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This shows how little attention Luke paid to observing the order of dates; for, after having detailed the miracle, he now relates what happened in the city of Jericho He tells us that, while Christ presented himself to the view of all, as he went along the streets, Zaccheus alone was very desirous to see him. For it was an evidence of intense desire that he climbed up a tree; since rich men are, for the most part, haughty, and plume themselves on affected gravity. It is possible, indeed, that others entertained the same wish, but this man was most properly singled out by Luke, both on account of his rank, and on account of his wonderful conversion, which took place suddenly. Now, though faith was not yet formed in Zaccheus, yet this was a sort of preparation for it; for it was not without a heavenly inspiration that he desired so earnestly to get a sight of Christ; I mean, in reference to that design which immediately appeared. Some were led, no doubt, by vain curiosity to run even from distant places, for the purpose of seeing Christ, but the event showed that the mind of Zaccheus contained some seed of piety. In this manner, before revealing himself to men, the Lord frequently communicates to them a secret desire, by which they are led to Him, while he is still concealed and unknown; and, though they have no fixed object in view, He does not disappoint them, but manifests himself in due time.
5. Zaccheus, make haste, and come down. It is a remarkable instance of favor, that the Lord anticipates Zaccheus, and does not wait for his invitation, but of his own accord asks lodging at his house. We know how hateful, nay, how detestable the name of publican at that time was; and we shall find that this is shortly afterwards mentioned by Luke. It is therefore astonishing kindness in the Son of God to approach a man, from whom the great body of men recoil, and that before he is requested to do so. But we need not wonder, if he bestows this honor on one who was already drawn to him by a secret movement of the Spirit; for it was a more valuable gift to dwell in his heart than to enter his house. But by this expression he made it evident, that he is never sought in vain by those who sincerely desire to know him; for Zaccheus obtained vastly more than he had expected. Besides, the great readiness of Zaccheus to obey, his hastening to come down from the tree, and his joy in receiving Christ, exhibit still more clearly the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit; for, though he did not yet possess a pure faith, yet this submissiveness and obedience must be regarded as the beginning of faith.
7. And when they saw it, they all murmured. The inhabitants of the town — and, perhaps, some of Christ’s followers — murmur that he goes to lodge with a man who is looked upon as wicked and infamous, even though nobody invited him. It is thus that the world disregards the offer of the grace of God, but complains bitterly (678) when it is conveyed to others. But let us consider how unjust this murmuring was. They think it unreasonable that Christ should bestows so great an honor on a wicked man; for in this passage, as in many others, the word sinner is not taken in the ordinary sense, (679) but denotes a man of disgraceful and scandalous life. Let us suppose that Zaccheus was a person of this description. Still, we ought first to inquire for what purpose Christ chose to become his guest; for, while out of doors men are murmuring, within the house God displays magnificently the glory of this name, and refutes their wicked calumny.
The conversion of Zaccheus was an astonishing work of God, and yet there was no good reason why Zaccheus should be marked with infamy. He had the charge of collecting the taxes. Now to collect taxes was no crime in itself, but men of that class were exceedingly despised and hated by the Jews, because they reckoned it to be in the highest degree unjust that they should pay tribute. But whatever might be the character of Zaccheus, still the kindness of Christ ought not to be blamed, but commended, in not refusing his assistance to a wretched man, to rescue him from destruction, and bring him to salvation. And therefore the offense which was wickedly taken did not hinder him from proceeding to execute his Father’s command. With such magnanimity ought all his ministers to be endued, as to think more highly of the salvation of one soul than of the murmurs which all ignorant persons may utter, and not to desist from their duty, even though all their actions and words may expose them to reproaches.
(678) “ Et cependant est envieux et marri;” — “and yet is envious and offended.”
