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And Jesus entered ... - See the notes at Matthew 20:29. This means, perhaps, “he was passing” through Jericho when Zacchaeus saw him. His house was “in” Jericho.
A man named Zacchaeus - The name Zacchaeus is Hebrew, and shows that this man was a “Jew.” The Hebrew name properly means “pure,” and is the same as Zacchai in Ezra 2:9; Nehemiah 7:14. The publicans, therefore, were not all foreigners.
Chief among the publicans - Who presided over other tax-gatherers, or who “received” their collections and transmitted them to the Roman government.
He was rich - Though this class of people was despised and often infamous, yet it seems that they were sometimes wealthy. They sustained, however, the general character of “sinners,” because they were particularly odious in the eyes of the Jews. See Luke 19:7. The evangelist has thought it worthy of record that he was rich, perhaps, because it was so unlikely that a “rich man” should follow so poor and despised a personage as Jesus of Nazareth, and because it was so unusual a thing during his personal ministry. Not many rich were called, but God chiefly chose the poor of this world Compare 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
Who he was - Rather “what sort of person,” he was, or how he appeared. He had that curiosity which is natural to people to see one of whom they have heard much. It would seem, also, that in this case mere “curiosity” led to his conversion and that of his family. Compare 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. God makes use of every principle - of curiosity, or sympathy, or affection, or hope, or fear - to lead people in the way of salvation, and to impress truth on the minds of sinners.
The press - The crowd; the multitude that surrounded Jesus. Earthly princes are often borne in splendid equipages, or even carried, as in Eastern nations, in palanquins on the shoulders of people. Jesus mingled with the multitude, not seeking distinctions of that sort, and perhaps, “in appearance,” not distinguished from thousands that followed him.
Little of stature - Short. Not a tall man.
A sycamore tree - See this described in the notes at Luke 17:6.
Abide at thy house - Remain there, or put up with him. This was an honor which Zacchaeus did not expect. The utmost, it seems, which he aimed at was to see Jesus; but, instead of that, Jesus proposed to remain with him, and to give him the benefit of his personal instruction. It is but one among a thousand instances where the Saviour goes, in bestowing mercies, far beyond the desert, the desire, or the expectation of men; and it is not improper to learn from this example that solicitude to behold the Saviour will not pass unnoticed by him, but will meet with his warm approbation, and be connected with his blessing. Jesus was willing to encourage efforts to come to him, and his benevolence prompted him to gratify the desires of the man who was solicitous to see him. He does not disdain the mansions of the rich any more than he does the dwelling-places of the poor, provided there be a humble heart; and he did not suppose there was “less” need of his presence in order to save in the house of the rich man than among the poor. He set an example to all his ministers, and was not afraid or ashamed to proclaim his gospel amid wealth. He was not awed by external splendor or grandeur.
Murmured - Found fault, complained.
To be a guest - To remain with, or to be entertained by.
A man that is a sinner - All publicans they regarded as great sinners, and the “chief” of the publicans, therefore, they regarded as especially wicked. It would appear also from Zacchaeus’ confession that his character “had been” that of an oppressive man. But the people seemed to forget that he might be a penitent, and that the Messiah came to save that which was lost.
The half of my goods I give to the poor - It is not necessary to understand this as affirming that this “had” been his practice, or that he said this in the way of proclaiming his own righteousness. It maybe understood rather as a purpose which he “then” formed under the teaching of Christ. He seems to have been sensible that he was a sinner. Of this he was convinced, as we may suppose, by the presence and discourse of Jesus. At first, attracted only by curiosity, or, it may be, by partial conviction that this was the Messiah, he had sought to see the Saviour; but his presence and conversation convinced him of his guilt, and he stood and openly confessed his sins, and expressed his purpose to give half his ill-gotten property to the poor. This was not a proclamation of his “own” righteousness, nor the “ground” of his righteousness, but it was the “evidence” of the sincerity of his repentance, and the confession which with the mouth is made unto salvation, Romans 10:10.
