Jesus and Zacchaeus, 1-10

19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. 19:2 Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 19:3 He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short man he could not see over the crowd. 19:4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way. 19:5 And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.” 19:6 So he came down quickly and welcomed Jesus joyfully. 19:7 And when the people saw it, they all complained, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 19:8 But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” 19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jericho – A wealthy border town, and therefore with its own customs station.

Zacchaeus…was wealthy – Given his role a a chief tax collector in a prosperous city, Zacchaeus could have become wealthy by honest means; but v8 suggests that he had used dishonest means.

Luke uses this story as an apt illustration of what has just been recorded, Lk 18:18-30, about the difficulty of the rich in entering the kingdom of God. ‘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 Cor 1:26-29.’ (Barnes)

A chief tax collector – Important Romans would pay considerable sums of money in the treasury for the right to collect revenue on exports from and imports to a province. They often sub-let this privilege to ‘chief publicans’ (like Zacchaeus) who in turn appointed others (such as Levi) to do the actual collecting. Booths were located at places such as Caesarea, Capernaum, and Jericho.

Tax Collectors would charge whatever the traffic would bear – often very large sums. They therefore had a reputation as extortionists. But they were also regarded as traitors, since they in the service of foreign oppressors.

See Mt 9:10-11; 11:19; 21:31-32; Mk 2:15-16; Lk 5:30; 7:34; 15:1; 19:7.

A short man – Probably under five feet tall.

Distribution of ficus sycomorus. (Wikipedia)

A sycamore-fig tree – Not the North American or European version, but one characteristic of this location (Ficus sycomorus).  The Jericho of that day had many parks and gardens, and it would might well have been easier to climb a tree than to go on to a roof-top in order to get a good view.

“I must stay at your house today” – Jesus was happy to associate with disreputable people such as Zacchaeus. (cf. Lk 5:27-30) Are we?

‘This was an honour which Zaccheus 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 splendour or grandeur.’ (Barnes)

Peter Oakes (in ‘We Proclaim the Word of Life’, eds Paul & Wenham) suggests that preachers (and scholars) might take note of the ‘urban assumptions’ that are apparent in Luke’s Gospel.

For instance, if a preacher…is handling Luke’s substantial material on tax collectors, the temptation is to view this in purely Galilean and Judean terms, focusing solely on the role of Tax collectors in that region.  A common consequence of this is that interpreters give priority to the role of tax collectors as collaborators with an occupying power.  this political characteristic is often seen as central to the issues relating to tax collectors in the Gospels.  However, for Luke and his readers in the Greco-Roman urban world this would not be the main characteristic of tax collectors.  Taxes, and consequently tax collectors, were indeed commonly resented in the provinces of the empire.  However, the most frequent complain about tax collectors was of corrupt extortion, enabling them to get rich as the expense of the population.  This broader characterisation of tax collectors actually fits Luke’s text much better than a Judea-centred focus on collaboration.  Luke’s material on tax collectors is book-ended by John the Baptist’s call for them to renounce extortion (Luke 3:13) and Zacchaeus’ example of doing that and repaying money (Luke 19:8).

‘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, Rom 10:10.’ (Barnes)

‘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 men 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.’ (Barnes)

“Today salvation has come to this household” – Here, says N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God) is a scandal: ‘What Zacchaeus would normally have obtained through visiting Jerusalem and participating in the sacrificial cult, Jesus gave him on the spot…what made [such an act] act so scandalous, was not (of course) that Jews of Jesus’ day were opposed to forgiveness, love, grace and so forth, but that they were not expecting these gifts to be available outside the context of Temple and cult.’

‘Luke’s theology of salvation is summed up in Lk 19:10 where the Son of man’s mission is to seek and to save the lost. The language is that of shepherding and refers to the rescue of sheep from death in various possible ways. The metaphorical usage of such language to refer to God’s care of his people was well established and is echoed here. In consequence of the coming of Jesus to him, it can be said that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’s house there and then. (Lk 19:9) It is thus a present experience involving the table fellowship between Jesus and Zacchaeus and the commencement of a new way of life in which the latter abandons the sinful habits of the past. Jesus emphasizes that even though Zacchaeus is a sinner, yet he is one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel and therefore a rightful object of his mission.’ (DJG)

‘One said to me lately, “Oh, sir, I am the biggest sinner that ever lived!” I replied, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tim 1:15) “But I have not any strength.” “While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died.” (Rom 5:6)

“Oh, but,” he said, “I have been utterly ungodly.” “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6) “But I am lost.” “Yes,” I said, “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (Lk 19:10) I said to this man, “You have the brush in your hand, and at every stroke it looks as if you were quoting Scripture.”‘ (Thomas Scott)

The Parable of the Ten Minas, 11-27

19:11 While the people were listening to these things, Jesus proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 19:12 Therefore he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 19:13 And he summoned ten of his slaves, gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 19:14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to be king over us!’ 19:15 When he returned after receiving the kingdom, he summoned these slaves to whom he had given the money. He wanted to know how much they had earned by trading. 19:16 So the first one came before him and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 19:17 And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ 19:18 Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ 19:19 So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 19:20 Then another slave came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina that I put away for safekeeping in a piece of cloth. 19:21 For I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You withdraw what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ 19:22 The king said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! So you knew, did you, that I was a severe man, withdrawing what I didn’t deposit and reaping what I didn’t sow? 19:23 Why then didn’t you put my money in the bank, so that when I returned I could have collected it with interest?’ 19:24 And he said to his attendants, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has ten.’ 19:25 But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten minas already!’ 19:26 ‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 19:27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be their king, bring them here and slaughter them in front of me!’ ”
Lk 19:12–27 – cf. Mt 25:14–30

There is a very close connection between the Parable of the Ten Minas with what precedes it (the Zacchaeus episode) and what follows it (the entry into Jerusalem). This is made very clear in the present verse. There are three pointers:- (a) ‘While they were listening to this’; (b) ‘He was near Jerusalem’; (c) ‘The people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once’.

Not about Christ's return?
N.T. Wright maintains that ‘the parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth.’  More fully, Wright states:-

‘The stories Jesus tells about a king, or master, who goes away for a while and leaves his subjects to trade with his money in his absence, were not originally meant to refer to Jesus going away and leaving the church with tasks to get on with until his eventual second coming, even though they were read in that way from early on.  They belong to in the Jewish world of the first century, where everyone would at one “hear” the story to be about God himself, having left Israel and the Temple at the time of the Exile, coming back again at last, as the post-exilic prophets had said he would, back to Israel, back to Zion, back to the Temple.  In their original setting, the point of these stories is that Israel’s God, YHWH, is indeed coming at last to Jerusalem, to the Temple – in and as the human person Jesus of Nazareth.  The stories are not, in that sense, about the second coming of Jesus, but about the first one.’

(Surprised By Hope, p138)

Wright’s interpretation seems idiosyncratic, and undermined by the reason given for Jesus teaching this parable in the first place: ‘the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.’

While they were listening to this – Jesus had just been explaining that the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost If this defines the purpose for which Jesus entered to this world, the parable will proceed to deal with certain questions and misconceptions about his exit from the world: Why did he depart without first establishing his kingdom? What responsibilities are left to his followers? What will become of those who hate him?

