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ZacchÆus. Parable of the Pounds. Journey to Jerusalem.
C Luke XIX. 1–28.
c 1 And he entered and was passing through Jericho. [This was about one week before the crucifixion. Jericho is about seven miles from the Jordan and about seventeen and a half from Jerusalem.] 2 And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. [See p. 76. It is probable that Zacchæus was a sub-contractor under some Roman knight who had bought the privilege of collecting taxes at Jericho, or perhaps the privilege of all Judæa. As the Jordan separated between the provinces of Judæa and Peræa, and as Jericho was the border city between these two provinces, the custom duties of the place were apt to be considerable. The famous balm of Gilead was cultivated in Peræa, and probably added considerably to the trade which passed through Jericho. Herod the Great had raised Jericho to opulence, and to be rich in such a city was no small matter. Zacchæus had not consented to become a social outcast without reaping his reward.] 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. [Jericho had been filled with reports about Jesus, and great excitement existed among the people. Zacchæus shared this excitement.] 4 And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. [This tree differs from the sycamine, and grows only in those parts of Palestine where the climate is warmest. It is the wild fig, and because of its low trunk and spreading branches it is very easy to climb. The sycamore which grows along our streams is the “buttonwood,” and is in no way related to the fig family.] 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house. [This is the only instance where Jesus invited himself to be any man's guest. He knew the feeling of Zacchæus toward him as well as he knew his name, and hence had no doubt as to his welcome. Jesus says, “I must.” Love constrained him to pause in Jericho that he might save the house of Zacchæus.] 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. [Glad that he had obtained not only the wished-for sight of Jesus, but a favor which he had not dared to hope for. To be thus honored of the Messiah was balm indeed to the outcast's heart.] 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner. [See pp. 349 and 499. The “all” in this case did not include Jesus' disciples. Jesus was a constant disappointment to those who were seeking to make him an earthly king and who therefore desired him to manifest a kingly pride.] 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold. [Zacchæus stood to give emphasis and publicity to his words. He does not mean that he is in the habit of giving half his goods to the poor, but that he does so now, immediately, on the spot, without delay. He does not merely promise to do so hereafter, or to make such a provision in his will. The laws of restoration in cases of theft or fraud will be found at Ex. xxii. 1–4; Num. v. 7. The proposition of Zacchæus to restore fourfold suggests that the bulk of his wealth had not been gained in dishonest ways, for if so he would not have been able to make such a restitution.] 9 And Jesus said unto him, To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. [The visit of Jesus had converted Zacchæus and brought salvation to his house. Though as yet Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. xv. 24), and was not proclaiming 564salvation to the Gentiles, yet he could consistently receive Zacchæus, for, though an outcast publican, he had not so forfeited his sonship in Abraham as to bar him from this right. He was one of the “lost sheep,” the very class to which Jesus was sent.] 11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear. [The opening words show that the parable which follows was spoken in the house of Zacchæus. So far as the record shows, this was the first time in his ministry that Jesus ever approached Jerusalem with a crowd. By thus approaching Jerusalem with a multitude it seemed to the people that Jesus was consenting to be crowned. And they were filled with those dreams and expectations which a few days later resulted in the triumphal entry. All things pointed to a crisis, and the people were eagerly looking for honors and rewards under the new ruler. Jesus corrected these false views by a parable which showed that there must be patient waiting and faithful work before there could be any season of reward.] 12 A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. [Those present were looking for the crowning of Jesus at Jerusalem, but he was to ascend into that far country called heaven and was there to receive the kingdom of the earth ( Acts ii. 32, 33; Matt. xxviii. 18), and his return in earthly majesty is yet to take place—I. Cor. xi. 26. 13 And he called ten servants of his, and gave them ten pounds, and said unto them, Trade ye herewith till I come. [To each of the servants he gave a crown, which was equal to about seventeen dollars of our money. It was a paltry sum for a nobleman and suggests a state of poverty and humiliation such as would give small incentive to any to remain faithful to his service.] 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, We will not that this man reign over us. [In addition to the servants, this nobleman had citizens, or subjects who owed him respect and reverence pending the confirmation of his kingdom, and 565homage and obedience after that confirmation. But their hatred of him led them to oppose his confirmation, saying, “We will not,” etc. These citizens represented the Jews, and Theophylact well observes how near the Jews came to repeating these very words of rejection when they said to Pilate, “We have no king but Cæsar . . . Write not, The King of the Jews.”] 15 And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. 16 And the first came before him, saying, Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more. [Thus Jesus shall call us to account for our stewardship (II. Cor. v. 10), and some, despite the long absence of their Lord, and the rebellion of the citizens, will be found to have been faithful. As to this servant's answer Grotius says (comparing it with I. Cor. xv. 10), “He modestly attributes this to his lord's money, and not to his own work.”] 17 And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. [Thus by small faithfulness we are proved worthy of great trust (II. Cor. iv. 17). We should note that while the bounty is royal, yet it is proportionate. It suggests the difference in estate between the nobleman who departed and the king who returned.] 18 And the second came, saying, Thy pound, Lord, hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said unto him also, Be thou also over five cities. [The faithful servants are promoted to be rulers (II. Tim. ii. 1, 2). The nobleman, having been of low estate himself, could sympathize with his servants and delight in promoting them—Phil. ii. 7.] 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin [Having no banks in which to store money, such as we have, the men of Palestine usually concealed it. At the present time the people of that land are accustomed to bury their money in the ground within their houses]: 21 for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which 566thou layedst not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow. [He impudently criticizes his lord, saying that he was one hard to please and one who expected others to do all the work and let him reap all the gain. The injustice of his criticism had just been exposed beforehand by the king's treatment of the two preceding servants. This servant represents those who make the labors and difficulties of the Christian life an excuse for doing nothing.] 22 He saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow; 23 then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest? [The king patiently grants for argument's sake all that is urged, but shows that even so, the conduct of this servant could not be justified. Thus no argument can justify the sinner who contends against God. The word here translated “bank” means the table of the money-changer and is so translated at Matt. xxi. 12; Mark xi. 15, and John ii. 15. It would appear from this passage that the money-changers were willing to borrow and pay some rate of interest. The bank, therefore, was not a thing incorporated and watched by the government, but merely an individual with whom money might be secure or not, according to his personal honesty. Our present banking system has been the slow growth of many centuries. The lesson taught is that we should work with others if we have not self-confidence enough to work alone.] 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath ten pounds. 25 And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds. 26 I say unto you, that unto every one which hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him. [See p. 331. The meaning here is that every one who makes use of what he has shall increase his powers, a rule which applies to all the affairs of life.] 27 But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them 567bring hither, and slay them before me. [A reference in the first instance to the Jews who were citizens of Christ's kingdom and who were justly destroyed for rejecting him when he ascended his throne. A reference in the second instance to all the inhabitants of the globe who are all in his kingdom and who shall be destroyed at his coming if they have rejected him. It is a fearful thing to contemplate the destruction of sinners, but it is more fearful to think of sin, rebellion and uncleanness being tolerated forever.] 28 And when he had thus spoken, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem. [The crowd had paused, waiting for Jesus, and he now leads on toward Jerusalem.] 568
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