And if I have taken - His office gave him the power of oppressing the people, and it seems that he did not deny that it had been done.
By false accusation - This is the same word which in Luke 3:14 is rendered “neither accuse any falsely.” The accusation seems to have been so made that the person accused was obliged to pay much greater taxes, or so that his property came into the hands of the informer. There are many ways in which this might be done, but we do not know the exact manner.
I restore him - We cannot suppose that this had been always his practice, for no man would wantonly extort money from another, and then restore him at once four times as much; but it means that he was made sensible of his guilt; perhaps that his mind had been a considerable time perplexed in the matter, and that now he was resolved to make the restoration. This was the “evidence” of his penitence and conversion. And here it may be remarked that this is “always” an indisputable evidence of a man’s conversion to God. A man who has hoarded ill-gotten gold, if he becomes a Christian, will be disposed to do good with it. A man who has injured others - who has cheated them or defrauded them, “even by due forms of law,” must, if he be a Christian, be willing, as far as possible, to make restoration. Zacchaeus, for anything that appears to the contrary, may have obtained this property by the decisions of courts of justice, but he now felt that it was wrong; and though the defrauded people could not “legally” recover it, yet his conscience told him that, in order to his being a true penitent, he must make restitution. One of the best evidences of true conversion is when it produces this result; and one of the surest evidences that a “professed” penitent is not a “true” one, is when he is “not” disposed to follow the example of this son of Abraham and make proper restitution.
Four-fold - Four times as much as had been unjustly taken. This was the amount that was required in the Jewish law when a sheep had been stolen, and a man was convicted of the theft by trial at law, Exodus 22:1. If he “confessed” it himself, without being “detected” and tried, he had only to restore what was stolen, and add to it a fifth part of its value, Numbers 5:6-7. The sincerity of Zacchaeus’ repentance was manifest by his being willing to make restoration as great as if it had been proved against him, evincing “his sense” of the wrong, and his purpose to make full restitution. The Jews were allowed to take “no interest” of their brethren Leviticus 25:35-36, and this is the reason why that is not mentioned as the measure of the restitution. When injury of this kind is done in other places, the least that is proper is to restore the principal and interest; for the injured person has a right “to all” that his property would have procured him if it had not been unjustly taken away.
Salvation is come to this house - This family. They have this day received the blessings of the gospel, and become interested in the Messiah’s kingdom. Salvation “commences” when people truly receive Christ and their sins are pardoned; it is “completed” when the soul is sanctified and received up into heaven.
Forasmuch - Because. For he has given “evidence” that he is a new man, and is disposed to forsake his sins and receive the gospel.
The son of Abraham - Hitherto, although a Jew, yet he has been a sinner, and a great sinner. He was not worthy to be called a son of Abraham. Now, by repentance, and by receiving the Christ whose day Abraham saw and was glad John 8:56, he has shown himself to be worthy to be called his son. Abraham was an example of distinguished piety; the father of the faithful Romans 4:11, as well as the ancestor of the Jews. They were called his sons who were descended from him, and particularly they who “resembled” him. In this place the phrase is used in both senses.
See the notes at Matthew 18:11.
He spake a parable - This parable has in some respects a resemblance to the parable of the “talents” in Matthew 25:14-28, but it is not the same. They differ in the following respects: That was spoken “after” he had entered Jerusalem; this, while on his way there. That was delivered on the Mount of Olives; this, in the house of Zacchaeus. That was delivered to teach them the necessity of “improving” the talents committed to them; this was for a different design. He was now near Jerusalem. A great multitude attended him. His disciples regarded him as the Messiah, and by this they understood a temporal prince who should deliver them from the dominion of the Romans and set them at liberty. They were anxious for that, and supposed that the time was at hand, and that “now,” as soon as he entered Jerusalem, he would assume the appearance of such a prince and set up his kingdom. To “correct that notion” seems to have been the main design of this parable. To do that, he tells them of a man who had a right to the kingdom, yet who, “before” taking possession of it, went into another kingdom to receive a confirmation of his title, thus intimating that “he” would also go away “before” he would completely set up his kingdom Luke 19:12; he tells them that this nobleman left to his servants “property” to be improved in his absence, as “he” would leave to his disciples “talents” to be used in his service Luke 19:12-13; he tells them that this nobleman was rejected by his own citizens Luke 19:14, as “he” would be by the Jews; and that he received the kingdom and called them to an account, as he also would his own disciples.
