Luke 19

Only Luke tells us about the conversion of Zacchaeus, which fits in so strikingly with the theme of his Gospel. The publican, though so despised by the leaders of his people, was a fit subject for the grace of the Lord, and he was marked by the faith which is ready to receive it. Zacchaeus had no physical or material needs; his was a case of spiritual need only. The people flung the epithet, "sinner," at him. It was a true epithet, and Zacchaeus knew it, yet it provoked him into an attempt to accredit himself by recounting his benevolences and scrupulous honesty. Jesus however put his blessing on its proper basis by proclaiming him to be a son of Abraham-that is, a true child of faith-and Himself to be the One come to seek and save that which was lost. Zacchaeus was in himself a lost man, yet he was a believer, and so salvation reached him that day. On exactly the same basis has it reached every one of us since that day.

The Lord had shown the Pharisees that the kingdom was already in their midst in His own Person; He had also again told His disciples about His impending death and resurrection. Yet they still cherished expectations as to the immediate appearing of the kingdom in glory. So the Lord added the parable, of verses 11-27, as a further corrective to these thoughts of theirs. The time of the kingdom would come, when all His enemies would be destroyed; but first comes a period of His absence, when the faithfulness and diligence of His servants would be tested. To each servant the same sum is entrusted, so that the difference in the result sprang from their diligence and skill, or otherwise. According to their diligence they were rewarded in the day of the kingdom. The servant, who did nothing, only showed that he did not really know his Master. In result, he not only had no reward but he suffered loss.

This is another reminder that grace calls us into a place of responsibility and service, and that our place in the kingdom will depend upon the diligence with which we have used that with which we have been entrusted.

Having spoken the parable of the pounds, the Lord led His disciples on the ascent towards Jerusalem, and reaching Bethphage and Bethany He sent for the ass colt, on which He made His entry to the city, according to the prophecy of Zechariah. The colt was unbroken for no man had sat upon it, and consequently it was tied up under restraint. It was loosed from restraint, but only in order that He might sit upon it. Under His powerful hand it was perfectly restrained. A parable this, of how grace sets us free from the bondage of the law.

Though the kingdom was not at this time to be established in glory, He did in this way most definitely present Himself to Jerusalem as its rightful and God-sent King. His disciples assisted in this, and as they approached the city they began to praise God and rejoice. We are told quite plainly in John 12: 16 that at that time they did not really understand what they were doing, yet it is evident that the Spirit of God took possession of their lips and guided them in their words. They acclaimed Him as the King, and they spoke of "peace in heaven, and glory in the highest."

At the incarnation the angels had celebrated "on earth peace," for the Man of God's good pleasure had appeared, and they celebrated the whole result of His work. But now it was clear that death lay before Him and that His rejection would entail a period of anything but peace on earth. Nevertheless the first effect of His work on the cross would be to establish peace in the highest Court of all-in heaven-and to display glory in the highest, Himself going up there in triumph. This note of praise had to be struck at this juncture. God could have made the stones cry out, but instead He used the lips of the disciples, though they uttered the words without full intelligence of their meaning.

Now comes a striking contrast. As they approached the city the disciples rejoiced and shouted blessings on the King. The King Himself wept over the city! In John 11: 35, the word used indicates silent tears; here the word used indicates breaking forth in lamentation, visible and audible. The lament of Jehovah over Israel, as recorded in Psalm 81: 13, reappears here, only greatly accentuated as they approached the greatest of all their terrible sins. Jerusalem did not know the things that belonged to her peace, hence peace on earth was impossible at that time, and the Lord foresaw and predicted her violent destruction at the hands of the Romans, which came to pass forty years later. The Dayspring from on high had visited them, and they did not know the time of their visitation.

As a consequence, everything in Jerusalem was in disorder. Entering the city, the Lord went straight to its very centre, and in the temple found evil enthroned. The house of Jehovah, intended to be an house of prayer for all nations, was just a den of thieves, so that any stranger, coming up there as a seeker after God, was swindled in the obtaining of the necessary sacrifices. Thereby he would be repelled from the true God instead of being attracted to Him. Thus in the hands of men the house of God had been wholly perverted from its proper use. Moreover the men who held authority in the house were potentially murderers, as verse 47 shows: so it had become a stronghold of murderers as well as a den of thieves. Could anything be much worse than this? No wonder God swept it away by the Romans forty years later!