Luke 19

Luke 19:1-10.283

The account of Zacchaeus is one of those peculiar to Luke; and we may readily see how strikingly it furthers the moral aim of the Spirit in this Gospel. Its collocation too may be at once explained on the same principle, supposing, as I do, that the facts occurred while the Lord was passing through Jericho, whereas the blind man Bartimaeus did not receive sight till He was on His way outside. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost here, as often similarly elsewhere, to bring the narrative of Zacchaeus into such a position with the parable that follows as to illustrate by them the general character, not only of His first advent but of His second, thereby correcting many a mistaken thought into which men, yea disciples, were apt to slip then and since.

“And he entered and was passing through Jericho; and behold a man by name called Zacchaeus,469 and he was chief tax-gatherer and he was rich. And he was seeking to see Jesus who he was, and could not for the crowd, because he was little in stature. And he ran on before and got up a sycamore469a that he might see him, because he was going to pass that [way]. And when he came to the place, Jesus looking up saw him and said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for today I must469b abide in thy house. And making haste he came down and received him joyfully.”

The Lord had already in parables set forth Divine grace to the lost sinner as such, above all in the prodigal son. We have now the actual history of a publican, a chief tax-gatherer, and a rich man, to whom grace sent salvation that very day. But here it is well to distinguish what is often overlooked. Some allege that Zacchaeus was a man without the fear of God, and unconverted; others compare him with Simeon in the temple. We should not forget that salvation is more than new birth, that it could only then be pronounced by the Messiah, and that it is now in virtue of redemption proclaimed far and wide through faith in His name. It is the primary Christian blessing that a soul needs and receives in a dead and risen Christ; but it should never be confounded with that awakening which accompanies quickening by the Spirit. As the due understanding of this clears up many difficulties created by the confusion prevalent in Christendom from the days of the “fathers” till our own time, so it will be found helpful here. The Lord vindicated the grace of God toward one in the worst possible position, the loathing of the proud Pharisee. He who struggled against the many obstructions in the way, who hesitated not to cast off all conceit of dignity and to brave all ridicule in order to see Jesus, heard with astonishment the voice of the Good Shepherd call His sheep by name and invite Himself to remain at his house. Certainly He was none other than the Messiah, who could thus tell all things and would thus meet the desire of a heart that dared not hope for such an honour. What a wonder, yet no wonder! — He who knew all knew Zacchaeus; He who asked a drink from the Samaritan woman whose life He read asked Himself to the house of the chief tax-gatherer. It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God; so that they who heard said, “Who then can be saved?” Now He proves what He then answered, that the things which are impossible with men are possible with God; for assuredly He entered the house, not to get but to give.

But nothing is so unintelligible to a man as God’s grace. “And when they saw [it] they all murmured,470 Saying that he had turned into lodge with a sinful man.” How blessed that so He could, and so He would! How hopeless the blank for us if it were not so! It suits His love so to deal with those who have not the smallest claim.

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have by false accusation exacted anything of any man, I restore fourfold.471 And Jesus said to him, Today salvation is come472 to this house, inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham:284 for the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost.”473 It is not that the Lord discredited the chief tax-gatherer’s account of his feelings and ways. Such was his character, such his habits, in a sorrowful position doubtless, with a delicate if not scrupulous conscience. But why this before One Who had already proved that all was known to a heart that could not misjudge? Why talk even of what the Spirit had produced in presence of the salvation — bringing grace of God? The Lord denies not, spite of his occupation, that he too was a son of Abraham; but if He Himself were the Messiah, and at this very time presenting Himself as such for the last time on earth, beginning at Jericho, He was the Son of man in grace and humiliation on the way to death, yea, the death of the cross; the Son of man come to save what is lost. What else was worth speaking of? This day salvation was come to his house.

Luke 19:11-27.

Matt. 25:14-30; Matt. 24:47.

