SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:1-10
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VERSES 1-4: ZACCHAEUS CLIMBED A TREE TO SEE JESUS
1He entered and was passing through Jericho. 2There was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector (Greek: architelones), and he was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, and couldn't because of the crowd, because he was short. 4He ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way.
Jesus "entered and was passing through Jericho" (v. 1). This is a subtle reminder that Jesus is nearing the end of his journey to Jerusalem and his cross –– a journey that began at 9:51 and will end shortly with his arrival in Jerusalem (19:28 ff.).
"Zacchaeus... was a chief tax collector (architelones), and he was rich" (v. 2). Being a chief tax collector for a wealthy community almost guarantees prosperity, and Luke specifies that Zacchaeus is rich (v. 2). Elsewhere in this Gospel, tax collectors are presented favorably (3:12; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10), but the rich are not (1:53; 6:24; 12:16-21; 14:12; 16:19-31; 18:18-25; 21:1).
Zacchaeus would have only a small circle of friends to include a few minor Roman officials, those in his employ, and people drawn to his wealth.
"He was trying to see who Jesus was, and couldn't because of the crowd, because he was short" (v. 3). Like the blind man in chapter 18, Zacchaeus wants desperately to see. Also like the blind man, he is limited physically so that he is unable to see.
"He ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way" (v. 4). His behavior in this instance is remarkable. His position demands dignity and authority. On this occasion, however, he invites ridicule by climbing a tree.
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VERSES 5-7: TODAY I MUST STAY AT YOUR HOUSE
5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must (Greek: dei) stay at your house." 6He hurried, came down, and received him joyfully (Greek: hypedexato auton chairon –– welcomed him with joy). 7When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, "He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner."
"Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must (dei) stay at your house" (v. 5b). Jesus conveys a divine purpose when he says that he "must" (dei –– "it is necessary") stay at Zacchaeus' house. He must do so "today," conveying a sense of urgency. Jesus did not come to Jericho by happenstance. He came to save Zacchaeus.
"He (Zacchaeus) hurried, came down, and received him joyfully" (hypedexato auton chairon –– welcomed him with joy) (v. 6). How surprised and honored Zacchaeus must feel! Jesus is popular, and brings honor to any home that he visits. Why would he honor a man like Zacchaeus? Nobody, including Zacchaeus, knows, but Zacchaeus responds "joyfully" (chairon).
"When they saw it, they all murmured" (v. 7a). In the Old Testament, the Israelites grumbled against God (Exodus 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 11:1; 14:2, 27, 29, 36; Deuteronomy 1:27; Jeremiah 2:29; Psalm 106:25). In this Gospel, it is usually Pharisees who grumble about Jesus eating with sinners (5:30; 7:34; 15:1), but here "when they saw it, they all murmured."
"He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner" (v. 7b). Just as Zacchaeus exposed himself to ridicule by climbing a tree, so Jesus exposes himself to criticism by visiting Zacchaeus' house.
VERSE 8: HALF OF MY GOODS I GIVE TO THE POOR
8Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give (Greek: didomi) to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore (Greek: apodidomi) four times as much."
"Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give (didomi) to the poor" (v. 8a). Jesus asks nothing but hospitality of Zacchaeus, but Zacchaeus volunteers to give half of his wealth to the poor and to make fourfold restitution to anyone whom he has defrauded. This exceeds Torah requirements (Exodus 22:1-4; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Zacchaeus does not make this offer to win Jesus' approval, but to show his gratitude.
"If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore (apodidomi) four times as much" (v. 8b). However, it is uncertain that Zacchaeus has defrauded anyone. Scholars are divided on this point, and we have no way of knowing whether he is or is not guilty of defrauding anyone. If Zacchaeus is, indeed, guilty of substantial fraud, his offer of fourfold restitution will impoverish him.
VERSES 9-10: TO SEEK OUT AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST
9Jesus said to him, "Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost."
"Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham" (v. 9). As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus has been an outsider, a social leper. Jesus now brings him inside again, declaring him to be a "son of Abraham" –– just has he has pronounced the woman crippled with a spirit of infirmity a "daughter of Abraham" (13:16).
Jesus does not save Zacchaeus in isolation, but declares, "salvation has come to this house." Zacchaeus' salvation benefits his family and his community.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (v. 10). We dare not judge any person hopeless. Whether we are murderers, terrorists, racists, or rapists, Christ seeks to save us all.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Bock, Darrell L., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Luke, Vol. 3 (Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, 1994)
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Diers, Herman, Lectionary Bible Studies, "The Year of Luke," Pentecost 2, Study Book
Edwards, O. C., Jr., and Taylor, Gardner C., Proclamation 2: Pentecost 3, Series C
Evans, Craig A., New International Biblical Commentary: Luke (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1990)
Gilmour, S. MacLean & Scherer, Paul, The Interpreter's Bible, Volume 8. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952)
Green, Joel B., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997)
Johnson, Luke Timothy, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991)
Nickle, Keith F., Preaching the Gospel of Luke (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000)
Nolland, John, Word Biblical Commentary: Luke 18:35 –– 24:53, Vol. 35C (Dallas: Word Books, 1993)
Ringe, Sharon H., Westminster Bible Companion, Luke (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press)
Sloyan, Gerard S., and Kee, Howard Clark, Proclamation: Pentecost 3, Series C
Stein, Robert H., The New American Commentary: Luke (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992)
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