(679) “ Et ne signifie pas ce que communeement nous appelons pecheur ; ” — “and does not mean what we usually call a sinner. ”
8. And Zaccheus stood, and said. From this result they ought to have formed their opinion of what Christ did; but men are so hasty and precipitate, that they do not take time to wait for God. (680) The conversion of Zaceheus is described by fruits and outward signs. As it was probable that he had enriched himself to the injury of others,
if he had wronged any man, he was ready to restore fourfold. Besides, the half of his goods he dedicates to the poor. A man might indeed bestow all his goods on the poor, (1 Corinthians 13:3,)
and yet his generosity might be of no value in the sight of God; but, though no mention is here made of inward repentance, yet Luke means that the godly zeal, which he commends in Zaccheus, proceeded from that living root. In like manner, Paul, when treating of repentance, exhorts us to those duties, by which men may learn that we are changed for the better.
Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor with his hands, that he may assist the poor and needy, (Ephesians 4:28.)
We ought therefore to begin with the heart, but our repentance ought also to be evinced by works.
Now let us observe that Zaccheus does not make a present to God out of his extortions, as many rich men give to God a portion of what they have obtained by dishonesty, that they may the more freely pillage in future, and that they may be acquitted of the wrongs which they have formerly done. But Zaccheus devotes the half of his goods to God in such a manner, as to give, at the same time, compensation for whatever wrongs he has done; and hence we infer that the riches which he possessed were not the fruit of dishonest gain. Thus Zaccheus is not only ready to give satisfaction, if he has taken any thing by fraud, but shares his lawful possessions with the poor; by which he shows that he is changed from a wolf not only into a sheep, but even into a shepherd. And while he corrects the faults which had been formerly committed, he renounces wicked practices for the future, as God demands from his people, first of all, that they abstain from doing any act of injury. Zaccheus has not laid others under obligation, by his example, to strip themselves of the half of their goods; but we have only to observe the rule which the Lord prescribes, that we dedicate ourselves, and all that we have, to holy and lawful purposes.
(680) “ Qu’ils n’ont pas la patience d’attendre que Dieu monstre ce qu’il vent faire;” — “that they have not patience to wait till God show what he intends to do.”
9. Today is salvation come to this house. Christ, bearing testimony to Zaccheus, declares that his professions were not hypocritical. And yet he does not ascribe to the good works of Zaccheus the cause of salvation; but, as that conversion was an undoubted pledge of the divine adoption, he justly concludes from it that this house is a possessor of salvation Such, to is the import of the words for, since Zaccheus is one of the children of Abraham, he argues that his house is saved. In order that any man may be reckoned among the children of Abraham, it is necessary for him to imitate Abraham’s faith; nay, Scripture expressly bestows on faith this commendation, that it distinguishes the genuine children of Abraham from strangers. Let us therefore know that in Zaccheus faith is chiefly commended, on account of which his good works were acceptable to God. Nor is there reason to doubt that the doctrine of Christ went before the conversion of Zaccheus; and, consequently, the commencement of his salvation was, to hear Christ discoursing on the undeserved mercy of God, and on the reconciliation of men to Him, and on the redemption of the Church, and to embrace this doctrine by faith.
In consequence of the Greek word οἴκος; (house) being of the masculine gender, this passage is explained in two ways. The old translator (681) has made the reference to be to Zaccheus, which I also prefer. (682) Erastians has chosen to render it, inasmuch as The House, itself is a Daughter of Abraham; (683) and although I do not disapprove of this, I think it more natural to explain it as referring to Zacche u s For, since God, when he adopts the head of a family, promises that He will be a God even to his whole house, salvation is, with propriety, extended from the head to the whole body. Now the particle καὶ (also) is emphatic; for Christ means, that Zaccheus, not less than the other Jews who haughtily detested him, is a son of Abraham And that his former life may not seem to have shut against him the gate of salvation, Christ argues from his own office, that there is nothing in this change at which any man ought to take offense, since he was sent by the Father to save those who were lost.
(681) “ Le translateur Latin ancien;” — “the old Latin translator.”