As this affecting incident maintains the activity of grace according to God’s aim in the first advent of the Lord, even while He was testing them for the last time as the Messiah, so the following parable was uttered to dispel the wrong expectations which filled their minds who so soon had forgotten that first He must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation, and that the introduction of the Lord’s world-kingdom must await His second advent. Those who were on the stretch for the immediate setting up of that kingdom were self-deceived. If He was near Jerusalem, He was near the cross, not the manifestation of His kingdom yet. “But as they were hearing these things, he in addition spoke474a parable because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and they thought that the kingdom of God was about to be manifested 475 immediately. He said therefore, A certain high-born man went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.476 And he called ten of his own bondmen and delivered them ten minas,477 and said unto them, Trade while I am coming.”285 478 It is obvious that this is quite distinct from a similar parable in the last prophetic discourse on Olivet, and this not less certainly distinct in internal marks, as we shall see throughout. There the lord exercises his rights and gives as he pleases according to his knowledge of the varying capacities of his servants. Here all receive the same at starting, and their respective use of the deposit in business (figuratively) is the main point — the responsibility of the servants in the one, the sovereignty of the master in the other. Equally in contrast is the result in each: the good and faithful bondmen in Matthew alike enter into the joy of their lord, while in Luke each receives authority according to his labour and its fruit.

Again, there are weighty moral instructions connected with this parable, but distinct from what we find later in Matthew. For here we read that, “His citizens hated him and sent a message after him, saying, We will not that this [man] should reign over us.”479 Such was the spirit of the Jews, who not only rejected the Messiah, but, as another has well said, sent a message after Him as it were in the martyrs they slew, refusing Him glorified no less than in humiliation.

“And it came to pass on his return, having received the kingdom,480 that he desired his bondmen to whom he gave the money to be called to him in order that he might know what each had gained by trading. And the first came up saying, Lord, thy mina has produced ten minas. And he said to him, Well [done] thou good bondman, because thou hast been faithful in that which is least, be thou in authority over ten cities. And the second came saying, Lord, thy mina has made five minas. And he said also to this one, And thou, be over five cities. And the other came, saying, Lord, behold thy mina which I kept laid up in a napkin. For I feared thee, because thou art a harsh man: thou takest up what thou layedst not down, and reapest what thou didst not sow. He says286 to him, Out of thy mouth I will judge thee, wicked bondman. Thou knewest that I am a harsh man, taking up what I laid not down, and reaping what I did not sow.481 And why gavest thou not my money into a287 bank, and at my coming I should have received482 it with interest? And he said to those that stood by, Take from him the mina and give [it] to him that hath ten. And they said to him, Lord, he has ten minas.288 I say unto you, that to every one that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not that even which he hath shall be taken.” 483 Here we have the responsible service of Christians till Jesus returns, with His judgment then of their service meanwhile. It is not that the faithless bondman will not suffer the results of his unbelief, like the elder brother who despised his father and scorned his brother. But our Evangelist tells the tale of grace, without describing the awful doom of those who corrupt or turn from it. It is In the earthly accompaniment that we hear of Divine vengeance. Thus the picture is made still more complete; for we have also the public execution of judgment on the guilty citizens, the Jews, at His appearing. “Moreover, those mine enemies who would not [have] me to reign over them, bring them here and slay [them] before me.”484 The judgment of the habitable world is a truth which practically has dropped out of the life, if not the creeds, of Christendom.

Luke 19:28-40.

Matt. 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-16.

Next follows the approach to Jerusalem.485 The Messiah indeed, but Son of man, presents Himself according to the prophecies going before even when they are not formally cited, with the fullest parabolic instruction just given that the opposition to Him was deliberately wilful and conclusive, for it was not only that His citizens (the Jews) despised Him, coming as He did in humiliation for the deepest purposes of Divine love, but they “hated” Him and sent a message after Him, saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” Awful to hear from His lips, those were His “enemies,” above all others, who would not that He should reign over them. His heavenly glory was at least as repugnant to them as His earthly abasement. They appreciated neither the grace which brought Him down nor the glory to which as man He was exalted. What could He say then but “Bring them here and slay [them] before me”? As ever, the moral springs are laid bare in our Gospel, and, if evil, judged.

“And when he had said these things, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, towards the mountain called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go away into the village over against you; in which as ye enter ye shall find a colt tied, on which not one of men ever sat: loose and bring it. And if any one ask you, Why do ye loose [it]? thus shall ye say unto him, Because289 the Lord hath need of it. And they that were sent, having gone away, found even as he had said to them. And as they were loosing the colt, its owners said to them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, Because the Lord486 hath need of it. And they brought it to Jesus; and, having cast their garments on the colt, they set Jesus thereon;487 and, as he went, they strewed their garments in the way.”

