Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
‘And he entered and was passing through Jericho.’
Meanwhile Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho on the way, for He had another appointment there. Another man was blind and needed to see. His name was Zacchaeus.
‘And he was rich.’
These words speak volumes. He had plied his evil trade successfully and had creamed off large amounts of money from the helpless people around. Many were the grudges that would be held against him, and great would be the hatred in which he was held. We can imagine people’s total surprise therefore when later they heard the knock on the door and found a collector of taxes bringing them some money back. In those days that was unheard of.
‘And he was rich.’ In the light of what we have seen before of the teaching of Jesus it is being made clear that he was an unlikely candidate for conversion. He was one of those who would find it hard to enter under the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 18:24). And on top of it he was a traitor, an outcast, and no longer accepted as a son of Abraham. Why, it would require the impossible!
The Transformation And Salvation Of An Outcast (19:2-10).
In direct contrast with the rich ruler is another man of status. He is a chief public officer. But in contrast with the rich ruler his eyes are opened, and he gladly gives much of his wealth to the poor, and puts right all the wrong he has done. In the chiasmus of the Section he parallels the steward who used his lord’s wealth wisely, and, following the thoughts on using money wisely in preparation for the eternal future in the everlasting dwellings (Luke 16:1-13), himself follows the same pattern.
a Behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus, and he was a chief public officer (Luke 19:2 a).
b And he was rich (Luke 19:2 b).
c He sought to see Jesus who he was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was short in stature (Luke 19:3).
d He ran on before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way (Luke 19:4).
e When Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
d He hurried, and came down, and received him joyfully (Luke 19:6).
c When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He is gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7).
b Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have wrongfully exacted anything of any man, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8).
a Jesus said to him, “Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
Note how in ‘a’ Zacchaeus was a chief public officer, a totally unscrupulous man, an outcast, and in the parallel he has become a ‘son of Abraham’, one who is accepted, for the lost has been saved. In ‘b’ he was very rich, and in the parallel he disposes of large amounts of his riches to the poor. In ‘c’ he was short of stature, and in the parallel he was a sinner (short on righteousness). In ‘d’ he ran and climbed up the tree, and in the parallel he hurried and came down. And centrally Jesus came to stay with him.
‘And he sought to see Jesus who he was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was short in stature.’
Zacchaeus suffered from being short of stature. It is surprising how many short men fight their way to success. It is as if their fight against being short spurs them on to great things. But later in Luke 19:8 this is paralleled by the thought that he was ‘a sinner’. He was not only short on stature, he was short on goodness. He was a public outcast.
Thus when he wanted to see Jesus he discovered that it was not possible, because he could not see over the crowds who surrounded Jesus. And he would certainly not have sough to push his way through the crowds. Many a member of that crowd would be only too pleased to avenge himself for wrongs done to him by this man, and the moment that they saw who it was, alone and unguarded, they would have know what to do.
‘And he ran on before, and climbed up into a fig-mulberry tree to see him, for he was to pass that way.’
So he ran on ahead, and found a fig-mulberry tree along Jesus’ route. From there he knew that he would be able to see Jesus, remain safe, and, with any luck, escape without anyone knowing that he was there. Fig-mulberry trees are well leafed, large and stout, and yet easy to climb. Herodian Jericho was spaciously laid out and is known to have contained a number of trees.
‘And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” ’
We can imagine his horror, therefore, when Jesus stopped below the tree and looked up. He was totally exposed to public view. There can be little doubt that some sharp eyed person would have spotted him a little earlier, and the moment that he did so the word would have spread around the crowd, so that Jesus would already have gathered who and what he was, and what his name was. But this was not what he had been hoping for, or expecting. He knew what a Jewish prophet would think of him.
But the horror turned to joy when he heard what Jesus had to say. For Jesus, Who knew his heart, informed him that He wished to eat with him in his house. All would know the house. It was a place that no good man would enter except under duress. But Jesus was not just a good man. He was the One Who had come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). And this day He was seeking a particularly wayward sheep, and was willing to go ‘into the wilderness’ in order to do so.
‘And he hurried, and came down, and received him joyfully.’
Something happened that day in Zacchaeus’ life. For he not only humbled himself and ‘came down’, he also received Jesus into his house, and did it joyfully. It was as though a great burden was lifted from his life. He was transformed by the presence of Jesus, and all the hatred and greed and covetousness and bitterness fell away, and he became a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).
‘And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He is gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner.” ’
But all that the crowds saw was this rapacious and evil man, and that Jesus had gone in to stay with him in his house of crime. And they murmured among themselves. Something was wrong here. Jesus seemed to be putting himself on the side of the sinners. Did He have no thought for all the people who had been wronged by this man? For this man was not just your normal sinner. From the human point of view he was a great sinner. He was a traitor and unscrupulous, and there seemed no good in him. But what they could not see was what Jesus could see, the work that was going on in Zacchaeus’ heart. Had it not been for that Jesus would never have been in that house. But when there was a lost sheep to be found, the Shepherd would go anywhere.
‘And Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I am giving to the poor, and if I have wrongfully exacted anything of any man, I restore fourfold.”
Unknown to the crowd, inside that house a miracle was taking place. Earlier when Jesus had been questioned about who could be saved He had spoken of God doing the impossible. No doubt all would have seen as impossible the conversion and transformation of this evil man who had caused his people such harm. But this day God had done the impossible. For this man, who all his life had coldly calculated how he could extract as much as possible out of people by fair means or foul, suddenly became a giver. He now began calculating what he should give back to the people whom he had so systematically robbed. And he was going to restore fourfold. This was an admission of guilt. In the case of theft restitution had to be double (Exodus 22:7; Exodus 22:9). But in the case of sheep (Exodus 22:1), and in especially heinous cases (2 Samuel 12:6), restoration had to be fourfold. Josephus also speaks of a fourfold fine for thieves (Antiquities Luke 16:1-3).
And not only would he be restoring what he had stolen from people, but he would then give half his goods to the poor (the Rabbis would have recommended a fifth). By the time he was finished he would no longer be so hugely rich.
‘Zacchaeus stood.’ The idea would seem to be of a special announcement. The ‘behold’ might suggest a spur of the moment decision. But he would have been thinking of it all through the meal. Jesus’ presence had affected him profoundly. ‘Am giving.’ This may suggest that he has already given instructions to his clerks to work out who was owed what.
Here then was the evidence of genuine repentance. Here is the explanation of Jesus’ presence in his house. For we need to recognise that Jesus did not just mix with any tax collectors, He mixed with those who were interested in His message. He did not meet with them to talk about the races, or to learn about their jobs. He met with them to talk about God.
‘And Jesus said to him, “Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” ’
Jesus recognised his true repentance and his desire to be forgiven his sins, and declared that that day salvation had come to his house. God had accepted his repentance, and change of heart and life. He was forgiven. Like the public servant in the parable, from now on he could begin to live a new life, knowing that he was acceptable to God. For this day he had shown, whatever had been true in the past, that he was again a true son of Abraham, one who had been lost and was now found. This indicated that in God’s eyes he was now restored to the fellowship of Israel, was once more safely within the covenant, and was seen as one of the true people of God.
The fact that salvation had come to the house did not mean that automatically everyone living there was saved. It meant that the opportunity of salvation was openly presented to them. But each must respond and believe. For in the end the Gospel could divide households (Luke 12:51-53). This concept of salvation was a further indication of the arrival of the acceptable year of the Lord which would lead up to the final consummation.
