HG127-128a Luke 19:1-28, John 11:55-12:1, 9-11
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 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.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” 11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ” 28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
In the previous chapter of Luke Jesus speaks of the impossibility of a rich man entering into heaven. He said this in response to the rich young ruler who had everything, was self-sufficient and when he had told him to sell all that he had and give to the poor and come follow Him, this man could not accept the terms of having eternal life. Remember how the disciples were astonished that the rich were not on their way to Heaven and that it would be like a camel going through the eye of a needle to be saved. But Jesus followed it up by saying that whilst impossible for man this was most certainly possible for God. Enter Zacchaeus into today’s passage.
Charles Spurgeon started a pastor’s college which still trains pastors today. He was also known as the prince of preachers and would often preach for an hour at each service. On Fridays when the weather was good Spurgeon would take students outside to a tree which became known as the ‘question oak’. He would then expect students to preach from a passage of Scripture that he gave to them at that time. One time it was the first ten verses of today’s passage on Zacchaeus. So, Spurgeon chose a student and the student rose to preach and said: “Zacchaeus was of little stature, so am I. Zacchaeus was up a tree, so am I. Zacchaeus came down, so will I.” And the student sat down as the students, led by Spurgeon, applauded.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector at the head of one of the 3 main districts. Jericho was very rich which made him very, very rich. He was at the head of a cartel much like you would find in Mexico or the Mafia in Italy. But it would seem that this man wanted to see Jesus for he had obviously heard of him. He probably knew Matthew, maybe even one of his underlings in former days, but certainly tax collectors hung out together because no one else would include them in their social circle. He had heard, no doubt, about how he had left all to follow Jesus in Luke 5. Jesus had already made Himself a reputation of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners. And, no doubt, with his experience of the world and its riches there had been a growing dissatisfaction with the things of the world, that so-called God-shaped hole. He couldn’t get no satisfaction.
Now he has heard that Jesus was on the way and knew that if he got caught in the crowd he’d never see him due to his height. Then, of course, there would be those in that crowd that may pick on him due to his profession, an elbow there or a stamped foot here. So he ran to climb a sycamore-fig tree. Now, these trees would grow to about forty foot but they had low hanging branches that made it easy to climb whilst also sustaining the weight of a man. So, up the tree he went. There he would get a private view of Jesus whist remaining completely anonymous. No one will know he’s there!
Except of course, that Jesus looked up. He could not be hid from His sight. And what did he just hear? He own name. Zacchaeus. How on earth did He know that!? In the same way that Jesus had seen Nathanael under a fig tree when He was not physically present and also knowing his character through and through. In the same way Zacchaeus could not be hid either.
His character was well-known to the Lord. What do we make of that? He knows us by name and also knows us so thoroughly too. How does that make you feel?
Then Jesus uses that word of which I have spoken a number of times, the word ‘must’. “It is necessary for Me to stay at your house Zacchaeus”, so He invited Himself to dinner. Another thing about this word ‘must’ in Luke and Acts is that it is a divine necessity. It is a divine necessity to get salvation only through Jesus, it is a divine necessity that Jesus has the name above all names, and it is a divine necessity for Him to come into Zacchaeus’ home. I must stay with you tonight. Zacchaeus had sought to see Jesus, Jesus had sought to see Zacchaeus.
Jesus’s decision to stay overnight with such a sinful man as Zacchaeus, who had sold out and mistreated his own people, seemed outrageous
Guilt by association. There’s been a lot on the news about this recently. We have to be careful not to attribute to others what is seen in their friends and associates otherwise we might find ourselves judging that Jesus was tainted by such.
Over dinner, that night, that morning with conversations going on Zacchaeus found his heart warming to Jesus.
And how obviously true this was for, Jesus said, today, salvation has come to this house. There was obvious faith and trust on Zacchaeus’ part in Jesus shown by his repentance. 50% of what he had he immediately gave to the poor which was beyond the 20% required by the Levites, and then with the remaining 50% he was to make restitution of four times as much as he had extorted. It could very well be, that at the end, he would be left with nothing.
How different a response was his to the rich man in the previous chapter. Zacchaeus walked through the eye of a needle. He no longer was about the getting but all about the giving. He no longer was orientated towards his possessions for very clearly you cannot serve two masters.
If you had met Zacchaeus before you would not have thought such a man could ever be saved. In fact, if anything, we would have been fearful to say anything to him about the gospel for not only was he a man who had made money off the occupation of his own people but he could probably have had you knee capped if you crossed him. We see such people around and think that those who are presently violent or bullies or extortioners or pimps or in a gang. These are not the pleasant people of the world. You would do all you could to avoid an encounter with them. But Jesus did not come for the righteous. But sinners. No one is beyond redemption as has been plainly demonstrated today. God sought him out because God had already started to prepare his heart.
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found, was found of thee.
Salvation came to Zacchaeus that day.
Then, in verse 11, Luke says that as they heard these things Jesus told a parable. Which things had they heard? No doubt it was verse 10 that the Son of Man had come to seek and save the lost, and Zacchaeus was one who had been sought and saved.