The labour of ancients and moderns to find in this remarkable incident a type of the Gentiles obedient to the Gospel, as the Lord received and rode on the colt, seems to me far from intelligent. Rather was it very simply the evidence of His Divine knowledge and the assertion among the Jews of His claim as. Jehovah Messiah, verified by facts and by the proved subjection of human hearts where God was pleased to produce it to the honour of His Son. Hence the minuteness with which the words which passed and the accomplishment of all He said are noted by the Spirit. Doubtless, as in all the Gospels, so here it was in meekness and lowliness He entered; still, it was as the King according to the revealed mind of God. It was not yet the day of trouble when Jehovah will hear His Christ with the saying strength of His right hand; nor was yet the time come for the Jew to glory in the name of Jehovah. He alas! as indeed the Gentiles who knew not God, manifested his hostility to the Christ of God. But One was there who for them and us in all the degradation and selfishness and guilt of the fallen race was willing to bear the uttermost rejection of man, the forsaking of God Himself crowning it, that we might be brought to God, owning our sinfulness and resting on the grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

But the power of God, which wrought in hearts prepared by grace as a suitable testimony to Jesus at that moment, was still more pointedly marked in what Luke next records, and Luke only as it is characteristic of the Holy Ghost’s design in his account. “And as he was drawing near, already at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began with rejoicing to praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, Blessed the King that cometh in Jehovah’s name290: in heaven peace, and glory in [the] highest.488 And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And answering he said, I say unto you that, if these shall be silent, the stones will cry out.”

It is not merely the crowds or those who went before and followed as in Matthew and Mark; nor is it the cries of the children in the temple, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” as in the first Gospel most appropriately. Here we are told of the whole multitude of the disciples, and hence of words only befitting their lips, though surely given of God with a wisdom reaching far beyond their measure, as is known not seldom among the witnesses of Christ. “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” looks to things higher and more immediate than the preceding words cited from Psalm 118 and common to all four Evangelists.

It is a striking change even from the announcement of another multitude, near the beginning of this Gospel, who suddenly appeared with the angelic herald of the Saviour’s birth, and praised God, saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, in men good pleasure.” Such was the suited celebration of the Son now incarnate, that marvellous and mighty fact which introduced God Himself into the most touching relations with humanity, and laid the basis for the manifestation of the Father in the person of Christ, as well as for the accomplishment of the infinite work of redemption, on which hangs the righteous vindication of God, and the gracious deliverance of the elect, and the reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth to His own everlasting glory. And the heavenly host speak of the grand result as then invisibly enshrined in Him just born, a babe in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger in Bethlehem. God was pleased to manifest His good pleasure in men, not in angels, and so to fill the highest seats with glory to Himself, and earth with peace.

But, in fact, Jesus was, as the prophets had fully and distinctly foreshown He must be, despised and rejected of men. This postponed in Divine wisdom, though it could not frustrate, the purpose of God. Rather did it make room for a new and higher display of what was hidden in God from ages and generations, and now made known in the Church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. However this be, the disciples in their outburst of praise (now that the Lord was rejected and with Him meanwhile peace for the earth gone, and division and a sword the consequence of the struggle between light and darkness) do nevertheless anticipate “peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” If the former proclaimed the general purpose of God, the latter revealed His ways even when the enemy might seem on the point of triumphing. If earth disown and cast out the Saviour, if the Jews refuse the Messiah because He is incomparably more than the Son of David and come to bring about incomparably deeper and larger purposes, it is but for a season a transfer of the seat of blessing to heaven for the brightest and fullest accomplishment of God’s will and mind. The kingdom itself became manifestly of heaven thereby, and the exaltation of the rejected Lord is to sit down meanwhile on the right hand of the Majesty on high, Satan being utterly defeated by man in the person of the woman’s Seed on the throne of the highest; and the kingdom over the earth will follow the moment that it pleases the Father, Who is meanwhile forming a people united to Christ His Son, His body, His bride, to be with Him where He is at His coming. Peace is in heaven, because He was going there victoriously, having made peace by the blood of the Cross, Himself our peace now, whether we have been Jews or Greeks.

If Pharisees, insensible to His glory, complained of the praises of the disciples, the Lord could not but tell them that they were more obdurate than the stones beneath and around them.

Luke 19:41-44.