“For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
And then He described Himself and His saving mission in terms of the parables of the shepherd and the woman with the lost coin in Luke 15:1-10, which in the Section chiasmus was in parallel with the verses that now follow. The emphasis on ‘saving’ indicates an especial reference to the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus is present to deliver. So this section, which begins with the parables describing the search of God for the lost, is approaching its conclusion with an example of one who was sought and found.
Here we have a clear application to Himself of the title of Son of Man in terms of One Who saves. It was an indication that He was the Messiah of the end times. In Daniel 7:13-14 He does it by coming to the throne of God on behalf of a people who along with Him are being trodden down by the Beasts, and becoming their great Deliverer with power and authority over all things, for salvation is from the Lord. And here He does it, having come as the Great Deliverer, by seeking and saving the lost. We can compare the previous use of the title Son of Man as the One Who has authority on earth to forgive sins in Luke 5:24. As the Ruler of His people He has jurisdiction over them, and will search them out and save them.
‘And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the Kingly Rule of God was immediately to appear.’
The loose connection confirms that this passage is attached to the previous one, but is vague enough to otherwise give us no information as to when it was given. It is clear, however, that we are to see it as spoken just prior to His approach to Jerusalem in order to correct the wrong impression that His arrival there will result in the final appearance of the everlasting Kingly Rule of God on earth (a belief that the Apostles clung to until the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - Acts 1:6).
It is understandable that, with His constant references to the importance of His approach to Jerusalem (Luke 9:31; Luke 13:33; Luke 18:31), together with His no doubt clearly revealed urgency about that approach, and the unwillingness of His followers to believe the worst, they had gained the wrong impression about it, in spite of His efforts to ensure that it was otherwise. They had probably interpreted His statements about His coming death and resurrection metaphorically in terms of the hard earthly battle that lay ahead whereby He would overcome the opposition of the Jewish leaders, seize Jerusalem, and commence the process which would result in final triumph. In principle they were right. Spiritually that was what would happen as Acts reveals. It was on how this was to be brought about, and the timescale involved, that they had got it totally wrong. This parable was an attempt to correct at least part of that error.
So He stresses His departure to a ‘far country’ to receive His Kingship, the fact that His absence will be sufficient for someone to multiply an investment manyfold, and meanwhile that there will be attempts by some to prevent the establishment of His Kingly Rule. It makes it clear therefore that His appearance as King will not be within the too near future.
The Parable of The Receiving of the Kingdom, the Testing Out of The Servants As To Their Suitability For High Position, and The Fate of Rebels (19:11-27)..
We come now to the end of this sixth section of the Gospel. It appropriately ends with the picture of the one who goes away and returns, and the response that he meanwhile expects. That is the theme of the whole section (see introduction to the section), readiness for the coming of the Son of Man. In the parable we have here depicted the one who goes into a far country, who provides ten coins for his servants to trade with, one of which is ‘lost’ for the duration, which results in two servants being shown in a good light and the rebuke of the third. In the parallel passage in the Section chiasmus (see introduction to the Section) are the parables of the shepherd who goes into the far wilderness to seek his sheep, the woman who has ten coins, and the parable of the two who are revealed finally in a good light (the father and second son), and the third who is rebuked (the first son).
This present parable is partly based on the actual historical incident when, on the death of Herod the Great, Archelaus, one of his surviving sons, went to Rome seeking to receive the authority to rule over Palestine and the right to rule as king. But because of their dislike for his ways the people sent a deputation to Caesar opposing his appointment. In the event he was appointed as ethnarch, with the promise of kingship if he proved worthy, and was only given authority over part of what he had hoped for. He was not very pleased, and rather foolishly, in view of the fact that he was on probation, behaved abominably. In the end he was deposed and lost all, being replaced by Roman governors. Jesus may well have been reminded of these facts by the sight of the splendid palace and aqueduct that Herod and Archelaus had built in Jericho.
However, this should not affect the interpretation of the parable for the main point of the parable has nothing to do with Archelaus. What happened to him just suggested the idea. The themes of the parable are the departure of the one who was noble to receive his kingship, the opposition of rebels who rejected this king and are subsequently punished on his return, the appointment of servants to look after minor interests in order to test their faithfulness with a view to future governorship (to replace the rebels), the successful appointment and return of the king after a long period, and his final response to the servants whom he has been testing out, of whom one failed, while all of them are called on to give account, being then rewarded with suitable positions.
The parable bears a superficial similarity to a number of others but is sufficiently different not to be simply a reproduction of any one of them, except in so far as any preacher makes use of a good illustration to suit different purposes. The one that is seen as most similar (Matthew 25:14-30) is in fact based on a totally differentconcept. For in Matthew the parable depicts a man who is concerned that his business interests are well looked after while he is away, and hands them all over to three servants, while Luke’s story is to do with a king seeking confirmation of his appointment from his overlord, quelling rebellion and trying out the suitability of certain servants to be governors in his kingdom. Various details are repeated in both simply because they could apply in both cases, but the subtle differences, which are apt in each case, but would have been out of place in the other, rule out the idea that one has been altered up from the other. It is simply that the same storyteller had told two stories based on separate plots, while utilising and fitting in common material. Any other view of them is quite frankly purely based on individual unproven opinion, and as usual all attempts to show otherwise have contradicted each other, with different opinions cancelling each other out. All founder on the fact of the unlikelihood of the early church actually deliberately changing the words of Jesus, especially in view of the number of eyewitnesses around, and on the unlikelihood that if they had done so we would have them in any palatable form today. The distortions of the apocryphal Gospels make quite clear what happened when men actually did begin to play around with the tradition. We are wise therefore to see this parable as standing on its own foundation as a genuine and separate parable of Jesus.
Analysis of the Passage.
a As they heard these things, He added and spoke a parable, because He was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the Kingly Rule of God was immediately to appear (Luke 19:11).
b He said therefore, “A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (Luke 19:12).
c He called ten servants of his, and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘You trade with this until I come’ (Luke 19:13).
d But his citizens hated him, and sent a deputation after him, saying, ‘We will not that this man reign over us’ (Luke 19:14).
e And it about that, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading (Luke 19:15).
f The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more’ (Luke 19:16).
g And he said to him, ‘Well done, you good servant. Because you were found faithful in a very little, you have authority over ten cities’ (Luke 19:17).
f The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, Lord, has made five minas’. He said to him also, ‘You be also over five cities’ (Luke 19:18-19).
e Another came, saying, ‘Lord, behold, here is your mina, which I kept laid up in a neckcloth, for I feared you, because you are an austere man. You take up what you do not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow’ (Luke 19:20-21).
d He says to him, ‘Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I am an austere man, taking up what I laid not down, and reaping what I did not sow, then why did you not give my money into the bank, and I at my coming would have required it with interest?’ (Luke 19:22-23).
c And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take away from him the mina, and give it to him who has ten minas’. And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas’ (Luke 19:24-25).
b ‘I say to you, that to every one who has will be given, but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away from him’ (Luke 19:26).
a ‘But these my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me’ (Luke 19:27).
Note that in ‘a’ the expectation was of the coming of the Kingly Rule of God, and in the parallel the king in the parable exercises a similar kingship by destroying those who had sought to prevent him receiving it. In ‘b’ the nobleman goes to receive his kingship, and in the parallel those who ‘have’ will be given. In ‘c’ ten minas are given to ten servants, and in the parallel there is emphasis on the ten minas connected with the first servant. In ‘d’ the king is hated, and in the parallel he is seen as fearful. In ‘e’ he calls on his servants to give account of their trading, and in the parallel one has proved faithless and has not traded. In ‘f’ one has used his mina and made ten minas, and in the parallel another has used his mina and made five minas. Central in ‘g’ are the congratulations and reward for the ten mina success.
The Purpose of the Parable.
‘He said therefore, “A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”’
The stress on ‘far country’ is an indication that they must not expect His immediate return, and that His Kingship will not be granted to Him in Jerusalem. Nor are they likely to interpret it as meaning that He will seek to obtain Caesar’s recognition. That possibility had been rejected during the temptations that opened His ministry (Luke 4:5-7), nor could His teaching possibly have given that impression. For all knew that when the Messiah came He would receive His authority from God alone. So by the parable He was making it clear that they were not to see Him as immediately setting up a throne on Jerusalem under God (excited men get strange ideas), but as departing to God for the purpose of establishing His Kingship ‘in a far country’, in Heaven itself, from where He will eventually return as He has already told them (Luke 17:24).
“And he called ten servants of his, and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘You trade with this until I come’.”
Meanwhile it is made clear that His servants will have a job to do. They are being left with responsibilities that they are to fulfil. ‘Ten servants’ indicates ‘a number of servants’ (a regular meaning of ‘ten’), thus leaving open who is being referred to. And to each of them is given one mina with which to exercise their functions until He returns. The point about this was that they all had an equal job to do, each in their different ways, with a not very large sum. A mina was about three months wages. While therefore a reasonable amount it was not large. The idea was therefore clearly in order to test out the servants without it being too costly. And all who heard His parable could see themselves as equally entrusted with the equivalent of a mina. None need feel overwhelmed, and none need feel left out. Each was to work with what he had been given.
“But his citizens hated him, and sent a deputation after him, saying, ‘We will not that this man reign over us.’ ”
However, there were others who rejected completely the idea of His rule over them. And they sent a deputation after Him, basically informing God that they did not want Him as King. In this we see the activities of the religious authorities which would seek to prevent His Kingly Rule being established. Being very much what happened when Archelaus, on whose life the parable is based, went to Caesar, it is clearly an essential part of the story.
“And it came about that, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.”
But one day the King will return having received His Kingship. And in that day He will call on all His servants to give an account before Him of what they have achieved with what He had given them. This calling to account is clearly depicted elsewhere, both in parables of Jesus (Luke 12:35-48; Luke 20:9-16; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 25:14-46) and in the Apostolic letters (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; James 1:12; James 5:7-9). The subject of these parables was of such importance that we must surely assume that Jesus in fact gave a number of variations on these parables, varied in order to bring out different points, a few of which have been selected by the Gospel writers. This fact adequately explains both the similarities and differences between the parable here and that in Matthew 25:14-30. Any preacher of worth has done the same with his illustrations, as he seeks constantly to improve them and to use them to illustrate different points.
“And the first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ ”
The first servant who was brought before the King had a success story to unfold. With the mina he had been given he had traded and worked hard, and had produced ten minas. He had increased what he had been given tenfold.
“And he said to him, ‘Well done, you good servant. Because you were found faithful in a very little, you have authority over ten cities.’ ”
The King commended him, and told him that in view of his faithfulness in making such large profits with such a small amount of money he would be given authority over the same number of cities as he had ended up with in minas. The suggestion that such a response is not likely in response to so small an achievement simply overlooks the king’s aim and problems, and must be rejected. For the King had already known that when he returned a number of his present governors would have to be replaced, for it is they who would have taken their stand against him. So to test out ten likely candidates in a small way in order to see if they were suitable as replacements, without making any promises and before he has actually take control of his kingdom, was a very wise and practical move. Such methods are regularly used in big business without revealing their purpose.
“And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, Lord, has made five minas.’ ”
The second servant came and claimed that he had made five minas.
“And he said to him also, ‘You be also over five cities.’ ”
The King responded by setting him over five cities, one for each mina. The principle of reward was now established and would apply to all except ‘the other one’.
“And the other came, saying, ‘Lord, behold, here is your mina, which I kept laid up in a neckcloth, for I feared you, because you are an austere man. You take up that which you do not lay down, and you reap that which you did not sow.’ ”
But one of the servants came who, on receiving the mina, had begrudged doing what the King wanted. However, he did not dare tell the King that, so he pretended that he had been terrified of losing it because of what the King might do. He informed him that he had gone away and had wrapped it in a neckcloth or scarf, putting it somewhere where it would be safe. For he had known that the King was a severe man who did not accept failure easily, and indeed who expected to always receive more than he gave. By blaming the King he thought that he would get away with it. But his very statement gave him away. It revealed his attitude towards the King, and suggested that in fact his argument was just an excuse and that the truth was that he had just not bothered. For had he acted on what he stated that he believed he would have been the one who worked the hardest.
The contrast with Matthew’s separate story is interesting. In Matthew a huge sum had been entrusted. Thus the man with only one talent had buried it in order to ensure its safety. He knew that if he lost that he was done for. There was no way that he could replace it. Here the sum was not very large and therefore it was not put in quite so safe a place. He would not have liked to lose it, but the loss would not have been all that difficult to remedy. It was just not worth burying. In the two separate parables Jesus is bringing out the difference between the idea here, that we are all, even the least of us, given our opportunity to serve, and that in Matthew where the thought was on the preciousness and importance of what was entrusted to the servants. As you read both parables everything fits into place in each, but much would have been out of place in the other.
‘The other came.’ To suggest that this indicates that originally there were only three servants is totally unnecessary. It in fact confirms the opposite. It indicates the other type of servant to the ones already mentioned, including the seven unmentioned who would be treated in the same way. It indicates the ‘odd one out’. Having given two examples the principles of reward have been made clear. To go through all ten servants would simply have been boring, something that Jesus never was. Now all that was required was to mention ‘the other type of servant’, and Jesus knew that the audience were in suspense waiting for ‘the other one’, the one who did not fall into line. (He was now the one that all the listeners were waiting to learn about). This was the one who was different and not like any of the others. He was the one who formed the contrast. We are probably expected to see that we know what happened to the other seven, they presumably paralleled the first two and were rewarded according to success. The only one who was not was ‘the other one’. Storywise, once the principle had been established, it was ‘the other one’, the one who did not fall into line who was the only other one worthy of mention.
Some, however, have rather argued that the article was simply a carry over from the Aramaic where we would expect the article even if it mean ‘another’, or that as Jesus had in mind to deal with only three He automatically said ‘the other one’ (the other one I am going to mention). Any of these interpretations is possible.
‘An austere man.’ One who was exacting and strict. The kind who wanted to get blood out of a stone. This was the servant’s view. It is exactly how many often wrongly see God. And this was why the servant had not fulfilled his duty. He had begrudged doing anything for this hard tyrant. He was as unlike the two who had joyfully fulfilled their responsibilities as it was possible to be.
