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Textual Study

Luke 19:1-10

Liturgical Date: Twenty-Fourth Sunday

After Pentecost Year C

An Evangelism Message


Liturgical Setting

·        Color is green, the color of growth, life, a time of spiritual growth. Pentecost is the Time of the Church, which emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was sent by Christ to teach us the way of Christ. 

  • Collect

O Lord, we pray that the visitation of your grace may so cleanse our thoughts and minds that your Son Jesus, when he shall come, may find in us a fit dwelling place; through Jesus Christ , our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  We pray that receiving your grace will cleanse our thoughts so Jesus will find a fit dwelling place within us.

  • Introit
    • Visual Images – I am laid low in the dust, I seek you with all my heart, I have hidden your word in my heart, I delight in your decrees
    • Gospel facets – renew my life according to your word, blessed are they whose ways are blameless, blessed are those who keep his statutes. 
  • Readings
    • Exodus 34:5-9 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  He forgives iniquity and sin but will not clear the guilty to the third and fourth generation.  Moses asked the Lord to go in the midst of Israel, pardon their sin and take them for his inheritance.
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12 We give thanks for you Thessalonians because your faith and love for one another is increasing.  We boast about your steadfast faith in persecution and affliction.  This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God.  We always pray that God will continue to make you worth of his calling and fulfill every resolve for good and work of faith by his power so that Jesus Christ may be glorified.
    • Luke 19:1-10 A rich, chief tax collector named Zacchaeus wanted to meet Jesus so he climbed in a sycamore tree that Jesus was to walk by.  Jesus asked Zacchaeus to come down because he wanted to stay with him that night.  Zacchaeus was joyful as the crowd grumbled and complained that Jesus was going to stay with a sinner.  Zacchaeus offered to restore any one he had defrauded fourfold.  Jesus said salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day because the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
  • Verse

Alleluia. Alleluia.  The Lord says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Alleluia.

  • Gradual They have come out of the great tribulation, washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and made them white.  Blessed are those whose strength is in you and set their hearts on pilgrimage. 
  • Summary of the Liturgical Setting

God comes to cleanse our hearts and minds and bring renewal.  He is merciful, slow to anger, and abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness.  We may suffer affliction, but it makes us worthy of his calling.  He is coming to our hearts today in our worship.  He will return to the earth soon at the end of time when our robes will be pure white as he has washed away our sin in his blood.

Exegetical Analysis

The Original Language

  1. Textual Variants

There are no significant variants

  1. Vocabulary
Verse Word Parse Translation Linguistic Significance
1 εἰσελθὼν Aor PartMSN going into Focus on the action of going in
1 διήρχετο Impf 3S middle He was passing through What Jesus was doing, he was passing through
2 καλούμενος Pres Pass Part MSN He was called by Other people called him by
2 ἀρχιτελώνης Noun MSN Chief tax collector He was prominent in his field, a person who would be especially hated by the Jews
2 πλούσιος Adj. MSN Abundantly wealthy He was very rich because of his work.
3 ἐζήτει Impf. 3S Was seeking What Zacchaeus was doing, seeking continually
3 ἰδεῖν Aor Infin To see Focus on Zacchaeus’ action of seeing
3 ἠδύνατο Impf Pass3S Was being unable The crowd was preventing
3 μικρὸς Adj Small Can also be taken as insignificant
4 προδραμὼν Aor part Was running ahead Focus on action
4 ἀνέβη Aor 3S To go up He climbed up
4 συκομορέαν noun sycamore An inferior type of fig tree used by the poor for wood and food.
4 ἴδῃ Aor 3S Subj. He might see Some uncertainty implied.
4 ἤμελλεν Impf. 3s He was about to Focus on connection in past time.  Jesus was about to
4 διέρχεσθαι Pres inf. To pass by Focus on connection, Jesus was who was to pass by.
5 ἀναβλέψας Aor act part MSN While he was looking up Focus on Jesus’ action of looking up.
5 Ζακχαῖε Noun Voc-ative Zaccheaus Zaccheaus!! (Emphatic)
5 Σπεύσας κατάβηθι Aor part + Aor Imper. Come down quickly! A command focusing on the action.
5 δεῖ Pres 3S It is necessary I must, Jesus felt it was necessary to do so.
6 ὑπεδέξατο Aor 3S Mid He welcomed It was a warm invitation
6 χαίρων Pres part msn joyfully It was a happy occasion
7 διεγόγγυζον Imperf 3 P Were murmuring to themselves Focus on connection in past time, the crowds were murmuring to themselves
7 ἁμαρτωλῷ Adj Sinful Often referred to as social outcasts.
7 καταλῦσαι Infin To be a guest Focus on action Jesus’ being a guest.  It was considered wicked to eat the fruit of one whose earnings were tainted.
8 σταθεὶς Aor pass part Had been made to stand Jesus must have stood him up
8 εἴ Sub conj cond If Assumes a real condition
8 ἐσυκοφάντησα Aor 1S I have cheated As in extortion or blackmail
8 ἀποδίδωμι Pres 1S Pay back Pay an owed obligation, his intention to repent makes it possible for Jesus to eat with him.
9 ἐγένετο Aor Mid 3S Has come Has come to exist
10 ζητῆσαι Aor Inf To seek Focus on the action
10 σῶσαι Inf save Denotes purpose
10 ἀπολωλός Perf part Lost Lost, as in utterly destroyed or ruined.