But how did they understand what is salvation? They thought that it was deliverance or salvation from the Roman Occupation but that was not why He had come. Still, after all this, the disciples were expecting the kingdom of God to arrive. I find this incredible that Jesus had to repeatedly make this clear that He had not come to free Israel from Roman domination. They had seen Jesus do some incredible things, calm storms with a word, heal blindness, rid people of demons and much more besides. They knew that if they had that power they would wield it. They knew Jesus could subdue nations and bring in the kingdom and righteousness of God upon the earth. But they had already been taught that they were not to be rulers lording it over people. They were only concentrating upon the here and now but this life is over before we realise it.
Instead, Jesus was here to establish His eternal kingdom.
He will return to establish it upon the earth but first things first. The spiritual needs to be dealt with first. This world is temporal. Eternal life is forever and ever, and Heaven is a world that exists in a different sphere without time and space, a world more real than this which will pass away according to the second law of thermodynamics which speaks of dystrophy, of decay and corruption. This world will be destroyed by fire.
The story Jesus told echoed a true life story of a man named Archelaus that everybody had heard of in that time. After his father King Herod the Great died Archelaus buried his father and based on the last will and testament he was to become king instead but this was only an honour that could be bestowed by Emperor Augustus and so he went to see him. Whilst away he placed officers in charge of his money and property. A delegation had indeed been sent to Augustus to seek that he did not become king. But king he became. He was a cruel king in that he killed 3000 Jews on the Temple Mount after an uprising. We read of this man in
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.
Afraid because this man was extremely violent.
This had all happened in the lifetime of Jesus and his hearers so they would have immediately connected the dots.
The One here though who has gone to gain a Kingdom is Jesus. And He has gone to God the Father who holds the whole universe, let alone the whole world in His hand to receive it.
Whilst He has gone off to this land Jesus is telling His disciples to “occupy till I come”, to use the King James Version. That word occupy means diligent action. Here it means that the servants, which in this illustration is clearly the disciples, and this means us too, are to work diligently, never letting up and using all that the Lord has given to look after until He returns to take the reigns.
This week whilst preparing for this sermon I received an email which quoted this very passage. What are the chances of that? We are to never let up in making the gospel known to people, to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. Satan does not give up, he is working overtime. If we do not work diligently the eternal consequences for people that we have not been bothered to tell or too busy with this life is at stake.
Then in verse 14 we are told of a delegation being sent to say they do not want Jesus to rule. What is meant here? Surely this means the unbelievers who try to snuff out Jesus through the crucifixion. They thought if they put Him to death that would end His chances of reigning. Indeed this was the Satanic plot and they thought they had won. What they did not realise was that this was the way that Jesus was going to receive the Kingdom in the first place. And when He returns those who are implacably His enemies, that is, those who refuse His kingship in this life, will forfeit eternal life in the next.
The character of the servants and His enemies were well-known to the Lord. What do we make of that? He knows us by name and also knows us so thoroughly too. How does that make you feel?
To each of ten servants they received a mina which was about a hundred days’ pay. On the King’s return He called in the servants but we are only told the results of three of them. We can assume the other 7 were somewhere in between.
The first disciple had made 10 minas. Very impressive. He gained 1000%. This was the only one to whom the King said ‘good and faithful servant’. The second one gained 5 minas which is also very impressive but not as much as the first servant. He gained 500%. Both of these servants were rewarded exactly as they had worked. A city for each mina. Perfect justice. Whatever percent of energy or labour for the work of the Lord determined the reward. Each were given different areas of responsibility for the Lord depending upon how faithful they had been. Indeed we see this in:
26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—
Now the third servant who did not work received nothing at all. In fact, all he had was excuses. We understand that this servant was still part of the kingdom but he had done nothing with all that the king had given him. He lacked vision and passion about what he could do. He felt no responsibility to the king. He did not care about the growth of the Lord’s kingdom or about His property. Indeed, he did not think that the gift given to him mattered or was needed. On top of this he had no concern about the return of the king or, even, the consequences. He falsely believed that the king would accept him and understand him if he failed to use the gift. He had a wrong perception of the king but even if it were true he should have done at least something with the gift. The gift he had no concern for was taken away from him and given to the one who would use it most wisely. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
What is it that we have received? What is it that we should be using for our King? All our time, all our resources, all our gifts should no longer be used for ourselves. Hear what
8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
Dare we, as servants of God, waste more time after hearing what our Lord said to these three servants in our passage today? What will He say to us?
Our character is well-known to the Lord. What do we make of that? He knows us by name and also knows us so thoroughly too. How does that make you feel?
With that all now said there was one thing left to do. Complete the journey to Jerusalem. And that is where we will come to next week, God willing. And then onwards to the cross.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Blum, E. A., & Wax, T. (Eds.). (2017). CSB Study Bible: Notes. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Freedman, D. N., Herion, G. A., Graf, D. F., Pleins, J. D., & Beck, A. B. (Eds.). (1992). In The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.
Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. (1996). The Gospel according to Luke. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
Osborne, G. R. (2018). Luke: Verse by Verse. (J. Reimer, E. Ritzema, & D. Thevenaz, Awa Sarah, Eds.). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Porter, S. E., & Evans, C. A. (2000). In Dictionary of New Testament background: a compendium of contemporary biblical scholarship (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 19:14 06 April 2019.