Observe further that instead of the dispensational lesson of the fig-tree cursed as in Matthew, and in Mark with yet minuter details for instruction in service, we have the grace of the Lord in His weeping over the guilty and doomed city. “And when he drew near, on seeing the city, he wept489 over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least291 in this thy292 day, the things for thy293 peace: but now they are hid490 from thine eyes. For days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall make a rampart about thee and compass thee round and keep thee in on every side, and level thee with the ground and thy children in thee; and not leave in thee stone upon stone; because thou knewest not the season of thy visitation.”491 Every word of the warning was punctually fulfilled in the siege of Titus; but what grace shone out of that heart surcharged with grief for the people so blindly to their own ruin refusing Himself Who wept over them in a love thus truly Divine and perfectly human!

Luke 19:45f.

Matt. 21:12f.; Mark 15ff.

It was Matthew’s office to bring out the woes He solemnly pronounced over the holy city now so unholy, not their civil destruction, but rather the sanctuary once His Father’s house, now their house left to them desolate, yet not hopelessly. “For” as He said then, “ye shall not see me till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah.” All that is left out in this part of our Gospel, and the more remarkably, as we find the cleansing of the temple afterwards. “And entering into the temple he began to cast out those that sold,294 saying to them, It is written, And my house shall be295 a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers.”492 Without agreeing with Jerome, who saw in the act of our Lord the greatest miracle He ever wrought, one may note profitably how, even at such a moment when irresistible energy accompanied His indignant rebuke of their profanity and cast such unworthy traffic outside the sacred precincts, He employs as ever the written Word as His ground and warrant.

Luke 19:47f. Ibid.

In harmony with this we read that “he was teaching day by day in the temple; and the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men493 of the people sought to destroy him, and did not find what they could do, for all the people hung on him while hearing.” The Word of God from His lips especially told on the consciences of men. The religious leaders, having long rejected Him, not only lost all right feeling but were given up to a murderous hatred soon to be satisfied. Such ever proves the world when confronted with the light of God; and withal the perfect love of God in Christ only provoked it the more.

283 Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 363-368.

284 Cyprian, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and others regard Zacchaeus as a Gentile. But this is manifestly unsound and inconsistent, even with the letter here, as it is a misconception of the ground of Jewish hatred against tax-gatherers. It was because they, being Jews, yet under cover of their Gentile lords bore hardly on their brethren, and often dishonestly. (B.T.)

285 “While I am coming”: so Edd. after ABD, etc. The T.R. “till I come” is the reading of ΓΔΛ, and most of the later uncials, with nearly all minuscules (69).

286 Before “He says,” AF Δ, etc., 33, add “And.” Blass, as D: ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, “And He said.” Other Edd. omit, - is BG, etc., 1, 69, Syrr. Amiat. Memph.

287 K and a considerable. number of cursives, Syrsin have “the.” Edd. omit, after ABD, etc., 1, 33, 69.

288 Blass omits verse 25, as D, 69, Syrrcu sin. other Edd. accept it.

289 “Because”: so Edd. with ABD, etc., 69, Syrr. Amiat. Memph. ER Δ, etc., 1, 33, Syrsin omit.

290 “Blessed the King that cometh in Jehovah’s name”: so corr ALR ΓΔ and later uncials, with nearly all cursives, Syrrcu sin Vulg. Goth. B: “the coming One, the King.” D and Old Lat.: “He that comes.” pm and Origen omit “that comes”: so Tisch. followed by Blass, who also rejects “in the name of [the] LORD,” but this capriciously.

291 “At least”: so Tisch. and Blass, after AR, etc., Syrrcu sin Vulg. Arm. Other Edd. omit, as BDL, Memph. Goth. Aeth.

292 “This thy day”: so Lachm. and Tisch. after ΔM, etc., Syrsin. Other Edd. (as Revv.) omit “thy,” with ABDL, Syrcu Old Lat. Origen, etc.

293 “Thy”: so Tisch. with A ΔM, etc., Syrrcu sin Vulg. Cyril. Other Edd. omit, following BL, Memph, Aeth. Arm.

294 “Sold.” There is great difference in the readings here, some adding “in the temple” or “in it” [AD, etc., most minuscules, Syrr. Old Lat.]: some adding “and those that bought,” and some both. So it was in the days of Origen (ed. de la Rue IV. 193), who notices all three forms. It seems probable that the addition grew from the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. (B.T.) Edd. have simply “sold,” as BCL 1, 69, Syrsin Memph. Arm.

295 “Shall be” : so Edd. after corr BLR, Arm. Origen. ACDΔ, etc., most minuscules, Syrcu Old Lat. have “is.”