(682) The question is, whether the antecedent to αὐτός be Ζακχαῖος or ὁ οἴκος. On the former supposition, our English version will be approved HE also (namely, Zaccheus) is a son of Abraham On the latter supposition, the translation will run thus: IT also (namely, the house) is a child of Abraham; or — carrying out the metaphor as Erasmus has done — IT also is a DAUGHTER of Abraham. — Ed
(683) “ Eo quod ipsu domus sit filia Abrahae . ”
. While they were hearing these things. It was next to a prodigy that the disciples, after having been so frequently warned as to the approaching death of Christ, flew aside from it to think of his kingdom. There were two mistakes; first, that they pictured to themselves rest and happiness without the cross; secondly, that they judged of the kingdom of God according to their own carnal sense. Hence it appears how slight and obscure their faith was; for though they had entertained a hope of the resurrection, yet the taste was too slight for forming a fixed and decided opinion about Christ. They believe him to be the Redeemer who had been formerly promised, and hence they conceive a hope that the Church will be renewed; but that knowledge immediately degenerates into vain imaginations, which either overturn or obscure the power of his kingdom. But the strangest thing of all was, that so many warnings should have passed away from their recollection without yielding any advantage. At least, it was brutal stupidity that, though Christ had lately declared, in express terms, that he was just about to undergo a bitter and ignominious death, they not only remained unconcerned, but rushed forward, as if to a joyful triumph.
12. A certain nobleman. Matthew interweaves this parable with others, without attending to the order of time; but, as his intention was, in the twenty-second chapter, to make a collection of Christ’s latest discourses, readers ought not to trouble themselves greatly with the inquiry which of them was delivered on the first, or the second, or the third day within that short period. But it is proper to observe the difference between Matthew and Luke; for, while the former touches only on one point, the latter embraces two. This point is common to both, that Christ resembles a nobleman, who, undertaking a long journey for the sake of obtaining a kingdom, has entrusted his money to the management of his servants, and so on. The other point is peculiar to Luke, that the subjects abused the absence of the prince, and raised a tumult in order to shake off his yoke. In both parts Christ intended to show, that the disciples were greatly mistaken in supposing that his royal authority was already established, and that he was coming to Jerusalem, in order to commence immediately a course of prosperity. Thus by taking away the expectation of an immediate kin g dom, he exhorts them to hope and patience; for he tells them that they must long and steadily endure many toils, before they enjoy that glory for which they pant too earnestly.
Into a distant country. As the disciples thought that Christ was now about to enter into the possession of his kingdom, he first corrects this mistake by informing them, that he must undertake a long journey, in order to obtain the kingdom (686) As to what is meant by the distant country, I leave it to the ingenious expositions of those who are fond of subtleties. For my own part, I think that Christ expresses nothing more than his long absence, which would extend from the time of his death to his last coming. For, though he sits at the right hand of the Father, and holds the government of heaven and earth, and though, from the time that he ascended to heaven, all power was given to him, (Matthew 28:18,) that every knee might bow before him, (Philippians 2:10;) yet as he has not yet subdued his enemies — has not yet appeared as Judge of the world, or revealed his majesty — it is not without propriety that he is said to be absent from his people, till he return again, clothed with his new sovereignty. It is true, indeed, that he now reigns, while he regenerates his people to the heavenly life, forms them anew to the image of God, and associates them with angels; while he governs the Church by his word, guards it by his protection, enriches it with the gifts of the Spirit, nourishes it by his grace, and maintains it by his power, and, in short, supplies it with all that is necessary for salvation; while he restrains the fury of Satan and of all the ungodly, and defeats all their schemes. But as this way of reigning is concealed from the flesh, his manifestation is properly said to be delayed till the last day. Since, therefore, the apostles foolishly aimed at the shadow of a kingdom, our Lord declares that he must go to seek a distant kingdom, that, they may learn to endure delay. (687)
(686) “ Pour conquester ce royaurae;” — “to conquer this kingdom.’