“He says to him, ‘Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow, then why did you not give my money into the bank, and I at my coming would have required it with interest?’ ”
The King immediately spotted the weakness in his argument, and judged him on the basis of it, pointing out that he was judging him on the basis of his own words (compare Luke 12:3). In the end what a man says is evidence of what is in his heart (Luke 6:45; Matthew 12:34). It was not a matter of the servant having been called on to take great risks. The King recognised that he may not have been able to do much, but all he had had to do was put the money with bankers (those who sat at tables as money traders), who would then have paid good interest. With his master’s wellbeing in mind that would surely have been his obvious course. The problem was that he had not been concerned about his master’s interests. All he had thought of were his own interests and how undeserving his master was.
“And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take away from him the mina, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas.’ ”
The result of his failure was that he lost his mina, unlike the other two who have been mentioned. The minas, with their relatively small value, had been the King’s method of testing his servants. He was not so parsimonious that he took them back. (That is the difference between kings and businessmen). But he was not going to leave one with the servant who had been lazy. Note how in Luke 19:25 the other servant has been allowed to keep his ten minas as a reward for his faithful service. Having fulfilled their purpose the King allowed them to keep them as a reward, for he now had greater duties for them. The odd mina was then given to the servant who had been most efficient, as a symbol of his gratitude. This represented a typical kingly attitude. It was not worth his taking possession of it again, so he told his attendants to pass it to the one who most deserved it. Jesus wanted it known that God was not a miser. The comment of ‘those who stood by’, his attendants, was in order to bring out how abundantly the other servant had already been blessed for his faithfulness, for that is now the point of the summing up that follows.
It is significant that the failed servant is not punished in any other way. He was simply left with nothing, in the same condition as he had been right at the beginning. He had failed his test and was simply sent back to private citizenship having received what he deserved. Nothing. he has missed his opportunity to be a disciple. This in itself suggests that Jesus’ emphasis is different here from that in Matthew 25 where the emphasis was on judgment. In this parable the emphasis on judgment will follow shortly.
“I say to you, that to every one who has will be given, but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away from him. But these my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me.”
The significance of the situation is now summed up by the King. Those who ‘have’, because of their faithful service, will receive more. They will receive abundantly. God is no man’s debtor. Those who produce nothing will end up with nothing. Even his blessings will be taken from him. But those who are openly antagonistic will be judged, and judged severely. For the King’s enemies who rejected His rule would be finally destroyed. It may be that we are to sense here again Jesus’ awareness of what was going to happen to Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35). Apart from anything else it did not take too much prophetic instinct to recognise that the tension in Palestine could not go on for ever without something eventually sparking off a rebellion large enough to result in the downfall of Jerusalem. For He knew that in one way or another that was what the whole nation was working towards. And the fact that it lay heavy on His heart comes out in His constant repetition of the theme from now on (Luke 19:41-44; Luke 20:15-16; Luke 21:6; Luke 21:20-24; Luke 23:28-31).
However, it also represents the certainly of God’s final judgment, of which what happened to Jerusalem would only be the forerunner. It was necessary for those who were planning to kill Him to recognise that their behaviour would not go unpunished. So Jesus’ message, as so often, is to act as a spur to those who followed Him in order to serve, while at the same time being a warning to those whose presence was simply due to their antagonism against Him.
19. 28 ‘And when he had thus spoken, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem.’
Having attempted to put right the wrong ideas that His followers had, for Jesus was wary of any incidents that could be caused by too much excitement at this Passover time, Jesus then went on ahead of His followers, pressing on towards Jerusalem. He knew that His hour had come (John 13:1). He was eager to begin His journey to the far country, ready for His final return.
‘And it came to about that, when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,’
Coming along the mountain road from Jericho Jesus approaches Bethphage and Bethany, two villages on the outskirts of Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives, the latter being on its lower slopes. The double mention of the Mount of Olives (see also Luke 19:37) indicates the significance that Luke sees in this. Possibly he has Zechariah 14:4 in mind, where the expectation was that the Lord Himself would appear on the Mount of Olives. And from there Jesus sent two disciples to find an ass’s colt on which no man had ever ridden, which He has presumably arranged with its owners to make use of, or alternately which He knew was for hire and could be commandeered by a Prophet.
Bethphage means ‘house of unripe figs’ and was a hamlet between Bethany, and Jerusalem. We learn from elsewhere that it marked the limit of Jerusalem proper for ritual purposes. Thus it is being emphasised that Jesus enters from the edges of Jerusalem, moving on to its religious centre as He takes possession of it in the name of the Lord. It is a ‘holy’ journey, the purposeful journey of One set apart totally to God, and now offering Himself up to God. Bethany (‘house of dates’) is probably El Azariyeh (named after Lazarus), two miles south east of Jerusalem, and on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. It was two miles/three kilometres outside Jerusalem. It is mainly mentioned in order to make the connection with the Mount of Olives, but is possibly also mentioned in order to indicate the whereabouts of tiny Bethphage (which is also unidentifiable to us).
Jesus Rides Into Jerusalem, And Reveals Himself As God’s Only Son, Which Finally Results in His Description of His Triumphant Return (19:29-21:38).
The Section may be analysed as follows:
a After initial preparations Jesus rides into Jerusalem in triumph on a colt revealing Himself as the Messianic King. If the people had not welcomed Him the very stones would have cried out (Luke 19:29-40).
b Jesus weeps over a Jerusalem which will be desolated, thus revealing Himself as the Messianic Judge. Not one stone will be left upon another (Luke 19:41-44).
c Jesus enters the Temple, in which Israel trusts, revealing Himself as its Lord, and as God’s Cleanser, of the Temple, as a warning against the unworthiness of the chief priests, who have forfeited their authority, and of the state of their Temple which is subject to condemnation as a Den of Robbers, thus revealing Himself as the Messianic Purger (Luke 19:45-46).
d The chief priests and scribes and elders seek to destroy Jesus but could not, revealing that they lack any real authority (Luke 19:47-48).
e Jesus is challenged as to His authority and reveals their inability to judge levels of authority, because they are fearful of being stoned (Luke 20:1-8).
f The parable of the vineyard - Jesus is revealed as the only Son and the Head Cornerstone, the One in supreme authority. He is the Great Cornerstone on which His people will be established, but on which His antagonists will stumble (Luke 20:9-18).
e Jesus challenges His questioners use of Caesar’s image, and reveals that their authority comes only from Caesar (Luke 20:19-26).
d The Sadducees seek to undermine Jesus’ teaching, but could not, and have to admit His authority (Luke 20:27-40).
c Jesus as David’s Lord, the Messiah, Who has come with authority from God, is contrasted with the unworthiness of the Scribes who claim that authority and yet desolate others, for they will receive the greater condemnation in that they have forfeited their authority. They in turn are contrasted with the poor widow (Luke 20:41 to Luke 21:4).
b Jerusalem is to be desolated. Not one stone will be left upon another (Luke 21:5-7).
a After initial preparations Jesus will come back in triumph to the world (Luke 21:8-36).
“But you, watch at every season, making supplication, that you may prevail to escape all these things that will come about, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
Note that the section commences in ‘a’ with the ride in triumph into Jerusalem and in the parallel it ends in the return in triumph to the world. In ‘b’ Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, not one stone will be left on another and in the parallel Jerusalem is to be devastated, and not one stone left on another. In ‘c’ Jesus as God’s Messiah cleanses the Temple as an indication of the unworthiness of the Jewish leaders, and in the parallel He demonstrates that David had declared Him to be the Messiah, and that the Scribes are unworthy. In ‘d’ the Jewish leadership conspire to destroy Jesus but could not, and in the parallel they seek to undermine His teaching, but could not. In ‘e’ Jesus is challenged concerning His authority, and in the parallel He challenges whose authority the leaders are under. In ‘f’ He reveals His unique sonship and the unworthiness of the present Jewish leadership.