Because he was nigh to Jerusalem - The capital of the country, and where they supposed he would probably set up his kingdom.
The kingdom of God should immediately appear - That the reign of the Messiah would immediately commence. He spoke the parable to “correct” that expectation.
A certain nobleman - A prince; a man descended from kings, and having a title, therefore, to succeed in the kingdom.
Went into a far country ... - This expression is derived from the state of things in Judea in the time of the Saviour. Judea was subject to the Romans, having been conquered by Pompey about sixty years before Christ. It was, however, governed by “Jews,” who held the government “under” the Romans. It was necessary that the prince or king should receive a recognition of his right to the kingdom by the Roman emperor and, in order to this, that he should go to Rome; or, as it is said here, that he might receive to himself a kingdom. This actually occurred several times. Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, about the time of the birth of Jesus, went to Rome to obtain a confirmation of the title which his father had left him, and succeeded in doing it. Herod the Great, his father, had done the same thing before to secure the aid and countenance of Antony. Agrippa the younger, grandson of Herod the Great, went to Rome also to obtain the favor of Tiberius, and to be confirmed in his government. Such instances, having frequently occurred, would make this parable perfectly intelligible to those to whom it was addressed. By the nobleman, here, is undoubtedly represented the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ; by his going into a far country is denoted his going to heaven, to the right hand of his Father, “before” he should “fully” set up his kingdom and establish his reign among men.
Ten servants - Nothing in particular is denoted by the number “ten.” It is a circumstance intended to keep up the narrative. In general, by these servants our Saviour denotes his disciples, and intends to teach us that talents are given us to be improved, for which we must give an account at his return.
Ten pounds - The word translated “pound” here denotes the Hebrew “minah,” which was equal to about 15 dollars, or 3 British pounds. The pounds here denote the talents which God has given to his servants on earth to improve, and for which they must give all account in the day of judgment.
Occupy till I come - The word “occupy” here means not merely to “possess,” as it often does in our language, but to “improve,” to employ “in business,” for the purpose of increasing it or of making “profit” on it. The direction was to use this money so as to gain “more” against his return. So Jesus commands his disciples to “improve” their talents; to make the most of them; to increase their capability of doing good, and to do it “until” he comes to call us hence, by death, to meet him. See 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:7.
But his citizens - His “subjects,” or the people whom he was desirous of ruling.
Hated him - On account of his character, and their fear of oppression. This was, in fact, the case with regard to Archelaus, the Jewish prince, who went to Rome to be confirmed in his kingdom.
Sent a message, saying ... - His discontented subjects, fearing what would be the character of his reign, sent an embassy to remonstrate against his being appointed as the ruler. This actually took place. Archelaus went to Rome to obtain from Augustus a confirmation of his title to reign over that part of Judea which had been left him by his father, Herod the Great. The Jews, knowing his character (compare Matthew 2:22), sent an embassy of 50 men to Rome, to prevail on Augustus “not” to confer the title on him, but they could not succeed. He “received” the kingdom, and reigned in Judea in the place of his father. As this fact was “fresh” in the memory of the Jews, it makes this parable much more striking. By this part of it Christ designed to denote that the Jews would reject “him” - the Messiah, and would say that they did not desire him to reign over them. See John 1:11. So it is true of all sinners that they do not “wish” Jesus to reign over them, and, if it were possible, would cast him off, and never submit to his reign.
See the notes at Matthew 25:19.
See the notes at Matthew 25:20-21.
Ten cities - We are not to suppose that this will be “literally” fulfilled in heaven. Christ teaches here that our reward in heaven will be “in proportion” to our faithfulness in improving our talents on earth.