(687) “ Qu’ils apprenent de porter patiemment la longue attente;” — “that they may learn to endure patiently the long delay.”
13. And having called his ten servants. We must not inquire anxiously into the number of the servants, or into the sums of money. For Matthew, by expressing various sums, includes a more extensive doctrine, namely, that Christ does not lay on all an equal charge of trafficking, but commits to one a small, and to another a larger sum of money. Both agree in this, that till the last day of the resurrection Christ, in some respects, goes to a distance from his people, but yet that it would be highly improper for them to sit down in idleness and do no good; for each has a certain office enjoined him, in which he ought to be employed, and, therefore, they ought to be diligent in trading, that they may be careful to increase their Lord’s property.
Luke says simply, that to each he gave a pound; because, whether more or less may be committed to us by our Lord, every man must equally give account for himself. Matthew, as I have said, is more full and copious; for he states various degrees. Let us know that the Lord does not bestow on all indiscriminately the same measure of gifts, (Ephesians 4:7,) but
distributes them variously as he thinks proper, (1 Corinthians 12:11,)
so that some excel others. But whatever gifts the Lord has bestowed upon us, let us know that it is committed to us as so much money, that it may yield some gain; for nothing could be more unreasonable than that we should allow to remain buried, or should apply to no use, God’s favors, the value of which consists in yielding fruit.
. But those my enemies In this second part, he appears to glance principally at the Jews, but includes all who in the absence of their master, determine to revolt. Now Christ’s intention was, not only to terrify such persons by threatening an awful punishment, but also to keep his own people in faithful subjection; for it was no small temptation to see the kingdom of God scattered by the treachery and rebellion of many. In order then that we may preserve our composure in the midst of troubles, Christ informs us that he will return, and that at his coming he will punish wicked rebellion. (697)
(697) “ Il se vengera contre les traistres, et les punira de leur rebellion;” — “he will take vengeance on traitors, and will punish them for their rebellion.”
41. And wept over it. As there was nothing which Christ more ardently desired than to execute the office which the Father had committed to him, and as he knew that the end of his calling was to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (Matthew 15:24,) he wished that his coming might bring salvation to all. This was the reason why he was moved with compassion, and wept over the approaching destruction of the city of Jerusalem. For while he reflected that this was the sacred abode which God had chosen, in which the covenant of eternal salvation should dwell — the sanctuary from which salvation would go forth to the whole world, it was impossible that he should not deeply deplore its ruin. And when he saw the people, who had been adopted to the hope of eternal life, perish miserably through their ingratitude and wickedness, we need not wonder if he could not refrain from tears.
As to those who think it strange that Christ should bewail an evil which he had it in his power to remedy, this difficulty is quickly removed. For as he came down from heaven, that, clothed in human flesh, he might be the witness and minister of the salvation which comes from God, so he actually took upon him human feelings, as far as the office which he had undertaken allowed. And it is necessary that we should always give due consideration to the character which he sustains, when he speaks, or when he is employed in accomplishing the salvation of men; as in this passage, in order that he may execute faithfully his Father’s commission, he must necessarily desire that the fruit of the redemption should come to the whole body of the elect people. Since, therefore, he was given to this people as a minister for salvation, it is in accordance with the nature of his office that he should deplore its destruction. He was God, I acknowledge; but on all occasions when it was necessary that he should perform the office of teacher, his divinity rested, and was in a manner concealed, that it might not hinder what belonged to him as Mediator. By this weeping he proved not only that he loved, like a brother, those for whose sake he became man, but also that God made to flow into human nature the Spirit of fatherly love.