After Initial Preparations Jesus Rides Into Jerusalem In Triumph On A Colt (19:29-40).
Jesus here deliberately fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 (Matthew 21:4) by riding into Jerusalem on an ass’s colt, and there He is greeted by the crowds. Contrary to what at first sight seems to be the case He is welcomed as the wonder-working prophet of Galilee (Luke 19:37-38), for none are at the time completely aware of the full significance of it (John 12:16), and the cries of the people are those which normally greeted pilgrims entering Jerusalem and approaching the Temple for the Feast. although no doubt all the louder because of Who He was. But there is certainly a significance there, which is rightly read into it by the Pharisees who are concerned about its implications. When, however, they expostulate at what is happening Jesus assures them that His entry is so significant that if His followers were silent, the very stones would cry out.
Why then was His entry so significant? Firstly it was because it was a declaration to Jerusalem, and to the whole world that He was here as the One promised in the Old Testament, the One Who had come from God, and was God’s chosen One. He was revealing Himself as the promised Messiah, the promised King, but making it clear that He was not One Who had come in order to enforce His rule on men by force of arms, but One Who, as in Zechariah 9:9, had come in gentleness and humility in order to win men to Himself. And yet at the same time it was a quiet demand for recognition. It was one of those moments when all are challenged as to what their response will be. Had the eyes of Jerusalem been open they would have fully welcomed Him in these terms (even the stones recognised it).
Secondly it was because to His followers He was making clear that while He was the Messiah, He would not take up His position by force of arms. He wanted them to recognise that He was here to conquer through His words. Thus when His assault on Jerusalem began it was by preaching in the Temple, not by raising an insurrection. And it was an indication that once He was gone, they too must go forward with His word. It was a dampening down of wrong expectations about the Kingly Rule of God (see Luke 19:11).
The supreme courage of what Jesus did should not be overlooked. He knew that the Jewish leaders were waiting in Jerusalem for Him to arrive so that they could arrest Him and seal His fate. And yet He entered Jerusalem in as public a way as possible, so that none could doubt that He was there. And He did it as a last acted out prophecy in which He proclaimed His kingship, and His fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9), plain for all to see. He was proclaiming Who He was and why He had come, even though He knew that He would have to die for it. And yet in spite of the cries that welcomed Him even His own disciples did not fully recognise what He had done until after His resurrection (John 12:16). Nevertheless it caused a huge stir, and produced a sense of expectation, even though there was divided opinion as to what that expectation was.
It is noteworthy that in the Section chiasmus above this coming of Jesus into Jerusalem is in parallel with the coming of the Son of Man in glory (Luke 21:28). Both were to be declarations as to Who He was, the first in an appeal of compassionate love, the second in a revelation of total power. And central to both is that He is God’s only beloved Son (Luke 20:9-18).
Analysis of the passage:
a When He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples (Luke 19:29).
b Saying, “Go your way into the village over against you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no man ever yet sat. Loose him, and bring him” (Luke 19:30).
c “And if any one ask you, ‘Why do you loose him?’, thus shall you say, ‘The Lord has need of him’ ” (Luke 19:31).
d And those who were sent went away, and found even as He had said to them (Luke 19:32).
c And as they were loosing the colt, its owners said to them, “Why do you loose the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him” (Luke 19:33-34).
b And they brought him to Jesus, and they threw their garments on the colt, and set Jesus on it. And as He went, they spread their garments in the way (Luke 19:35-36).
a As He was now drawing near, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” ’ (Luke 19:37-38).
Note that in ‘a’ they draw near to the Mount of Olives, and in the parallel the same occurs. In ‘b’ they are told to go and bring the colt, and in the parallel they bring it. In ‘c’ they are asked why they are loosing the colt and told what they reply, and in the parallel they do as they are told. In ‘d’ they discover it to be exactly as the Lord has said.
‘Saying, “Go your way into the village over against you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no man ever yet sat. Loose him, and bring him.” ’
The ‘village over against you’ is presumably Bethphage, which may also explain why its name is mentioned, and there they were to find an untried colt, which would be with its mother. They were then to loose it and bring it to Jesus. It is possible that the mother ass especially was available for hire by travellers. Most would not want to try to ride an untried colt. The site at the edge of the city would be seen as suitable for the hire of such animals. In the event it would be expected that the mother ass would accompany the colt, if only to keep it from becoming too nervous (Matthew 21:7).
However Jesus’ intention to use the untried, unridden colt had religious significance (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7; 2 Samuel 6:3). It indicated either sacred use or use by royalty. Compare Genesis 49:11. There an ass’s colt which is tied up is connected with the coming King. And see also Zechariah 9:9 where Israel’s king comes to Jerusalem on an ass’s colt. Luke in fact takes up this aspect of things for he concentrates in his account on the kingly aspects of the entry. He wants us to know that Israel’s King is entering Jerusalem.
“And if any one ask you, ‘Why do you loose him?’, thus shall you say, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ ”
It may well be that He had already made an arrangement that He would collect it when He needed it and that whoever collected it would give a kind of password, ‘the Lord has need of him’. Or He may have been making use of the custom of ‘angaria’ under which a major religious figure was entitled to procure for himself the use of a means of transport for a period of time by a simple act of appropriation. We are in fact probably intended to see in the use of the title ‘Lord’ a deliberate indication that this was an unusual situation by which Jesus’ supreme authority is being revealed. The whole arrangement thus indicates that Jesus has a special significance in what He is about to do. So it may well be that the ass’s colt was offered for His free use as a major religious figure in accordance with the custom of angaria without previous arrangement.
‘And those who were sent went away, and found even as he had said to them.’
Not surprisingly those who went to collect the ass’s colt found everything exactly as Jesus had said. But its centrality in the chiasmus indicates that the detail of the collection, and the fact that it went smoothly, was seen as important. Again it emphasised the significance of what Jesus was doing, and that all was in accordance with His word. At this hour it was Jesus Who was in control.
‘And as they were loosing the colt, its owners said to them, “Why do you loose the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him”.’
Luke then tells us that the arrangements worked smoothly and were followed word for word. ‘Its owners.’ This may possibly confirm that the ass was available for hiring out (along with other asses) so that the business was jointly owned.
“The Lord has need of him.” This has been repeated twice for emphasis, underlying the importance that Luke sees in it. The One Who is Lord of all is exercising His authority.
‘And they brought him to Jesus, and they threw their garments on the colt, and set Jesus on it.’
The disciples then brought the colt to Jesus, threw their garments on it, and set Jesus on it. This was a further action indicating the royalty of the rider. We can compare this with 1 Kings 1:33 where a similar action precedes the crown prince’s coronation. The garments would be in order to enable a comfortable ride, but it may well be that one of the garments was put over the colt’s eyes so as to keep it from panicking while the process of mounting took place. A young, previously unridden, colt would be frisky.
Neither Luke nor Mark does not mention that it was an ass on which Jesus rode, but Matthew 21:2 stresses it. We must not underestimate this. The ass was looked on by the Jews as a noble beast. When kings rode in peace they regularly rode on an ass. Thus the prophecy, and Jesus’ action in riding on an ass, revealed Him as a King, but it also revealed that He came, not as a warrior on His war horse, but as the lowly Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He had not come as the kind of Messiah that most Jews were expecting.
‘And as he went, they spread their garments in the way.’
Garments were then spread in the path before the colt for Jesus to ride over. This was a regular way of showing honour to someone important. Rabbinic literature offers parallels, and Plutarch tells us that when Cato Minor left his troops they spread their clothes at his feet. This was a clear indication of the supreme importance of the rider and the honour in which He was held (see 2 Kings 9:13 where the same happened to Jehu). Such an action may indicate the right of the king to possess their possessions, or the idea may have been one of maintaining the ass’s purity, and preventing it being soiled by the common ground. But everything about the incident indicates its connection with the proclamation of royalty to those in the know.
In Luke 19:11 we were told that they were expecting that this particular time of entry of Jesus into Jerusalem would have Messianic consequences. This was an idea which Jesus had, however, dampened down. Perhaps they now began to hope that this might be it. But Jesus was going out of His way to make it clear that there was nothing warlike about it. He wanted it to be more the recognition of a king coming in peace than the proclamation of a warrior Messiah. He had come to Jerusalem with His message of Salvation as proclaimed through His words.
‘And as he was now drawing near, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen,’
We are reminded here that we must see what was happening in a twofold way. Firstly in the way that it was being taken by the disciples, as described here, and secondly in the way in which it was to be seen later. Luke is very much bringing out what would be seen later, that its King had entered Jerusalem in triumph. Thus the stress on its connection with the Mount of Olives.
But here the disciples are pictured in terms of thinking of His prophetic status and as the procession moved forward they praised God for the mighty works that He had done. Such mighty works are a theme of Luke (Luke 4:32-33; Luke 4:41; Luke 5:17; Luke 6:19; Luke 7:21-23; Luke 8:46; Luke 9:1; Luke 19:37; Acts 4:33; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:13; Acts 10:38). In the end they were rejoicing at the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for whatever purpose He intended, because they did believe that He was the One sent from God, while various elements of the crowds probably had various views of what He intended to do. All, however, apart from the Pharisees, saw Him as One Who, in one way or another, had come from God.
‘Saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” ’
At first sight this appears to give the solution to the question of how the crowds saw it. But in fact it does not. For this quotation from the Psalms 118:26, which probably referred to the entry of the king into Jerusalem, (with ‘king’ thus here able to replace ‘one’) was regularly shouted out year by year in greeting to pilgrims entering Jerusalem for the Passover, in remembrance of the promise in Zechariah 9:9. Each pilgrim to the Passover was a reminder of God’s great past deliverance, and of the future deliverance of which they were so confident. Each one was a reminder that one day the King would come. This was presumably why the Romans did not get excited over the matter. They saw little in it that was different from the normal greeting of pilgrims at Passover, possibly slightly increased because of the nature of the One Who was entering, whom they would know of as the Jewish prophet of Galilee. As far as they were concerned the people could shout all that they liked as long as no weapons could be seen, and no attempts were made to stir up the crowds. They knew that it was a regular part of their annual festival. (In this regard we cannot doubt that Jesus had been constantly subject to surveillance by them. No one who had gathered such huge crowds would have been ignored. And they would have sufficiently gathered that whatever He was, He was not preaching insurrection).
We may note the differences in what was cried out in the different Gospels. This merely demonstrates that they did not copy directly from each other and were not shouting the same thing. It was not orchestrated. In such a varied crowd the cries would be many and varied, given with different inflections. Different witnesses would remember the different cries that he had heard, and all would be right. The evangelists could thus pick and choose.
Note the cry of the crowds here, ‘peace in Heaven and glory in the Highest.’ These were not the cries of insurrectionists. They were the cries of those who were looking to Heaven. We may compare this with the words of the angels in Luke 2:14, at the birth of the ‘Saviour Who is Christ the Lord’, where they cried “glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among men on whom His favour rests”. There it was the angels who sang of His glory. This is man’s reply to God at the coming of this One sent from God. Men may now find peace with God in Heaven through His Prophet, because through His words God’s favour rests on His chosen ones (compare Acts 10:36. Also contrast Luke 19:42 below). Alternately it may be an ascription of praise to the God of peace, Who brings peace to all (Romans 15:33), Who bruises Satan under men’s feet (Romans 16:20, Who sanctifies men wholly and preserves them blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and equips them with every good work to do His will that they may be well pleasing in His sight (Hebrews 13:20).
‘And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” ’
The Pharisees did not like what they were hearing, and they called on Jesus to rebuke these who were shouting out. It may have been concern for His and their safety. It may have been because they did not like such ascriptions being made to the Prophet with Whom they were at disagreement, and were seeking to calm the fervour, feeling that Jesus could not want it also, as it was surely going too far. It was one thing for pilgrims to be received with general cries which were just the product of the festal mood, it was quite another when it was apparent that a number of them were possibly taking their ascriptions seriously.
The Response of The Pharisees: God’s Coming Judgment on Jerusalem (19:39-46).
It was not to be expected that this hearty welcome of Jesus would please the Pharisees. Perhaps they were afraid of the reaction of Rome, or possibly they felt that it was coming near to blasphemy. But either way they wanted the enthusiasm stilled. There is possibly a hint in this of, ‘Now look what you have done by entering Jerusalem in this spectacular way.’ Jesus’ reply is significant. It stresses to them that what He has done has a deep significance. Indeed such is the importance of this occasion that if the people are silent the very stones will cry out. If man will not welcome his Creator, then creation itself will do it. Again we are made aware of Jesus’ supernatural claims.
But in view of what follows it also includes the thought of the stones crying out at the coming destruction of Jerusalem, the thought then being that if this One is not welcomed by Jerusalem only the severest of judgment can follow. One day the stones will truly cry out.
a Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples”, and He answered and said, “I tell you that, if these hold their peace, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:39-40).
b When He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it (Luke 19:41).
c Saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which belong to peace! But now they are hid from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).
d “For the days will come on you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you, and surround you, and keep you in on every side”(Luke 19:43).
c “And will dash you to the ground, and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone on another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44).
b And He entered into the temple, and began to cast out those who sold (Luke 19:45).
a Saying to them, “It is written, And my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:46).
Note than in ‘a’ the stones will bear witness to the One Who is God’s true witness, while in the parallel His action in the Temple bears witness against the ‘robbers’ within it, those who have proved to be false witnesses. In ‘b’ He wept over the city and in the parallel He cast out evil from the Temple, revealing its sad state. In ‘c’ the truth was hidden from their eyes, and in the parallel they did not know the time of their visitation. Centrally in ‘d’ is the description of the besieging of Jerusalem.
‘And he answered and said, “I tell you that, if these hold their peace, the stones will cry out.” ’
Jesus’ reply was simple and striking. If these men held their peace, the very stones would be constrained to cry out. It was an indication that there was One here Whom creation recognised (compare how the storm obeyed His word - Luke 8:24 - and how the unbroken ass’s colt obeyed His will and retained its calm amidst the maddened crowd). We can compare with this Luke 3:8 where John declared that if need be God could raise up from the stones children to Abraham. There is the same general idea. What is happening is of God, and if necessary God could supplement it through a new work of creation using the very stones of the ground.
Alternately Jesus may have had in mind Habakkuk 2:11 where the stones would cry out against what was shameful, indicating that it would indeed be shameful if the people did not cry out to welcome Him.
But in view of what immediately follows it is probable that there is also an indirect reference to when the stones will cry out as they are left in a tangled mess after the destruction of the Temple (Luke 21:6). His words were thus another parable from which each was to read what they would, and which would have deeper meaning in the future.
‘And when he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it,’
Then Jesus moved solemnly on towards the city, and as He saw its future He wept over it. His thoughts were full and overflowing. He had no pleasure at the thought of the judgment that was coming on this city because of what they were going to do to Him. There was only the thought of, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’. There is something hugely dramatic about this entry into Jerusalem, with Jesus offering Himself as its King and Messiah, and yet weeping because He knows that it will reject Him and bring on itself its own judgment, even though the final result will be God’s offer of salvation to the world.
For a comparison with the weeping of Jeremiah over what was to happen to the old Jerusalem see Jeremiah 8:18; Jeremiah 8:21; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 15:5. He too foresaw hope following disaster (Jeremiah 29:10; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
‘Saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which belong to peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.” ’
His heart was torn because Jerusalem could not recognise its day. He was here as its King, and through Him they could have found peace. And that would have saved them from the ferment of their hearts that would bring destruction on them. But their eyes were closed and God’s offer was hidden from their eyes. They were lost in darkness (Acts 26:18). They did not know where they were going (John 12:35). And thus they did not see. Their Day had come, but apart from the few, they had failed to see it.
“For the days will come on you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you, and surround you, and keep you in on every side, and will dash you to the ground, and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone on another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
And there could be only one result. The same thing that had happened in the days of Jeremiah would happen again. Because they had missed their day of salvation, days of judgment would come on them. Jerusalem would be destroyed. The holy stones would lie scattered at the end of every street (Lamentations 4:1). In Jeremiah’s day it had been brought about because of their support for a false son of David, one of the rejected house, of whom God had warned that no son of that house would inherit the throne of David, so that it was rather to be given to One miraculously born (Isaiah 7:13-14; see also Isaiah 39:6-7). Here it was because of the rejection of that One Who had been miraculously born, Whose death would seal their fate unless they repented. The vivid description fits well with the descriptions of the siege of Nebuchadnezzar (compare Psalms 137:7-8; Jeremiah 6:6; Lamentations 1:15; Lamentations 2:8-9; Lamentations 2:17; Lamentations 4:1; Ezekiel 4:2; Ezekiel 26:8 ), as well as its repetition by Titus in 70 AD. (See also 2 Samuel 17:13; Isaiah 29:3; Isaiah 37:33; Hosea 13:16; Nahum 3:10). Sadly it was a description of all sieges where resistance was offered. There would be nothing unusual about it, only its severity and its cause.
And all this would come on them, the consequence of their own rash folly, because they had not recognised that the time of their visitation had come (compare Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 51:18), that the acceptable year of the Lord was here (Luke 4:19), a time that would then be followed by the day of vengeance (Isaiah 61:1-2).
‘And he entered into the temple, and began to cast out those who sold,’
And He entered the Temple, and looking around at what was happening there in the Court of the Gentiles, He was angry. And so He began to cast out those who sold (He began and continued), emptying it of the noisy traders so that it was possible for those present to pray in comparative peace. Compare here Malachi 3:1. The Lord had come to His Temple. He was not weeping now. This was the next day (Mark 11:12), but Luke ignores that because he wants us to recognise its connection with the preceding words. The emptying of the traders from the Temples is a symbol of the judgment that is coming. Now He is here in anger at the duplicity of the priesthood, and warning of what will happen if they do not cleanse up their act.
The effectiveness of what He did resulted as much from His moral authority as from brute force, and the traders were also no doubt aware of the twelve husky looking Apostles in the background.
Perhaps also we are to link it with His entry into Jerusalem as its Messiah. For He may well by this have indicated that one purpose of His coming was in order to purify the Temple worship, by removing what corrupted it and making it a place of prayer. We can compare how both Hezekiah and Josiah were noted as having cleansed the Temple of what offended (2 Kings 23:4; 2 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 34:8), and in both cases it was followed by the observance of the Passover (2 Kings 23:21; 2 Chronicles 30:1; 2 Chronicles 35:1). They had emptied it of idolatry, Jesus was emptying it of the new idolatry, Mammon.
‘Saying to them, “It is written, And my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” ’
And as He thrust out the dishonest traders He called on them to consider their ways, citing Jeremiah 7:11 and pointing out their dishonesty, likening them to a bandit’s cavern. The dishonesty of the Temple trade as the chief priest sought to enrich themselves, was one of the scandals of Jerusalem, and the avariciousness of some of the High priests a byword. It was totally the opposite of those in Josiah’s day (2 Kings 22:7). And all this in the house of prayer that God had intended should be for all nations (see Isaiah 56:7). But Luke’s concentration is here on the awful fact that in the House of prayer was extreme iniquity. Jerusalem was rotten at its core.
We note here the omission of the words ‘for all nations’. We may feel this surprising in Luke who always has the Gentiles in mind. But in fact that might be the very reason. He did not want the Genitle Christians looking with nostalgia to the Temple.
The trading that took place was indeed a scandal. Worshippers would find that the animals that they brought for sacrifice were declare blemished. They would then exchange them with the traders for an unblemished animal, at considerable loss to themselves. And lo, the animal would suddenly become unblemished, ready for sale to the next victim. Furthermore offerings to the Temple had to be paid in coinage not containing an image on them. These were obtainable from the money changers, but at a very inflated rate of exchange. Thus what had originally been intended as a means of assistance to worshippers had become a ramp. And a share of the profits went to the chief priests who ran the Temple. They already received the fleeces of sacrificed animals, and meat from certain types of sacrifices, both very lucrative, so that this was a bonus on top. It really was a den of thieves.
Some have asked why, if Jesus really did this, no witnesses could be found at His trial to testify against Him on the matter. The answer, of course, is simple. Firstly they probably recognised that to bring such a situation to court would probably only have made Pilate laugh, and would have made them look a little ridiculous. After all no one had been hurt and there had been no provable loss. He would have had Jesus beaten and probably have felt that those ‘sneaky Jewish priests’ had got what they deserved. But that was not what they wanted. They were after a capital charge. And secondly it is unlikely that those of the priests, especially the chief priests, who were involved would want to draw attention to what was an unsavoury situation. Who knew what might come out if a case actually came to court? It might not be easily hushed up. For all would know that there were probably quite a number on the Sanhedrin who were also not too happy at the situation. They could not interfere with the running of the Temple, but they certainly could have come out with some scathing comments, when the question of motive was gone into.
Note on the Cleansing of the Temple in John 2:13-16.