A napkin - A towel. He means by it that he had not wasted it nor thrown it by carelessly, but had been “very careful” of it; so much so as to be at the pains to tie it up in a towel and put it in a safe place, as if he had been “very faithful” to his trust. So many people employ their talents, their learning, their property, their influence. They “have” them; they “keep” them; but they never “use” them in the service of the Lord Jesus; and, in regard to their influence on the church or the world, it would be the same if God had never conferred on them these talents.
An austere man - Hard, severe, oppressive. The word is commonly applied to unripe fruit, and means “sour,” unpleasant; harsh. In this case it means that the man was taking every advantage, and, while “he” lived in idleness, was making his living out of the toils of others.
Thou takest up ... - Thou dost exact of others what thou didst not give. The phrase is applied to a man who “finds” what has been lost by another, and keeps it himself, and refuses to return it to the owner. All this is designed to show the sinner’s view of God. He regards him as unjust, demanding more than man has “power” to render, and more, therefore, than God has a “right” to demand. See the notes at Matthew 25:24.
Out of thine own mouth - By your own statement, or your own views of my character. If you “knew” that this was my character, and “knew” that I would be rigid, firm, and even severe, it would have been the part of wisdom in you to have made the best use of the money in your power; but as you “knew” my character beforehand, and was well acquainted with the fact that I should demand a strict compliance with your obligation, you have no right to complain if you are condemned accordingly. We are not to suppose that God is “unjust or austere;” but what we are to learn from this is, that as people know that God will be “just,” and will call them to a strict account in the day of judgment, they ought to be prepared to meet him, and that they cannot then complain if God should condemn them.
The bank - The treasury, or the place of exchange. Why did you not loan it out, that it might be increased?
Usury - Interest.
And they said unto him - Those standing around him said.
He hath ... - This was probably an observation made by some of the bystanders, as if surprised at such a decision. “He has already ten pounds. Why take away this one, and add to what he already possesses? Why should his property be increased at the expense of this man, who has but one pound?” The answer to this is given in the following verse; that every one that hath, to him shall be given; every man who is faithful, and improves what God gives him, shall receive much more.
For I say ... - These are the words of the “nobleman” declaring the principles on which he would distribute the rewards of his kingdom.
But those mine enemies - By the punishment of those who would not that he should reign over them is denoted the ruin that was to come upon the Jewish nation for rejecting the Messiah, and also upon all sinners for not receiving him as their king. See the notes at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:0.
See the notes at Matthew 21:1-16.
The stones would ...cry out - It is “proper” that they should celebrate my coming. Their acclamations “ought” not to be suppressed. So joyful is the event which they celebrate - the coming of the Messiah - that it is not fit that I should attempt to impose silence on them. The expression here seems to be “proverbial,” and is not to be taken literally. Proverbs are designed to express the truth “strongly,” but are not to be taken to signify as much as if they were to be interpreted literally. The sense is, that his coming was an event of so much importance that it “ought” to be celebrated in some way, and “would” be celebrated. It would be impossible to restrain the people, and improper to attempt it. The language here is strong proverbial language to denote that fact. We are not to suppose, therefore, that our Saviour meant to say that the stones were “conscious” of his coming, or that God would “make” them speak, but only that there was “great joy” among the people; that it was “proper” that they should express it in this manner, and that it was not fit that he should attempt to repress it.