‘As the work of Jesus came to what the disciples hoped would be a climax in Jerusalem, they thought that a successful worldly type of revolution was about to take place and lead to the establishment of the kingdom of God. They bickered about the places which they would occupy in the new order. (Lk 22:24-30; Mk 10:35-45) The present parable was intended to correct this attitude by warning that the Messiah was going to be rejected and that there would be a period during which he would be ‘absent’ and his followers must engage in faithful service until his return.’ (NBC)

He was near Jerusalem – Jerusalem was some seventeen miles from Jericho, reached by a steep and winding road. The crucifixion was just a few days off. Jesus had an important lesson to teach both his followers and his enemies.

‘The disciples evidently expected that our Lord was about to be proclaimed king, as soon as he arrived at Jerusalem, and wind up his miracles by reigning on earth.’ (Ryle)

‘For some time Luke has been describing a journey to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:51). Jericho is about seventeen miles from Jerusalem, so the journey was nearly over. This led some to think that the climax was at hand and that the kingdom of God would appear immediately. The climax was indeed at hand, but it would be of a very different kind from the one these people imagined. The parable was to help put them right.’ (Morris)

The people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once – cf. Lk 17:20; 1:6; Jn 6:15; 2 Thess 2:1-3. The disciples themselves seemed to entertain this thought, Mk 10:35-45, even though Jesus had repeatedly spoken of his own death. Even after the resurrection they continued to think that an earthly kingdom would be immediately established, Acts 1:6.

On this popular misunderstanding, Wilcock comments,

‘Like so many religious ideas, it was half-truth, and as such even more dangerous than a lie. And it is the kind of concept which many have, especially in these days of universal education, of the message of Jesus. People who are subject to the incessant bombardment of information through the media are likely to have the illusion of being well-informed, when in fact they are merely (to coin a phrase) much-informed…The Jews of Jesus’ time thought they knew what was meant by the kingdom of God. People today think they know what is meant by Christianity, the church, the gospel. More often than not, however, the message has been misunderstood, and needs to be clarified.’

‘They expected that his apostles and immediate attendants should be advanced to dignity and honour, that they should all be made princes and peers, privy-counsellors and judges, and have all the pomp and preferments of the court and of the town. But Christ here tells them that, instead of this, he designed them to be men of business; they must expect no other preferment in this world than that of the trading end of the town; he would set them up with a stock under their hands, that they might employ it themselves, in serving him and the interest of his kingdom among men. That is the true honour of a Christian and a minister which, if we be as we ought to be truly ambitious of it, will enable us to look upon all temporal honours with a holy contempt. The apostles had dreamed of sitting on his right hand and on his left in his kingdom, enjoying ease after their present toil and honour after the present contempt put upon them, and were pleasing themselves with this dream; but Christ tells them that which, if they understood it aright, would fill them with care, and concern, and serious thoughts, instead of those aspiring ones with which they filled their heads.’ (MHC)

Blomberg outlines the parable as follows:-

A. The Missions (Lk 19:12-14)

1. The nobleman’s journey (Lk 19:12)
2. The servants’ responsibility (Lk 19:13)
3. The citizens’ opposition (Lk 19:14)

B. The Reckonings (Lk 19:15-23)

1. The nobleman’s return (Lk 19:15)
2. Servant A (Lk 19:16-17)
3. Servant B (Lk 19:18-19)
4. Servant C (Lk 19:20-23)

C. The Destinies (Lk 19:24-27)

1. The fate of the servants (Lk 19:24-26)
2. The fate of the citizens (Lk 19:27)

The key elements in the parable are:

  1. The nobleman who went to a distant country (indicating that he would be away for a considerable period of time) in order to receive a kingship. This represents Christ himself, who is soon to go to the Father in order to receive his kingship, and will return again after a long (but indefinite) period of time.
  2. The servants of the nobleman who were entrusted with a certain amount of money to put to good use. This represents the good news with which Christ’s followers have been entrusted during the present age. They will have to give an account of their work for the kingdom and will be rewarded accordingly.
  3. The subjects of the nobleman, who hated him and rejected him as king.

Luke sets out to clarify the meaning of the kingdom in the following ways:-

  1. The kingdom must centre on the cross of Jesus, 18:34.
  2. The kingdom must come in the hearts of men, 19:1-10.
  3. The kingdom must grow through the rest of history, 19:11-27.
  4. The kingdom must reach to the ends of the earth, 19:39-44.

Geldenhuys summarises the teaching of the Parable of the Ten Minas as follows:-

  1. The final revelation of the sovereign dominion of God will not take place immediately;
  2. A great responsibility rests on each one of his followers to work faithfully until he comes;
  3. The full coming of the kingdom of God is not going to bring along with it a Jewish political triumph, but the Final Judgement, when the faithful will be rewarded and the unfaithful and hostile punished.

This parable echoes what had happened to various members of the Herodian family, who went to Rome to appeal for power over their realms. Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, went to Rome in 4 BC to have his father’s will confirmed, by which he was to be his successor. But an embassy of Jews followed close on his heels with a protest to the emperor: “We don’t want this man to be our king.” They had good reason for hating him: Josephus records that at the first Passover after his succession he massacred 3,000 or his subjects. As a result Augustus severely limited his powers, denying him the title ‘king’ until he should prove worthy of it (which he never did). Jesus was probably using this incident as a basis for the parable. The fate of the disobedient subjects simply reflects ancient despotic ways. There is no record that Archelaus himself actually behaved like this, and there is no indication that Jesus himself approved of such cruelty.

Morris says that there would be special fitness in an allusion to Archelaus in this region, for, as Josephus relates, he had built a magnificent palace in Jericho and also made an aqueduct for irrigation purposes.

The parable is similar to that of the Talents, Mt 25:14-30. ‘But,’ writes Wiersbe, ‘their lessons must not be confused. In this parable, each of the ten servants received the same amount but different rewards, while in the Parable of the Talents, the servants received different amounts but the same reward, the approval and joy of the Lord. (Mt 25:21) The Parable of the Talents teaches us to be faithful to use our different gifts as God gives us opportunities to serve. Some people have a great deal of ability, so God gives them greater opportunity. The important thing is not how much ability you have but how faithful you are to use what you have for the Lord. The person with the least ability, if he or she is faithful, will receive the same reward as the most gifted church leader.’

Morris discusses the relationship between this parable and that of the Talents noting that ‘Some see these these as variants of one original, but the differences make this hazardous. It is more likely that Jesus made more than one use of the basic idea. In Matthew he is concerned with men of different abilities to whom are assigned tasks according to their capacities The sums are large and represent the discharge of serious and important tasks. Here the sums are small and the same amount is given to all. The servants are being tested to see whether they are fit for larger tasks. The Matthean parable reminds us that we all have different gifts, the Lucan that we all one basic task, that of living out our faith.’

A man of noble birth – Representing Jesus Christ.

A distant country – By this Christ seems to indicate ‘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, (Mt 28:18) that every knee might bow before him, (Php 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.’ (Calvin)

The idea that the Son of Man would not return immediately is suggested by Mt 25:5,19. See also Mt 24:14; 2 Thess 2:2-3; 2 Pet 3:4-9; Rev 20:1-3,7-11.

To have himself appointed king and then to return – Underlying this is the truth that our Lord, after his suffering, would ascend to his Father in heaven, and that the Father would reward him by giving him the place of authority at his right hand, and bestowing on him rulership over all things for the sake of the church, Eph 1:20-23; from heaven he would return after a long but indefinite time.