Jesus has carried out a similar activity a few years before at the beginning of His ministry. But then as a young and enthusiastic prophet His aim had been in order to get rid of the trading from God’s house so that it would not be like a public market. He had then had no notion of the dishonesty that went on there. That incident had probably been written off by the authorities (although not totally forgotten) as the enthusiasm of a beginner, for, while it had been somewhat spectacular, it had only been a small inconvenience as far as profits were concerned, rather than a major event, and as He had subsequently visited Jerusalem a number of times since without seeming to have any intention of doing the same, their guard had been let down, and we must remember that many not involved with the Temple activities, including some priests, might secretly have sympathised. All were, however, caught unprepared by His second visit for the same purpose. The story is so different there (apart from the necessary parts that would arise in any cleansing of the Temple in this way) that it confirms that it was on a different occasion, and there its motive fits aptly into the beginning of His ministry. He now had different concerns, for He had come to know about the corruption that riddled the Temple.
End of Note.
Jesus Is Challenged By The Sanhedrin Members As To His Authority (19:47-20:8).
This challenge came at the beginning of this week in which Jesus was constantly tested out, and in each case His replies were more than sufficient to deal with the matters brought against Him, so that there soon came a time when they dared not ask Him any more questions. This first challenge was as to His authority for doing ‘the things’ that He does. Probably largely in mind by ‘the thongs’ was the incident of the cleansing of the Temple, but it also included his miracles and His apparent occasional disregard for the Sabbath. Their purpose in coming there was deliberately in order to show Him up before all the people, for they knew that if they were to be able to do with Him what they wanted, it was first necessary to get the support of the people. So their first aim was to demonstrate to the crowds that in fact He had no authority.
Their question seemed reasonable. There was no doubt that He was claiming some special kind of authority, and that He had caused some disruption in the Temple, and it was after all their genuine responsibility to check the credentials of any who claimed such religious authority, and they were also responsible for public order, especially in the Temple. Yet the fact is that they had had plenty of opportunity for questioning Him and weighing Him up before this, and even now they could have spoken with Him in private and discussed matters reasonably. But the truth was that they had taken on an attitude of extreme belligerence. For the way in which Jesus now dealt with them demonstrated that He saw their challenge as hostile, not as neutral.
That their approach was over more than just His actions in the Temple comes out in the strength of the deputation. His act in the Temple could have been dealt with by the Temple police. It was His whole activity that was in question and the ‘hidden’ claims that He was thus making.
a He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy Him (Luke 19:47).
b They could not find what they might do, for the people all hung on Him, listening (Luke 19:48).
c And it came about that, on one of the days, as He was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the gospel, there came on Him the chief priests and the scribes with the elders, and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us, by what authority do you do these things? or who is he who gave you this authority?” (Luke 20:1-2).
d He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you a question, and you tell me, The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or from men?” (Luke 20:3-4).
c And they reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we shall say, From heaven, he will say, Why did you not believe him? But if we shall say, From men, all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet” (Luke 20:5-6).
b They answered, that they knew not whence it was (Luke 20:7).
a And Jesus said to them, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8).
Note that in ‘a’ the leaders of Israel acting in God’s name (they come officially together) but on their own authority were determined to destroy Him, while in the parallel Jesus refused to divulge His authority which was from that same God, on the grounds that they had revealed their incapacity to judge it. In ‘b’ they were baffled as to what to do before the people, and in the parallel they were baffled in seeking to answer Jesus’ question. In ‘c’ they questioned His authority, and in the parallel they reasoned unsuccessfully concerning John’s authority. Centrally in ‘d’ came the crunch question about the source of John’s authority.
Jesus Preaches In The Temple (19:47-21:38).
Having driven the traders out of the Temple in His prophetic zeal Jesus then revealed the greatness of His great courage by returning daily to that same Temple in order to teach the people. As the traders, who would quickly have returned, watched with baleful eyes, and the Temple police stood by alert for trouble, Jesus boldly entered the Temple again, and ignoring both, proceeded to address the crowds gathered there. Indeed the great crowds that gathered to Him would make it seem to the authorities as though He had almost taken over the Temple, apart from the Sanctuary itself.
And perhaps that was how He intended it to be seen. Having driven out the traders He has now taken possession of it in the name of the Lord, for its genuine purpose, that of proclaiming the word of God within it (a theme of Luke/Acts) and of prayer. In the coming months and years this will be one of its purposes until at length it will be finally rejected because it had rejected Him (see Luke 19:47. Luke 20:1; Luke 21:37-38; Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; Acts 3:1; Acts 3:8; Acts 4:1; Acts 5:20-21; Acts 5:25; Acts 5:42). While it continued as the hub of the Jewish religion, it also became for a time the source from which light could go out from the Jews to the world (Isaiah 2:2-4).
But whereas the authorities wanted to arrest Him they did not dare make a move in public, because He was too popular. They were forced to recognise that any move against Him could only result in tumult, and that that would then bring down on them the wrath of their Roman overlords. Thus they turned to a new tactic, and got together to decide how they might discredit Him in the eyes of the people. They knew that if they could only do that, then they could take Him. This therefore resulted in a number of challenges which are found in what follows. These included the challenge as to His authority for behaving as He did (Luke 20:1-8), the challenge as to whether it was right to give tribute to Caesar (Luke 20:20-26) , and the challenge concerning the truth of the resurrection (Luke 20:27-38).
In dealing with these Jesus not only showed them up as being hypocritical and incompetent, but went on to denounce them and their fellow leaders by means of a parable which demonstrated their connection with the villainy of those who in the past had persecuted those sent from God (Luke 20:9-18). Within this parable at the same time He revealed His own uniqueness as God’s only Son. Then once their challenges were exhausted He riposted with a quotation from Scripture concerning His Messiahship (Luke 20:41-44), following it up with a further attack on the Scribes (Luke 20:45-47) and a contrasting of them with an impoverished widow whose godly giving aroused His admiration (Luke 21:1-4). This was then followed by His description to His disciples of the future destruction of the Temple, along with prophecies concerning the future, which ended up with the promise of His return in glory (Luke 21:5-36). And during all this period He continued teaching daily to the crowds in the Temple (Luke 21:37-38).
In all these episodes Luke was calling, at least to some extent, on Marcan material, but altered so as to suit the points that he was trying to get over, and in terms of other information received. This was, however done without altering their essential message. It all begins with an attack on His authority.
‘And he was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him,’
Every day Jesus returned to the Temple to preach (and to heal ‘the blind and the lame’- Matthew 21:14). Meanwhile all the leading authorities were banded together, differences forgotten, in order to find a way of destroying Him, the chief priests because He had affected their profits and their reputations, the Scribes because he had shown up their teaching and their lives, and the principal men of the people because they had no doubt yielded to the pressure of the other two parties and were concerned that there might be disorder in the city which might affect their wealth. Not being willing to go and listen to Jesus themselves, they accepted the word of their respected colleagues. So the leaders of the most religious nation on earth were banded together against the most gracious and loving man on earth, and all for the wrong reasons. Like the monkeys in the story of Mowgli they gathered together and said in unison, ‘We all say so, so it must be true’. Thus almost the whole Sanhedrin, the leading judicial authority in Jerusalem, were banded up against Him. Truth had to come second when the status quo, which benefited them all, was at stake.
‘And they could not find what they might do, for the people all hung upon him, listening.’
However they were prevented from open action because all the people were eager to hear His teaching and saw Him as a prophet. They were well aware that to publicly arrest One Who was seen as a prophet of God at such a time would be to raise a ferment, even possibly to cause an uprising. It was something that they dared not risk, unless they could somehow loosen the ties between Jesus and the people. And that was what they now attempted to do.
Sunday, February 19th, 2017
the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Search This Commentary