He wept over it - Showing his compassion for the guilty city, and his strong sense of the evils that were about to come upon it. See the notes at Matthew 23:37-39. As he entered the city he passed over the Mount of Olives. From that mountain there was a full and magnificent view of the city. See the notes at Matthew 21:1. The view of the splendid capital - the knowledge of its crimes - the remembrance of the mercies of God toward it - the certainty that it might have been spared if it had received the prophets and himself - the knowledge that it was about to put “him,” their long-expected Messiah, to death, and “for” that to be given up to utter desolation - affected his heart, and the triumphant King and Lord of Zion wept! Amid all “his” prosperity, and all the acclamations of the multitude, the heart of the Redeemer of the world was turned from the tokens of rejoicing to the miseries about to come on a guilty people. Yet they “might” have been saved. If thou hadst known, says he, even thou, with all thy guilt, the things that make for thy peace; if thou hadst repented, had been righteous, and had received the Messiah; if thou hadst not stained thy hands with the blood of the prophets, and shouldst not with that of the Son of God, then these terrible calamities would not come upon thee. But it is too late. The national wickedness is too great; the cup is full: mercy is exhausted; and Jerusalem, with all her pride and splendor, the glory of her temple, and the pomp of her service, “must perish!”
For the days shall come ... - This took place under Titus, the Roman general, 70 a.d., about thirty years after this was spoken.
Cast a trench about thee - The word “trench” now means commonly a “pit or ditch.” When the Bible was translated, it meant also “earth thrown up to defend a camp” (Johnson’s “Dictionary”). This is the meaning of the original here. It is not a pit or large “ditch,” but a pile of earth, stones, or wood thrown up to guard a camp, and to defend it from the approach of an enemy. This was done at the siege of Jerusalem. Josephus informs us that Titus, in order that he might compel the city to surrender by “famine,” built a wall around the whole circumference of the city. This wall was nearly 5 miles in length, and was furnished with thirteen castles or towers. This work was completed with incredible labor in ten days. The professed design of this wall was “to keep” the city “in on every side.” Never was a prophecy more strikingly accomplished.
Shall lay thee even with the ground ... - This was literally done. Titus caused a plow to pass over the place where the temple stood. See the notes at Matthew 24:0. All this was done, says Christ, because Jerusalem knew not the time of its visitation - that is, did not know, and “would not” know, that the Messiah had come. “His coming” was the time of their merciful visitation. That time had been predicted, and invaluable blessings promised as the result of his advent; but they would not know it. They rejected him, they put him to death, and it was just that they should be destroyed.
See the notes at Matthew 21:12-13.
Daily in the temple - That is, for five or six days before his crucifixion.
Could not find ... - Were not able to accomplish their purpose; they did not know “how” to bring it about.
Very attentive - literally, “hung upon him” to hear him. The word denotes an anxious desire, a fixed attention, a cleaving to him, and an unwillingness to “leave” him, so that they might hear his words. This is always the case when people become anxious about their salvation. They manifest it by hanging on the preaching of the gospel; by fixed attention; and by an unwillingness to leave the place where the word of God is preached. In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we may remark:
- It was on account of the sins and danger of the inhabitants, and of the fact that they had rejected offered mercy.
(2)There was “occasion” for weeping. Jesus would not have wept had there been no cause for it. If they were in no danger, if there was no punishment in the future world, why should he have wept? When the Lord Jesus weeps over sinners, it is the fullest proof that they are in danger.
(3)Sinners are in the same danger now. They reject Christ as sinners did then. They despise the gospel as they did then. They refuse now to come to him as the inhabitants of Jerusalem did. Why are they not then in the same danger?
(4)Deep feeling, gushing emotions, lively affections, are proper in religion. If the Saviour wept, it is not improper for us to weep - it is right. Nay, can it be right “not” to weep over the condition of lost man.
- Religion is tenderness and love. It led the Saviour to weep, and it teaches us to sympathize and to feel deeply. Sin hardens the heart, and makes it insensible to every pure and noble emotion; but religion teaches us to feel “for others’ woes,” and to sympathize in the danger of others.
- Christians and Christian ministers should weep over lost sinners. They have souls just as precious as they had then; they are in the same danger; they are going to the judgment-bar; they are wholly insensible to their danger and their duty.
“Did Christ o’er sinners weep?
And shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief.
Burst forth from every eye.
“The Son of God in tears.
Angels with wonder see!
Be thou astonished, O my soul;
He shed those tears for thee.
“He wept that we might weep;
Each sin demands a tear:
In heaven alone no sin is found.
And there’s no weeping there.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29