Contextual Material




The text is a narrative story with the rhetorical function of identification with a character unfolding to an understanding that Jesus’ true mission is to save Zacchaeus and us as well.  We move from a point of feeling we too would like to see Jesus and have him stay with us.  The relatively sparse details ask us to “fill in the gaps” of the narrative with our imaginations.  We look for ourselves in the story and see that Jesus came to save even people like us. 

The Broad Context


Luke’s Gospel specifically addresses Theophilus but his intentions are much broader than that.  It would have been widely circulated and Luke wrote it to strengthen the faith of all believers as well as answer the attacks of unbelievers.  It was also intended to dispel ill-founded reports about Jesus with the truth Luke had learned in his careful investigations.  Luke’s Gospel is truly intended for the world, showing Jesus’ teachings of the gentiles place in God’s kingdom, so that the whole world would know the wonderful story of Jesus.

The Immediate Context


Summary:  The text preceding the pericope presents Jesus near the end of his mission at a point shortly before the triumphal Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.  The texts immediately preceding recount a series of parables and teachings including: The cleansing of Ten Lepers, predictions of the coming of the kingdom, the parables of the Persistent Widow and the Pharisee and Tax Collector, Jesus welcoming the children to come to him, the rich ruler who lacked charity, the third prediction of his death, and the healing of the blind beggar. 

After this text comes the parable of Ten Minas, the Palm Sunday entry, Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem’s failure to come to him, Jesus chasing the money changers from the temple, Jesus’ authority is questioned, the parable of the Wicked Tenants, the scribe’s and chief priest’s question of paying taxes to Caesar and about the Resurrection and Christ’s warning to beware of the Scribes.

Discussion:  This pericope comes in the midst of many different parables and teachings both before and after.  Jesus’ statement “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” provides purpose for these parables and teachings and also explains his disdain for and warnings about those established in the faith, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It is appropriately happening at the end of Jesus’ mission when he felt it was time for the disciples to understand the mission they are to carry on after his death and resurrection, the mission of taking his message to the entire world, even the worst of sinners like Zacchaeus.

Structure of the Pericope


·        Jesus enters into Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. 

·        Zacchaeus, a rich, chief tax collector wants to see Jesus pass by, but with his short stature he is unable to see through the crowd.

·        Zacchaeus runs ahead and climbs a sycamore tree to get a better look and Jesus sees him.

·        Jesus sees him and announces he must stay with Zacchaeus that night.

·        Zacchaeus is overjoyed and welcomes Jesus into his home amidst murmurs from the crowd complaining about Jesus’ lodging with a sinner.

·        Zacchaeus repents and offers to give half his goods to the poor.  He also offers to make fourfold restitution to those whom he has cheated.

·        Jesus tells him that salvation has come to his house because he is also a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.

Parallel Passages

Verse 3 

And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.

 John 12:21

21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

 Matthew 21:31

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.