42. O if even thou hadst known! The discourse is pathetic, and therefore abrupt; for we know that by those who are under the influence of vehement passion their feelings are not more than half-expressed. Besides, two feelings are here mingled; for not only does Christ bewail the destruction of the city, but he likewise reproaches the ungrateful people with the deepest guilt, in rejecting the salvation which was offered to them, and drawing down on themselves a dreadful judgment of God. The word even, which is interwoven with it, is emphatic; for Christ silently contrasts Jerusalem with the other cities of Judea, or rather, of the whole world, and the meaning is: “If Even thou, who art distinguished by a remarkable privilege above the whole world, — if thou at least, (I say,) who art a heavenly sanctuary in the earth, hadst known ” This is immediately followed by another amplification taken from the time: “Though hitherto thou hast wickedly and outrageously rebelled against God, now at least there is time for repentance.” For he means that the day is now at hand, which had been appointed by the eternal purpose of God for the salvation of Jerusalem, and had been foretold by the prophets. Thus (says Isaiah) is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation, (Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2.)
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near, (Isaiah 55:6.)
The things which belong to thy peace Under the word peace he includes, according to the meaning of the Hebrew phrase, all that is essential to happiness. Nor does he simply say, that Jerusalem did not know her peace, but the things which belonged to her peace; for it frequently happens that men are far from being unacquainted with their happiness, but they are ignorant of the way and means, (as we say,) because they are blinded by their wickedness. Now since the compassion is mingled with reproach, let us observe, that men deserve the heavier punishment in proportion to the excellence of the gifts which they have received, because to other sins there is added an impious profanation of heavenly grace. Secondly, let us observe, that the nearer God approaches to us, and holds out the light of sound doctrine, the less excusable are we, if we neglect this opportunity. The gate of salvation, indeed, is always open; but as God is sometimes silent, it is no ordinary privilege, when He invites us to himself with a loud voice, and in a familiar manner, and therefore the contempt will be visited by severer punishment.
But now they are hid from thy eyes. This is not said for the purpose of extenuating the guilt of Jerusalem; for, on the contrary, it marks with disgrace the monstrous stupidity of that city, that, when God is present, it does not perceive him. I do acknowledge that it belongs to God alone to open the eyes of the blind, and that no man is qualified for understanding the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, unless God enlighten him inwardly by his Spirit; but it does not follow from this that they who perish through their own brutal blindness are excusable. Christ intended also to remove an offense, which might otherwise have perplexed the ignorant and weak; for when the eyes of all were directed to that city, his example might have very great influence in both respects, either for evil or for good. That no man then may be perplexed by its unbelief and proud contempt of the Gospel, Jerusalem is condemned for disgraceful blindness.
43. For the days shall come upon thee. He now assumes, as it were, the character of a judge, and addresses Jerusalem with greater severity. In like manner the prophets also, though they shed tears over the destruction of those about whom they ought to feel anxiety, yet they summon up courage to pronounce severe threatenings, because they know that not only are they commanded to watch over the salvation of men, but that they have also been appointed to be the heralds of the judgment of God. Under these terms Jesus declares that Jerusalem will suffer dreadful punishment, because she did not know the time of her visitation; that is, because she despised the Redeemer who had been exhibited to her, and did not embrace his grace. Let the fearful nature of the punishments which she endured now alarm us, that we may not, by our carelessness, extinguish the light of salvation, but may be careful to receive the grace of God, and may even run with rigor to meet it.
. And he taught daily in the temple. Mark and Luke point out, first, what was the class of men of which the Church consisted, namely, of the despised multitude; and again, what enemies Christ had, namely, the priests and scribes, and all the rulers. Now this is a part of the folly of the cross, that God, passing by the excellence of the world, chooses what is foolish, weak, and despised. Secondly, they relate that those worthy guardians of the Church of God sought an occasion of putting Christ to death, by which their wicked impiety was discovered; for though there had been good grounds for pursuing Christ, yet they had no right to proceed to murder after the manner of robbers, or secretly to hire assassins. Thirdly, they show that the wicked conspiracy of those men was frustrated, because, by the secret purpose of God, Christ was appointed to the death of the cross.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent