilling the role of Messiah by bringing reconciliation and peace. Subjects of the kings were expected to make resources available for his use. The donkey colt had never been ridden so it was pure and suitable for a king. The crowds spread their garments out on the road to show honor and homage to this royal figure. Psalm 118 was one of the psalms that was sung by pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for one of the festivals. Jesus brought peace in heaven which is reconciliation between God and human beings but peace on earth awaits the future. As Jesus drew near Jerusalem He began to weep for the city and the people, but it was too late because Israel’s rejection of Jesus was irrevocable. The siege and destruction against Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. was horrible. Once again the temple would be destroyed and the city left in ruins.
Right after Jesus entered Jerusalem He performed a Messianic action. He drove the money changers and merchants selling animals for sacrifice out of the temple. This cleansing was to restore true worship to the temple. It was also symbolic of the judgement that Jesus had just pronounced against Israel. Buying animals was a necessity but the exploitation of the people was not. The temple was meant to reflect God’s glory for all nations. But it had become corrupt. The accounts in chapter 20 are also repeats. The teachers of the religious law and the leading priests challenged Jesus, wanting to know by whose authority He was acting. But the people would not answer Jesus’ question to them and he did not answer theirs for Him. The evil farmers in the vineyard reflects the way Jesus was treated when He came. By killing The Son they believed they could get the estate for themselves. God’s prophets were often mistreated and opposed. Jesus was no different. The question about paying taxes came up and Jesus astounded those asking the question with His answer. They were to render to Caesar what was rightfully his and give God what was His. Luke also recorded the entire discussion about marrying in heaven after a Leverite marriage. Chapter 21 begins with the widows offering. The rich always made a show of what they were giving and how much. They gave out of their riches and didn’t endanger what they had. But the poor widow gave all she had and though it was a small amount the sacrifice on her part was significant. The bulk of chapter 21 involves Jesus’ teaching about the future and the coming of the Son of Man. This too is recorded in the three synoptic gospels. When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, His disciples questioned when it would occur and what the signs of this would be. Jesus responded by describing the events surrounding the destruction of the temple and the return of the Son of Man. This sermon is known as the Oliver discourse because the Mount of Olives was the sight of this teaching. Herod the great rebuilt and restored the temple producing one of the great structures of the world. The massive white stones reflected the sun with such brilliance that from a distance the temple looked like the snow covered mountains. These major events, like the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem are often associated with the judgement of God. There would be horrible persecution for Jesus’ followers and a time of great tribulation prior to God’s final salvation. The early followers would be drug into synagogues and in front of authorities but they were not to fear because the Holy Spirit would give them the words they would need. Jesus told the disciples that not a hair of their heads would be touched. This signifies full protection and it refers to the disciples souls because the majority of them were martyred. People would need to flee. They were advised to not return to Jerusalem to retrieve anything. And the destruction of Jerusalem was part of God’s judgement for Israel’s rejection of the Messiah. The central theme of this discourse is this: Watch out! Believers are always to be alert and ready for Christ’s return.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W