Many people wanted to see Jesus, even some people the traditional faithful would rather not see coming to him.


Verse 7

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

 Luke 5:29-30

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.
30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

 Luke 15:2

2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

 Matthew 9:11

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”


Jesus shared many meals (and still does!) with sinners to the amazement of others who considered themselves more worthy of God’s favor.


Verse 8

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

 Luke 3:14

14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

 Exodus 22:1

1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

   Numbers 5:6-7

6 “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt,
7 he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.


Jesus taught that it was wrong to cheat others out of money or possessions.  This was in accordance with the teachings of the Law that required a fourfold return of any SHEEP (significance?) that had been stolen. 



Verse 9

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.


 John 4:53

53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

 Luke 3:8

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.


Jesus announces salvation to those who believe.  This salvation is not just for the children of Abraham, but for all men.

Verse 10

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”



 Luke 15:4-7

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

 Ezekiel 34:16

16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

 Matthew 9:13

13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 John 3:17

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.



Jesus’ mission was to save the lost sinners of the world, not just those who are model Christians.  In fact, he takes more joy in the salvation of one of the lost than in 99 of those who are already saved.



Selected parallel passages with special meaning:

The parallel passages to verse 7 and verse 10 have the most meaning to me.  They give me evidence that Jesus was very interested in saving the sinners of the world, and that includes me!  We see that he ate with them regularly (normally forbidden by the Law) and rejoices over their salvation.  Even if I were the only sinner, he would still seek after me.

Focused Study

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

Zacchaeus is a Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning “innocent”.  He held a political office created by the Romans to help collect taxes in the provinces.  Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector which probably meant he had contracted with the government to collect taxes, and he in turn hired others to do the actual work.  In New Testament times people bid for the job of chief tax collector and then exacted the tax plus a profit form the citizens.  Most offices were filled by the hated Romans, but some natives got the job as well.  The Jews held tax collectors in very low esteem because of their excessive profits.  They were on the same social scale as prostitutes. 

The Holman Bible Dictionary, Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.1991:1153

Sycamore Tree

A type of fig tree with leaves similar to a mulberry.  The fruit was inferior to the fig tree.  It was used as food for the poor and bore fruit several times a year.  It was often placed along roadsides for its shade.  Poor people used its wood instead of the expensive cedar.

The Holman Bible Dictionary, Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.1991:1431

Commentary Study

Verses 1-4

Zacchaeus’ position as chief tax collector meant he held a higher office than Levi (Matthew)  Jericho was a major customs center which provided an ideal and lucrative environment for a chief tax collector to extort money.  This prevents two salvation issues for Zacchaeus because of his profession (a faithful believer would not do such a profession) and because of his great wealth (as expressed by the parable of the rich man earlier in Luke).  As a chief tax collector one might consider him the sinner supreme.  In spite of his wealth and power he is unable to penetrate the crowd to see Jesus.  He is a social outcast whose littleness is more than merely physical.  In climbing a tree instead of a direct approach, (like the characters in the several healing narratives) it may be that Zacchaeus intended to remain anonymous.  However, one thing is clear, Jesus’ desire to see him clearly surpassed his own desire to see Jesus.  

Verses 5-6

Not only did Jesus want to see Zacchaeus, he wanted to stay with him.  The divine necessity Jesus expresses in the Greek exemplifies God’s divine call of sinners.  The fact that Zacchaeus answers this divine call with joy indicates that the kingdom of God has come to this man and he has embraced it.

Verse 7

Jewish law and tradition dictated that the evil in lodging with such a sinner would be exceeded only by committing the sin yourself.  This was far more than a dinner party, it appeared to the crowd as an endorsement.

Verse 8

The restitution Zacchaeus offers was far in excess of the restitution required by Jewish law for stealing.  What was normally required was the addition of a fifth to the original loss.  It may signify the Law’s requirement for a fourfold return of sheep stolen and disposed of or slaughtered.  His offer is unusually generous and was the sort of fruit in keeping of repentance required by John the Baptist.

Verse 9-10

This could be considered the key verses of Luke because it expresses the heart of Jesus’ ministry.  It is important to realize that salvation did not come to Zacchaeus’ house because he did a good deed, rather because he was a son of Abraham, which is not to be interpreted as his genetic lineage but by becoming a spiritual descendent of Abraham by becoming a believer.  Contact with Jesus has transformed Zacchaeus.  Despite his manner of life up to this point, he is not beyond the present saving outreach of God.  He is truly one of the lost sheep of Israel referred to in Jesus’ earlier parable of the 99 sheep.  Jesus has come to save the very people the pious had already excluded from the kingdom.

+ Barker, Kenneth L. & Kohlenberger, John III – The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, An Abridgement of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994):

+ Nolland, John. – Word Biblical Commentary Luke 18:35-24:53, Vol. 35C, (Dallas: Word Books, 1995)

The Exegetical Statement, Textual Intent, Mood

There is no doubt Zacchaeus was a notorious sinner because he was Chief of the tax collectors.  Zacchaeus saw Jesus coming into town and wanted to get a closer look.  So he climbed up in a tree where he see Jesus but wouldn’t be seen himself.  However, Jesus was intent on encountering Zacchaeus in a more personal way.  In fact, he invited himself to his house to stay.  Zacchaeus was overjoyed to learn Jesus would even speak to him.  His encounter with Jesus changed his life to the point of repenting for his sins. Jesus pronounced salvation for Zacchaeus and forgave his sin.  Jesus has come to seek and save the lost.  Even little Zacchaeus.

Like Zacchaeus, many people reach a point in their life before faith where they are curious and want to see Jesus from a safe distance.  There may be many reasons that have prevented their inquiry before.  They may have led a sinful life and feel unworthy.  It may be someone who cared about them has never introduced them to Jesus.  When they come to investigate, they find a Jesus who is looking for them and calls them by name as though Jesus had known them all their lives.  And he has.  They are overjoyed to find that Jesus loves them already.  In spite of their faults, he wants to come to their home – their heart and stay there.  This becomes a life altering experience and they turn away from their sins.  In spite of the crowd (which includes the Church at times) they learn that Jesus has come to the world to find them.  He came to suffer the humiliation of the cross only to rise again, and rise them up on the Last Day to live with him forever. Today salvation has come to their house.

Textual Mood –

Zacchaeus – curiosity, joy, repentance

The crowd – scorn, disdain, disbelief

Jesus – love, forgiveness, a sense of mission and accomplishment of a part of that mission  

Theological Study

Luke 19:7 is mentioned in the footnotes of Smallcald Articles Section III.2 Concerning the Law.  The law was given, in the first place to curb sin.  However, it fails because sin has worked in mankind.  The foremost office or power of the law is that it reveals inherited sin and its fruits.  This will cause terror and despair.  This can cause them to become enemies of God and murmur against him. 

Because this is an evangelistic sermon there needs to be some understanding of:

Free will – Solid Declaration Article II – conversion occurs through the working of the Holy Spirit and not through our own will.  Our salvation is entirely the result of God’s work.  Our damnation, on the other hand is the result of our rejection of God.  We cannot choose faith in God, we are only free to choose evil. 

Hearer Depiction 

Original:  The book of Luke is addressed to his publisher Theophilus, but would be distributed to the general public after he received it.  It was written in a time when there were many “urban” legends about Jesus.  Many of the people probably don’t know exactly what to think and what is true.  The book is written to strengthen the believers and answer the unbelievers.  Much of the evils of Jesus and Zacchaeus’ time are still around and the hearers could readily identify with the story. 

Contemporary:  This sermon will be delivered to a mixed congregation of Boy Scouts of various denominations as well as many boys who have never even set foot in a church.  The story of Zacchaeus is contemporary to young boys because they will readily identify with him on several levels.  They know all about what it is like to be “on the outside”.    Perhaps the unchurched boys would like to get a look at Jesus from a safe distance and don’t understand how much Jesus already loves them.  So much so that he died and rose again for them.  They may not know Jesus’ mission was to come, find and save them.

Comparison:  Both the original and contemporary hearers have a lot in common.  Many have heard or come to believe things about Jesus that aren’t true.  The knowledge of sin is common to both and both need to know that Jesus comes to them in spite of their sin.  They both need to hear that Jesus’ true mission was for all men, saints and sinners alike. 


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