‘Christ must go to heaven, to sit down at the right hand of the Father there, and to receive from him honour and glory, before the Spirit was poured out by which his kingdom was to be set up on earth, and before a church was to be set up for him in the Gentile world. He must receive the kingdom, and then return. Christ returned when the Spirit was poured out, when Jerusalem was destroyed, by which time that generation, both of friends and enemies, which he had personally conversed with, was wholly worn off by death, and gone to give up their account. But his chief return here meant is that at the great day, of which we are yet in expectation. That which they thought would immediately appear, Christ tells them will not appear till this same Jesus who is taken into heaven shall in like manner come again; see Acts 1:11.’ (MHC)

‘When the Lord Jesus left the world, he ascended up into heaven as a conqueror, leading captivity captive. He is there sitting at the right hand of God, doing the work of a High Priest for his believing people, and ever making intercession for them. But he will not sit there always. He will come forth from the holy of holies to bless his people. He will come again with power and glory to put down every enemy under his feet, and to set up his universal kingdom on earth. At present “we see not all things put under him.” The devil is the “prince of this world..” (Heb 2:8 Jn 14:30) But the present state of things shall be changed one day. When Christ returns, the kingdoms of the world shall become his.’ (Ryle)

‘In all our thoughts about Christ, let us never forget his second advent. It is well to know that he lived for us, and died for us, and rose again for us, and intercedes for us. But it is also well to know that he is soon coming again.’ (Ryle)

Ten of his servants – These represent all those who profess to follow Christ.

Ten minas – The mina is thought to be equivalent to about three months’ wages for a labourer. Compared with a talent, it is a rather small sum. This emphasises the principle that if we are faithful in relatively small matters in this life, we shall be entrusted with much greater matters in the life to come. I am not expected to convert the world single-handedly. I am not expected to solve all the problems of the church, or even of my own local church. But I am expected to be faithful in my work for the gospel.

“Put this money to work” – he gave each of them one mina, expecting them to ‘put it to work’ by buying good and then selling at a profit, or by investing the money. His trust can be thought of as a test, a test of their loyalty and wisdom.

‘He gave these pounds to his servants, not to buy rich liveries, much less robes, and a splendid equipage, for themselves to appear in, as they expected, but with this charge: Occupy till I come. Or, as it might much better be translated, Trade till I come, be busy. So the word properly signifies. “You are sent forth to preach the gospel, to set up a church for Christ in the world, to bring the nations to the obedience of faith, and to build them up in it.’ (MHC)

This represents the task that has been given to all believers, each to play his or her part in the spread of the gospel. ‘They must conduct themselves in such a manner that through their word and example sinners are brought to the Lord, believers are strengthened in the faith, they themselves grow in every Christian virtue, and every sphere (social, economic, political, educational, etc) is brought under the influence of the gospel, all this to the glory of God.’ (Hendriksen)

‘Note, 1. All Christians have business to do for Christ in this world, and ministers especially; the former were not baptized, nor the latter ordained, to be idle. 2. Those that are called to business for Christ he furnishes with gifts necessary for their business; and, on the other hand, from those to whom he gives power he expects service. He delivers the pounds with this charge, Go work, go trade. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, 1 Cor 12:7. And as every one has received the gift, so let him minister the same, 1 Pet 4:10. 3. We must continue to mind our business till our Master comes, whatever difficulties or oppositions we may meet with in it; those only that endure to the end shall be saved.’ (MHC)

How hard are we working for the things that cannot last, and how hard for the things of eternity?

His subjects hated him – These represent those Jews who opposed Christ, before and after his ascension, with bitter hatred and stubborn opposition.

“We don’t want this man to be our king” Cf. Jn 19:15.

In what ways can hatred of the Lord Jesus be manifested?

“He was made king, however” – Fierce may be the attempts to deny King Jesus his right to rule, but in the end his authority will prevail, Ps 118:22-23; Mt 21:42.

“He…returned home. Then he sent for the servants” – This represents our Lord’s glorious return, and the fact that upon his return his will require his servants to give an account of their use of their various gifts and opportunities in the work of the gospel.

‘There is a day coming when the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge his people, and give to every one according to his works. The course of this world shall not always go on as it does now. Disorder, confusion, false profession, and unpunished sin, shall not always cover the face of the earth. The great white throne shall be set up. The Judge of all shall sit upon it. The dead shall be raised from their graves. The living shall all be summoned to the bar. The books shall be opened. High and low, rich and poor, gentle and simply, all shall at length give an account to God, and all shall receive an eternal sentence.’ (Ryle)

The first two servants ‘both acknowledged their obligations to their Master for entrusting them with these abilities and opportunities to do him service: Lord, it is not my industry, but thy pound, that has gained ten pounds. Note, God must have all the glory of all our gains; not unto us, but unto him, must be the praise, Ps 115:1. Paul, who gained the ten pounds, acknowledges, “I laboured, yet not I. By the grace of God, I am what I am, and do what I do; and his grace was not in vain,” 1 Cor 15:10. He will not speak of what he had done, but of what God had done by him, Rom 15:18.’ (MHC)

“Well done, my good servant!” – As Hendriksen comments: ‘the Lord takes delight in rewarding his children, not in punishing the wicked. Cf. Eze 18:23,32).’

“Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter…” – ‘How small are our tasks here and now compared to our responsibilities in the new heaven and earth!’ (Hendriksen)

‘Whosoever has faithfully and diligently made the most of the opportunities given by him to serve his good cause will be richly rewarded in the everlasting and heavenly kingdom by the praise which the Lord will bestow upon him and by the commission to fulfil a far more glorious and important calling.’ (Geldenhuys)

“…take charge of ten cities” – The Lord, at his glorious return, will reward his servant in proportion to their faithfulness and stewardship, and they will be given opportunity to serve him in yet greater ways.

‘They that trade diligently and faithfully in the service of Christ shall be gainers. We cannot say so of the business of the world; many a labouring tradesman has been a loser; but those that trade for Christ shall be gainers.’ (MHC)

He we see ‘the certain reward of all true Christians. Our Lord tells us that those who are found to have been faithful servants shall receive honour and dignity. Each shall receive a reward proportioned to his diligence. One shall be placed ‘over ten cities” and another “over five”.’ (Ryle)

‘The people of God receive little apparent recompense in this present time. Their names are often cast our as evil. They enter the kingdom of God through much tribulation. Their good things are not in this world. The gain of godliness does not consist in earthly rewards, but in inward peace, and hope, and joy in believing. But they shall have an abundant recompense one day. They shall receive wages far exceeding anything they have done for Christ. They shall find, to their amazement, that for everything they have done and borne for their Master, their Master will pay them a hundred-fold.’ (Ryle) See Rom 8:18 Heb 11:26.

‘He that had gained but five pounds had dominion over five cities. This intimates that there are degrees of glory in heaven; every vessel will be alike full, but not alike large. And the degrees of glory there will be according to the degrees of usefulness here.’ (MHC)

“You take charge of five cities” – ‘Let it be noted, that the servant who had turned one pound into ten, was set over ten cities, and the servant who had turned one into five, was set over five cities. Each was rewarded according to his diligence. The doctrine of reward according to works seems to stand out here as well as in other places of Scripture. Our title to heave is all of grace. Our degree of glory in heaven will be proportioned to our works.’ (Ryle) See 1 Cor 3:8,14 Eph 6:7f.

Another – lit. ‘the other’ – an odd expression, since it seems to reduce the original number of ten servants down to just three. Possbily, the Lord mentioned the three by way of example, examples of the three main types – the faithful, the less faithful, the unfaithful. But Blomberg says, ‘the suggestion that this expression should be taken to refer to the other “class” of servant (i.e., wicked) is not a natural interpretation of the language. A better alternative is to take the expression to mean “the next.” (cf. Lk 4:43 Mt 10:23) The reason the other seven servants do not appear is that the triadic structure is complete with the appearance of three. (cf. Lk 20:31 pars.) The reason the ten are there in the first place is that Luke’s context presupposes a larger, more diverse audience (the crowds rather than just the disciples as in Matthew).’

“I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth” – he thought it was enough, to do no harm. He lost everythng by an unbelieving anxiety to lose nothing. He was so afraid of doing any thing amiss, that he did nothing at all. He would make no venture, and run no risk, even when his master bade him. His was not a case of over-conscientiousness: it was an instance of sloth and selfishness taking the threadbare dress of superior prudence.’ (James Wells, Q by Taylor)

‘This represents the carelessness of those who have gifts, but never lay out themselves to do good with them. It is all one to them whether the interests of Christ’s kingdom sink or swim, go backward or forward; for their parts, they will take no care about it, no pains, be at no expenses, run no hazard. Those are the servants that lay up their pound in a napkin who think it enough to say that they have done no hurt in the world, but did no good.’ (MHC)

“You are a hard man” – ‘This harshness has nothing to do with the substance of the parable; and it is an idle speculation in which those indulge, who reason from this passage, how severely and rigorously God deals with his own people. For Christ did not intend to describe such rigor, any more than to applaud usury, when he represents the master of the house as saying, that the money ought to have been deposited with a banker, that it might, at least, gain interest. Christ only means, that there will be no excuse for the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness.’ (Calvin)

“I will judge you by your own words” – The servant is condemned by his own words, for if it were true that his master was a hard man, taking what he did not put in, and reaping what he did not sow, then for that very reason he should have been prudent enough to invest the mina in order to make some interest (v23). Those who are condemned at the last day will be to a large extent self-condemned.

“You wicked servant” – This man represents an important and possibly large group of people. It is very difficult to say whether such people are true believers or not. They are certainly nominal believers. They have given their tacit support to Christ. They do not deny the faith. They are relatively harmless and inoffensive. But they have done little or nothing with the gift with which they have been entrusted. They are, at best, ‘luke-warm’ Christians.

“Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit?” – Perhaps the servant was afraid of making a loss and so getting into trouble. NBC reminds us of the stockbroker’s warning: ‘the value of your investment can go down as well as up!’

This servant ‘stands as the representative of the great multitude of hearers of the gospel, who simply do nothing whatever about it. They do not oppose it; they do not laugh at it; they do not argue against it; their worst enemies would not call them immoral: but they neglect “the great salvation,” and think that because, as they phrase it, they have done no harm, therefore they are in no danger. But Christ requires positive improvement of the privileges which he bestows. He gives the seed, not to be hoarded in the granary, but to be scattered over the field that it may be multiplied many-fold; and though it may not seem so at first, yet the keeping of it in the granary is a really a disobedience of him, as would be the emptying of it out into the sea.’ (Taylor)

Several important textual authorities omit verse 25

This shows ‘that the honour placed on faithful Christians, at the last day, will be so great as to surprise and amaze all who behold it.’ (Ryle)

‘I tell you that everyone who has will be given more, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away’ – These words are put in the mouth of the nobleman-king of the parable. Since, however, he represents Jesus Christ, there is no reason to think that they do not represent the mind of Christ himself.

This verse enunciates a general rule in life. ‘The parable concludes with one of the inexorable laws of life. To him who has, more will be given; from him who has not, what he has will be taken away. If a man plays a game and goes on practising at it, he will play it with ever greater efficiency; if he does not practise, he will lose much of whatever knack and ability he has. If we discipline and train our bodies, they will grow ever fitter and stronger; if we do not, they will grow flabby and lose much of the strength we have. If a schoolboy learns Latin, and goes on with his learning, the wealth of Latin literature will open wider and wider to him; if he does not go on learning, he will forget much of the Latin he knows. If we really strive after goodness and master this and that temptation, new vistas and new heights of goodness will open to us; if we give up the battle and take the easy way, much of the resistance power we once possessed will be lost and we will slip from whatever height we had attained.’ (DSB)

Can we go as far as Geldenhuys? – ‘The believer who, through a wrong attitude towards the Lord, proves unfruitful in his service will at his advent be rebuked and will have no part in the privilege of reigning in the heavenly kingdom and sharing the authority of the eternal King. Although no believer can perish, the unfaithful and those who forsake their vocation will meet with disgrace and loss.’

“Bring them here and kill them in front of me” – ‘We may be horrified by the fierceness of the conclusion; but beneath the grim imagery is an equally grim fact, the fact that the coming of Jesus to the world puts every man to the test, compels every man to a decision. And that decision is no light matter. It is a matter of life an death.’ (T.W. Manson)

In this parable, Jesus has taught that the kingdom would not come immediately, and that its subjects ought to remain faithful to the task that they had been given.

‘Not only ministers and other spiritual leaders, but all believers, have received the opportunity (as a gift from the Lord) of working for him (by word and deed, in prayer and offerings, and in many other ways). Whosoever avails himself of every opportunity which the Lord gives him will become inwardly richer and will always have more and better opportunities of working for him and of thus lahing up a rich treasure in heaven. But he who, through estrangement of heart towards him, neglects the precious opportunities of working for him commits spiritual suicide.’ (Geldenhuys)

The Triumphal Entry, 28-44

19:28 After Jesus had said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 19:29 Now when he approached Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 19:30 telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. When you enter it, you will find a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 19:31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 19:32 So those who were sent ahead found it exactly as he had told them. 19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” 19:34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and had Jesus get on it. 19:36 As he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 19:37 As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: 19:38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 19:39 But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!”

Lk 19:28-48 This passage may be outlined as follows:-

  • vv28-36 – Preparation
  • vv37-40 – Celebration
  • vv41-44 – Lamentation
  • vv45-48 – Denunciation

After Jesus had said this – forming a link between this passage and the preceding, in which Jesus has taught a kingship parable.

He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem – Cf. Lk 9:51.

‘Jesus Christ was forward and willing to suffer and die for us. He went forward, bound in the spirit, to Jerusalem, knowing very well the things that should befall him there, and yet he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem, Lk 19:28. He was the foremost of the company, as if he longed to be upon the spot, longed to engage, to take the field, and to enter upon action. Was he so forward to suffer and die for us, and shall we draw back from any service we are capable of doing for him? ‘ (MHC)

‘The prophets had a regular custom of which they made use again and again. When words were of no effect, when people refused to take in and understand the spoken message, they resorted to some dramatic action which put their message into a picture which none could fail to see. We get examples of such dramatic actions in 1 Kings 11:29-31 Jer 13:1-11 Jer 27:1-11 Eze 4:1-3 Eze 5:1-4. It was just such a dramatic action which Jesus planned now. He proposed to ride into Jerusalem in a way that would be an unmistakable claim to be the Messiah, God’s Anointed King.’ (DSB)

Lk 19:29–38 = Mt 21:1–9; Mk 11:1–10
Lk 19:35–38 = Jn 12:12–15

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all four Gospels – Mt 21:1-9 Mk 11:1-10 Lk 19:29-38 Jn 12:12-15. It is at this point that the four accounts merge, and all of them will tell the story of Jesus’ passion, although each still with his own accents and emphases.

‘The triumphal entry is of vital significance in understanding the messianic mission of Jesus. Prior to this moment, Jesus had refused to allow any public acknowledgement of his being the Messiah. By conducting his ministry outside Jerusalem, he had avoided further intensification of conflict with the Jewish religious leaders. Now, however, the time was at hand. The opponents of Jesus understood the strong messianic implications of the manner of his entry into Jerusalem. The riding upon the colt, the garments and palm branches in the road, and the shouts of the multitude-all of this pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. When he was urged to quiet the people, Jesus replied, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!”.’ (Lk 19:40 NASB) (Holman)

Bethany was just two miles from Jerusalem, and Bethphage was still nearer.

“You will find a colt tied there” – This could be an example of our Lord’s perfect knowledge. Cf. Mt 12:25; Jn 2:25; Jn 6:64. It is perhaps more probably to suppose that this represents the Lord’s deliberate plan with regard to his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in that he had made arrangements beforehand with the owners of the colt. This is supported by Lk 9:52, which indicate that Jesus sent messengers ahead of him.

In the culture of the day a major religious or political figure could request the use of livestock.

“Which no one has ever ridden” – It is difficult to know how significant this point is. However, it is consistent with other reminders of the uniqueness of Jesus: the ‘unused’ womb, Lk 1:34, and the unused tomb, Lk 23:53.

“The Lord needs it” – ‘It is not clear whether the Lord refers to Jesus himself or to the colt’s owner. In the latter case, the owners in v 33 would be the owner’s servants, and Jesus would have made a previous arrangement for the loan with the owner. In the former case, Jesus very unusually refers to himself as ‘the Lord’.’ (NBC)

Geldenhuys says, ‘From this it appears that the Saviour had probably often passed through Bethphage, so that the owner of the colt already know him as “Lord” and honoured him to such an extent that he and his household would allow the colt to be taken to Jesus without any opposition.’ But this assumes that ‘the Lord’ was a well-known title for Jesus at this time, but the evidence of the Gospels is that this was not the case. What is clear is our Lord’s complete control over the situation. What is about to happen was no accident: it occurred through his own deliberate purpose.

In antiquity the vast majority of people, including Christians, were poor; knowing that their Lord Jesus had to borrow his royal mount would have encouraged them.

In addition to the Twelve, there were many others who were ready to serve Jesus in whatever ways they could. Cf. Mk 15:40-16:1 Lk 6:13 10:1 Jn 12:19 19:38-21:1. Whether it was a colt, a place of lodging, a meal, a room in which to celebrate the Passover, or even a tomb, friends were willing to provide what they could. Does the Lord have such friends today?

It’s not about you

John MacArthur reports seeing a charismatic TV programme, in which a guest was explaining the ‘biblical basis’ of his ministry of ‘possibility thinking’. “My ministry is based entirely on my life verse, Mt 19:26, ‘With God all things are possible.’ God gave me that verse because I was born in 1926.” Intrigued, the talk show host grabbed a Bible and thumbed through it excitedly. “I was born in 1934,” he said. “What does Mt 19:34 say?” He found that Mt 19 has only thirty verses. Skipping Mk, which has only 16 chapters, he moved on to Lk 19:34, ‘And they said, The Lord hath need of him.’ Thrilled at this, he exclaimed, “Oh, the Lord has need of me! The Lord has need of me! What a wonderful life verse! I’ve never had a life verse before, but now the Lord has given me one! Thankyou, Jesus! Hallelujah!” The studio audience applauded. Then the talk show host’s wife said, “Wait a minute! You can’t use this. This verse is talking about a donkey!” (Charismatic Chaos, 102)

We think of the donkey as a lowly animal, but to the Jew it was a beast fit for a king (1 King 1:33,44).

This ‘was a deliberate claim to be king, a deliberate fulfilling of the picture in Zec 9:9. But even in this Jesus underlined the kind of kingship which he claimed. The ass in Palestine was not the lowly beast that it is in this country. It was noble. Only in war did kings ride upon a horse; when they came in peace they came upon an ass. So Jesus by this action came as a king of love and peace, and not as the conquering military hero whom the mob expected and awaited.’ (DSB)

This is a kingly entry, but a humble and a peaceful one.  There will come a day when he will return with great power.  But at the present time the church follows his example of a Servant King.  When the church has attempted to assert itself by brute force, as at the time of the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, she has tragically misunderstood her mission.  (See Bock’s discussion of this point).

Vv. 37-44 are unique to Luke.

‘Luke 19:37 betrays special geographic awareness in speaking about “the descent of the Mount of Olives,” down which the Roman road steeply led.’ (DJG)

The whole crowd of disciples – The publicity which accompanied our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem contrasts markedly with the privacy which he often sought. This was the first and only time that Jesus had allowed a public demonstration on his part. The reasons for this are not hard to determine. ‘He knew that the time had come when he was to die for sinners on the cross. His work as the great Prophet, so far as his earthly ministry was concerned, was almost finished and completed. His work as the sacrifice for sin and substitute for sinners, remained to be accomplished. Before giving himself up as a sacrifice, he desired to draw the attention of the whole Jewish nation to himself. The Lamb of God was about to be slain. The great sin-offering was about to be killed. It was meet that the eyes of all Israel should be fixed upon him. This great thing was not done in a corner.’ (J.C. Ryle) Cf. Lk 24:18.

Another reason why Jesus allowed this public demonstration was, do doubt, that he desired to force the Jewish leaders into action. All the way through his public ministry, he had shown himself aware, and in control of, the timing of events. This is shown, for example, in John’s gospel by the repeated refrain, ‘the time had not yet come,’ and, later, ‘the time had come.’

All the miracles they had seen – Especially when he raised Lazarus from the dead, Lk 11:45.

“Blessed is the king who comes…!” – A quotation from Ps 118:26. This is one of the Hallel psalms sung during the Passover. It is also one of the psalms most frequently quoted in the NT. We also regard it is an Messianic psalm. The atmosphere was high with enthusiasm and expectation.

‘In hailing him as the Messiah, the people are right; the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes (Mt 21:15,16; Lk 19:39,40) are wrong. But in expecting this Messiah to reveal himself as a political, earthly Messiah the Hosanna shouters are as wrong as their leaders. Those who in every way reject Jesus are committing a crime, but those who outwardly “accept” and cheer him are also doing him a gross injustice, for they do not accept him for what he really is. Their tragic mistake is committed with dire results for themselves. It is not surprising therefore that Luke pictures a weeping King in the midst of a shouting multitude (19:39-44), nor is it strange that, a little later, when the crowds begin to understand that Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they had expected, they, at the urging of their leaders, are shouting, “Crucify (him)!”‘ (Hendriksen)

‘The joy of Christ’s disciples at his entry into Jerusalem, when he came to be crucified, will prove as nothing compared to the joy of his people when he comes again to reign. -That first joy was soon broken off and exchanged for sorrow and bitter tears. The second joy shall be a joy for evermore. -That first joy was often interrupted by the bitter sneers of enemies, who were plotting mischief. The second joy shall be liable to no such rude interruption. Not a word shall be said against the King when he comes to Jerusalem the second time. “Before him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord.”‘ (Php 2:11) (J.C. Ryle)

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Cf. Lk 2:14: there the angels sang, ‘Peace on earth!’ whereas here, men sing, ‘Peace in heaven!’

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples” – These Pharisees were possibly friendly towards Jesus and were fearful of the consequences.

“If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” Cf. Hab 2:11. Hitherto, Jesus has frequently discouraged public acclaim. But now, there is no stopping it. There is strong irony here: the religious leaders understand Jesus’ significance less than inanimate nature.

‘Whether men praise Christ or no he will, and shall, and must be praised: If these should hold their peace, and not speak the praises of the Messiah’s kingdom, the stones would immediately cry out, rather than that Christ should not be praised. This was, in effect, literally fulfilled, when, upon men’s reviling Christ upon the cross, instead of praising him, and his own disciples’ sinking into a profound silence, the earth did quake and the rocks rent.’ (MHC)

The stones – The references could be to any stones; but the stones of the temple might be meant, cf. Lk 19:44 20:17.

‘The excellence of the method adopted by our Saviour to set forth his royal claims will still further appear when we consider that it arose quite naturally out of the circumstances in which he was placed. So much was this the case that some have thought he was taken by surprise, that he had no intention of calling forth the testimony of the people to his royal claims, that in fact he was only giving way to a movement he could not well resist; but this shallow view is plainly set aside, not only by what has been already advanced, but also by the answer he gives to the Pharisees who ask him to rebuke and silence his disciples: I1 tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.’ (Lk 19:39,40) (Expositor’s Bible)

Jesus Weeps for Jerusalem under Judgment, 41-44

19:41 Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, 19:42 saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 19:43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. 19:44 They will demolish you—you and your children within your walls—and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

Cf. Lk 13:34. While the crowd was rejoicing, Jesus was weeping. He saw two contrasting visions of Jerusalem: one of a beautiful city, with the temple glistening in the sun. The other was of a city utterly destroyed. This was the Jerusalem that had been described as ‘the joy of whole earth’, Ps 48:2,12-14 137:6.

‘This coming of the King to his capital has been familiarly spoken of as the triumphal entry. The term seems unfortunate and misleading. The waving of palms, the strewing of branches and leaves, the spreading of garments on the way all this gave it something of the aspect of a triumph; but that it was no triumph none knew better than the man of Sorrows, who was the centre of it all. There was certainly no triumph in his heart that day. If you wish to look into his heart, watch him as he comes to the turn of the road where first the great city bursts upon his sight. How it glitters in the sun, its palaces and towers gleaming in the splendour of the day, its magnificent Temple, which had taken nearly half a century to build, rearing its stately head high above all, into the glorious heaven a city and a temple for a king to be proud of, especially when seen through waving palm branches held in the hands of a rejoicing throng who shout Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest! Surely his soul must be thrilled with jubilant emotion!

Ah! but look at him: look at him closely. Go up to him, near enough to see his face and hear what he is saying. Is he jubilant? His eyes are wet with tears; and with tears in his voice he is speaking the saddest words of tongue or pen: O Jerusalem; if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall east a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Ah! well the Man of Sorrows knew what all that shouting and rejoicing were worth; not even for a moment was he misled by it; no less certainly now when the plaudits of the multitudes were ringing around him, than when he had been on the way going up to Jerusalem, did he know that, though he was the rightful King, he should receive no kings welcome, but should suffer many things and die. He knew that it was to no royal palace, but to the bitter cross, he was advancing, as he rode down Olivet, across the Kedron, and up to the city of David. Yet it is not the thought of his own cross that draws the tears from his eyes; it is the thought of the woes impending over those whom he has come to save, but who will have none of him. O the depth of divine love in these self-forgetful tears!’ (Expositor’s Bible)

‘From the descent of the Mount of Olives there is a magnificent view of Jerusalem with the whole city fully displayed. As Jesus came to a turn in the road he stopped and wept over Jerusalem. He knew what was going to happen to the city. The Jews were even then embarking upon that career of political manoeuvre and intrigue which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when the city was so devastated that a plough was drawn across the midst of it. The tragedy was that if only they had abandoned their dreams of political power and taken the way of Christ it need never have happened. ‘ (DSB)

‘Throughout his Gospel Luke intimates that “more than meets the eye” is involved in such things as Jesus’ baptism and temptation (Lk 3:21-22; 4:1-13), parables and miracles, his awareness of the presence of the kingdom of God (Lk 17:20-21) and of the overthrow of Satan as his disciples preached (Lk 10:17-18), the transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36), arrival at Jerusalem (Lk 13:34-35; 19:41-44), appearance before Herod (Antipas) as well as Pilate at his trial (Lk 23:6-16), and even his journey to the cross, which was marked by the lament of the daughters of Jerusalem (Lk 23:27-31).’ (EDBT)

This grief-stricken attitude to human disobedience is, of course, an expression of deep love an compassion.

‘No matter where Jesus looked, he found cause for weeping. If he looked back, he saw how the nation had wasted its opportunities and been ignorant of their “time of visitation.” If he looked within, he saw spiritual ignorance and blindness in the hearts of the people. They should have known who he was, for God had given them his Word and sent his messengers to prepare the way.

As he looked around, Jesus saw religious activity that accomplished very little. The temple had become a den of thieves, and the religious leaders were out to kill him. The city was filled with pilgrims celebrating a festival, but the hearts of the people were heavy with sin and life’s burdens.

As Jesus looked ahead, he wept as he saw the terrible judgment that was coming to the nation, the city, and the temple. In A.D. 70, the Romans would come and, after a siege of 143 days, kill 600,000 Jews, take thousands more captive, and then destroy the temple and the city. Why did all of this happen? Because the people did not know that God had visited them! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (Jn 1:11) “We will not have this man to reign over us!”‘ (Lk 19:14) (Wiersbe)

But what was on the one hand a prospect of tragedy, was also an anticipation of the world-wide spread of the gospel. From the beginning, Luke has stressed the universality of the kingdom of God. So the destruction of the city and its temple is an opening of door to the whole world. See Paul’s exposition of this in Rom 11.

“If you, even you, had only know on this day what would bring you peace” – The nation is letting its moment of opportunity pass it by. Jesus’ passionate pity expresses itself in a longing that even at this the eleventh hour the Jewish people might accept the redemption which God offers through himself. But he realises also that the time is too late – unbelief has blinded their eyes.

“Now it is hidden from your eyes” – ‘Instead of penitence there had been hardening; instead of conversion, apostasy. And, as always, when sinners harden themselves, God, in turn, hardens them.’ (Hendriksen)

What are we doing with the opportunities that are presented to us?

‘In these words Jesus gives utterance to his sincere longing that even now at the eleventh hour the Jewish people should yet accept in time the redemption offered by God through him. But, alas! He realises only too well that it is already too late; their persistence in their wicked unbelief has blinded them to the opportunities for redemption still remaining; through their own fault the way to salvation is hidden from their sight.’ (Geldenhuys)

“The days will come” – This phrase was often used in the OT to introduce a pronouncement of divine judgement, 1 Sam 2:31; 2 King 20:17; Isa 39:6; Jer 7:32-34; 33:14; 49:2; Zec 14:1.

“Your enemies” – The Romans.

The writings of Josephus show just how completely this prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 was fulfilled.

‘Apart from the mention of the destruction of a city in the parable of the great supper in Mt 22:7 (frequently taken as an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem) and the lament over Jerusalem in Mt 23:37-38, (par. Lk 13:34-35) only Luke directly alludes to a siege of the city. The lament of Mt 23:37-38 and its parallel in Lk 13:34-35 speak generally of a coming abandonment and desolation of her “house” in the language of Jer 12:7 and 22:5. By contrast, Lk 19:43-44, with the reference to a siege and surrounding of Jerusalem, comes closest to the actual events described by Josephus (19:43-44), while Lk 21:20 (cf. Mk 13:14) identifies the city’s approaching “desolation” (cf. Dan 12:11 70) with the surrounding of the city by troops. The frequent reference to Jerusalem’s destruction corresponds to the prominent role of Jerusalem for Luke-Acts.’ (DJG)

“The time of God’s coming to you” – The OT has frequent references to divinely-appointed times, time of special opportunity (e.g. Dt. 11:14; Ps. 145:15; Isa 49:8; Je. 18:23). In NT the Gk. kairos often occurs in similar contexts, though it does not in itself mean ‘decisive moment’. (cf. Acts 17:26; Tit 1:3; 1 Pet 1:11) There had been a faithful minority who had looked and prayed for ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’, Lk 2:38.

“Because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you” – The Messiah had come, and Israel said ‘No’. What was true of the Jewish nation can also be true of individuals. To miss Jesus is to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God.

This solemn prediction reminds us that God has in Christ demonstrated his great love for sinners. However, he is also is the God of righteousness, and those who spurn the opportunities offered to them lie under his judgement.

‘God has left a trail of evidence that he controls the affairs of humanity. Certain events, such as the collapse of Israel in A.D. 70, are explicitly marked out as reflecting his judgment. That collapse is not the end of her story, as Acts 3:14–26 and Romans 11 make clear, but this event shows that God’s fingerprints are manifest in certain events.’ (Bock)

Cleansing the Temple, 45-48

19:45 Then Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling things there, 19:46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Lk 19:45,46 = Mt 21:12–16; Mk 11:15–18; Jn 2:13–16

Then he entered the temple area – For Luke, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is focussed very much on the temple. Cf. Lk 19:47 20:1-2 21:5-6,37-38.

When (and how many times) did Jesus cleanse the Temple?

According to John 2:12-22, Jesus cleansed the Temple near the beginning of his public ministry.  The Synoptists, however, record a cleansing during the last week of his earthly ministry (Mt 21:10–17; Mk 11:15–19; Lk 19:45–46).

John records a temple cleansing at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  So, was the one cleansing (and, if so, was it at the beginning or the close of his ministry)?  Or were there two cleansings?

Here are the main alternatives:-

(a) A few think that John’s chronology is correct.  The Synoptic writers could not include the account earlier, because they do not record Jesus’ earlier visits to Jerusalem, and only mention the Passover during which he was crucified.

Wright (in his popular work on John’s Gospel) is sympathetic to this view:

‘In favour of putting the incident at the beginning, as John does, is the fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t have Jesus in Jerusalem at all during his adult life, so the final journey is the only place where it can happen. John, however, has Jesus going to and fro to Jerusalem a good deal throughout his short career. And if he had done something like this at the beginning, it would explain certain things very well: why, for instance, people came from Jerusalem to Galilee to check him out (e.g. Mark 3:22; 7:1), and why, when the high priest finally decided it was time to act, they already felt they had a case against him (John 11:47–53).’

Sceptical scholars suppose that the authorities, having been alerted by the cleansing recorded by John, would have been on their guard against any further such disruption.  They therefore insist that only one cleansing could have taken place.

(b) Many think that the Synoptic chronology is correct.  John may have brought forward his account for theological, symbolic or literary reasons.  John, it is said, is concerned with the deeper meaning of the events he records, and feels free to rearrange them.  According to this view, ‘the ministry is launched by an affirmation of Jesus’ renewal of the worship of Israel and his claim to be the new locus, as the Risen One, of all commerce between God and humanity’ (Milne who, however, appears to support view (c) below).  However, the clear indications of time suggest that John has not altered the chronology to suit his own purposes.

Harper’s Bible Commentary: ‘In all probability John has moved an event from the passion week to the beginning of the narrative. Such a move would fit his tendency to set out at the beginning matters or events that in the other Gospels take place later (e.g., the confession of Jesus as Messiah). Jesus comes to the Temple of Jerusalem, the very heart of the Israelite nation and religion, at the outset of his ministry and there confronts its authorities. Their forthcoming hostility is adumbrated, and his own death and resurrection are revealed by the testimony of Scripture and Jesus’ own pronouncement.’

Barrett thinks that John’s account draws on that of Mark, but that the fourth evangelist moves the incident for theological reasons.

According to Beasley-Murray,

‘there is reasonably widespread agreement now that: (i) the event happened only once, not twice (at the beginning and end of the ministry of Jesus); (ii) it took place in the last week of the life of Jesus; (iii) the Fourth Evangelist had no intention of correcting the timing of the event, but set his account at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to highlight its significance for understanding the course of the ministry.’

This account, transposed to the beginning of John’s Gospel,

‘provides a vital clue for grasping the nature and the course of our Lord’s work, his words and actions, his death and resurrection, and the outcome of it all in a new worship of God, born out of a new relation to God in and through the crucified-risen Christ.’

For Klink,

‘an overt attack on the temple arrangements for sacrifice is far more readily understandable historically as part of the culmination of Jesus’ public mission and as the event that sealed the decision to have him arrested.’

Klink continues:

‘In their reconstruction of the history of composition of the Fourth Gospel a number of scholars plausibly suggest that at an earlier stage the temple incident was associated with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem in chapter 12 but was removed to make room for the Lazarus story, which in this narrative provides the chief motive for Jesus’ arrest. In any case, as it now stands in the final version of the Gospel, the account still retains clear links with the passion narrative. Verse 17 has an implicit reference to Jesus’ death and its citation of Ps. 69 is from a psalm extensively quarried by the early church for scriptural witness to the passion. Jesus’ saying in v. 19 is a version of a saying which has an important role in Mark and Matthew in their accounts of the Sanhedrin trial and the crucifixion. It appears, then, that, as with a number of other features of the Fourth Gospel, theological rather than historical concerns have shaped the narrative’s presentation and in this case determined the place of the temple incident in the plot. Placing the temple incident at the beginning helps to structure the whole narrative of Jesus’ public mission in terms of a major confrontation between his claims and the views of official Judaism.’

Michaels (UBCS) notes that the reference to the Passover in Jn 2:13 is similar to that in Jn 11:55.  He regards this is evidence that the cleansing actually took place at the beginning of Passion week, and that John has deliberately separated the Triumphal Entry from the Temple Cleansing, so that each now stands at the head of the two main sections of the Fourth Gospel (Jn 2:13-11:54; and Jn 11:55-21:25).

Blomberg (Historical Reliability of the New Testament) comments on the view that John has relocated this episode for thematic purposes.  He agrees that this is possible, in view of the fact that John’s earlier chronological markers (John 1: 29, 35, 43; 2: 1), and so on, are here absent.

On the question of John’s willingness to adjust chronology for theological reasons, scholars tend to claim, as key supporting evidence, that he brings move forward the crucifixion by one day.  But this claim is itself contestable.

(c) But some  take the view that there were two temple cleansings.  Morris, Osborne, Tasker, Mounce, Kostenberger, Hendriksen, Carson, Bock, Blomberg adopt, or at least incline, to this view.  In this case, the second (recorded by the Synoptists, took place two or three years after the first.  The first cleansing did not form a part of the tradition that they were drawing on.

This was the dominant view in pre-critical times.  In modern times, however, many scholars dismiss this as a possibility.  According to Chapple, ‘C. H. Dodd went so far as to call it a ‘puerile expedient,’ although he used slightly less caustic terms in his subsequent study of John: ‘The suggestion that the temple was twice cleansed is the last resort of a desperate determination to harmonize Mark and John at all costs.”

Even some conservative scholars have roundly dismissed this possibility.  Borchert (NAC), for example, writes that ‘the familiar argument of two cleansings is a historiographic monstrosity that has no basis in the texts of the Gospels.’  France (on the Gospel of Mark): ‘the suggestion, still sometimes met as an attempt to “harmonise” Mark and John, that it happened twice is about as probable as that the Normandy landings took place both at the beginning and the end of the Second World War.’

However, this possibility should be taken seriously, for a number of reasons:-

(i) Both accounts are given their own chronological markers.

(ii) Apart from the references to John the Baptist, there is no Synoptic material at all in the first five chapters of John’s Gospel.  This consideration adds to the likelihood that these are two distinct events.

(iii) Although both accounts begin similarly, there are a number of differences between the Synoptic and Johannine accounts.  Morris points out that apart from the central act, they bar little resemblance, and only have five words in common.  Blomberg: ‘Only John speaks of cattle, sheep, a whip of cords, and coins. The key sayings attributed to Jesus are entirely different- a protest against commercialism (v. 16) and a cryptic prediction of his death and resurrection (v. 19). A different Old Testament passage is cited (v. 17- Ps. 69:9) and different questions on the part of the Jewish leaders appear (vv. 18, 20). The synoptic accounts, in contrast, focus on the combination of quotations from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 (a house of prayer vs. a den of robbers).’

(iv) Milne argues that both accounts are contextually credible: ‘At the beginning, Jesus sees the worship of the nation through eyes newly kindled by the call of God and his nascent sense of mission. As the newly authorized Messiah King, he moves energetically to confront Israel’s apostasy and recall it to a new submission to God (Mal. 3:1f.). At the end of the ministry Jesus comes, in the shadow of his looming self-sacrifice, to declare the final bankruptcy of a religion which has turned its back on its high and holy destiny in the interests of self-aggrandizement and empty legalism.’  John’s account helps to explain the early hostility towards Jesus’ ministry (Jn 5:18).

(v) A further indication that the two accounts are complementary is the fact that Mt 26:61/Mk 14:58 refers to a saying of Jesus which is not recorded anywhere previously in the Synoptic Gospels, but is found in Jn 2:19.

(vi) The objection (of Keener and others) that it would be ‘unlikely’ that Jesus would cleanse the temple in such a dramatic way, and then be allowed to do it again (having re-visited the temple several times in between) must be regarded as rather conjectural.  Morris: ‘At the time indicated in John Jesus was quite unknown. His strong action would have aroused a furor in Jerusalem, but that is all. The authorities may have well been disinclined to go to extremes against him, especially if there was some public feeling against the practices he opposed [and, we might add, some public support for him, Jn 2:23]. It was quite otherwise at the time indicated by Mark.’

(vii) We should not be surprised that both occurred at the time of Passover, since Jesus would be most likely to visit Jerusalem then (Carson).

(viii) ‘An early temple cleansing helps explain historically why Jesus faced hostility early in his ministry (5:18). In addition, Jesus’ common practice of withdrawing (3:22; 6:15; 7:9-10; 8:59; 10:40) makes it historically plausible that he could have continued his ministry for two or three years after an initial temple cleansing.’ (Holman Apologetics Commentary)

(ix) ‘Randolph Richards has analyzed the events in terms of ancient cultures of honor and shame. It is conceivable that the first incident in John 2 occurred in a comparatively small corner of the temple so that the authorities did not immediately intervene but waited to see if a sign like the one they understood Jesus to have predicted would occur. When it did not, they would assume he was sufficiently shamed, in public, not to be any further danger. But if two or three years later he performed something similar, it showed him to be without shame, unaffected by social constraint, and therefore potentially dangerous.[ 517] If Jesus spoke something like 2: 19 that long before his trial and execution, it is also easier to understand how his words could have been garbled and misconstrued as in Mark 14: 58 and parallel.’ (Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament)

The significance of the temple

1. The heart of the city of Jerusalem. ‘This was one of the most splendid buildings of the ancient world. The original temple, Solomon’s magnificent structure dating from the tenth century BC, had been destroyed four hundred years later, and replaced in due course by what was known as the “second temple;” it was this one which in the time of Jesus was undergoing a prolonged and thorough renovation by King Herod, who lavished immense sums of money on it. It was a complex of buildings about a quarter of a mile square, with the actual temple itself at the centre, crowning the city of Jerusalem, which itself crowned a hilltop, so that the temple – much of its exterior plated with silver or even gold, and the rest dazzling with white marble – looked like the snow-capped peak of a mountain.’

2. The heart of the faith of Israel. This helps to explain why Luke focuses on the temple at this stage in his narrative. The story of Jesus had begun here; Lk 1:8ff; Lk 2:22ff; Lk 2:41ff. From the temple, as it were, the religion of Christ had gone forth. And now, as the mission of Christ reaches its climax, we are returned to the temple to see what is to happen to the old faith, the faith for which the temple stands.

3. The heart of the spiritual experience of mankind. The temple represents the place where God meets man. Such an encounter is not, of course restricted to any one place (as Luke himself will record for us in Acts 7:48 17:24). But the temple symbolises that divine-human encounter. ‘The temple stands for our relationship with him. It may not be a very good relationship. It may be a sham, or an illusion. But it is our religion, our faith, our way of life: “me and God” – whatever sort of God I may believe in.’


‘The court of the Gentiles was the only place in the temple that was available to the Gentiles. There the Jews could witness to their “pagan” neighbors and tell them about the one true and living God. But instead of being devoted to evangelism, the area was used for a “religious marketplace” where Jews from other lands could exchange money and purchase approved sacrifices.’ (Wiersbe)

19:47 Jesus was teaching daily in the temple courts. The chief priests and the experts in the law and the prominent leaders among the people were seeking to assassinate him, 19:48 but they could not find a way to do it, for all the people hung on his words.
Jesus claims the temple for his pulpit

‘We can only lament that some of the same sins which made Jesus so angry in Jerusalem are so common in the contemporary church. Rather than having a burden for the lost, a heart for the poor, and a soul for prayer, we are lazy in our evangelism, greedy in our materialism, and stingy with our prayers. But Jesus came to clean things up, and it is important to notice how he did it: by teaching the Word of God. Jesus did not simply drive people out of the temple, but claimed it for his pulpit and started preaching the kingdom of God. This was the last week of his life, and Luke tells us that Jesus “was teaching daily in the temple” (Luke 19:47). There in the house of God he was giving lost people the gospel, teaching them to show mercy and calling them to prayer—all things that were at the heart of his passion.’ (Ryken)