How to convert a taxman
- 19:1 Jesus reached the city of Jericho, passing through on his way to Jerusalem.
- 19:2 There was a rich man in town: Zacchaeus. He was a leader of the tax collectors.1
- 19:3 Zacchaeus was trying to get an angle so he could see Jesus, but he wasn’t having any luck. The crowd was too big and he was too small—a short man.
- 19:4 So he ran ahead of the crowd and quickly climbed up a sycamore-fig2 tree just as Jesus was about to catch up and pass by.
- 19:5 When Jesus came to the tree he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and get down here. I need to stay at your house today.”
- 19:6 Zacchaeus climbed down in a hurry and greeted him with delight.
- 19:7 When everyone saw what was going on, they started to grumble about Jesus: “He’s going to go sleep in the house of a known sinner.”
- 19:8 As Zacchaeus stood there he told the Lord, “Look, sir, I’m promising you right now that I’m going to give half of everything I own to the poor. And if I’ve cheated anyone of anything, I’ll reimburse them four times what I owe them.”
- 19:9 Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today. Zacchaeus, after all, is a descendant of Abraham like the rest of us.
- 19:10 The Son of Humans3 has come on a search and rescue mission, to save those who are lost.”
Story about a cash investment
- 19:11 As people stood there listening to Jesus say this, he told them a parable. He did it because they knew he was getting close to Jerusalem, and they thought God’s Kingdom was about to become a reality.
- 19:12 He said, “A man born into a family of nobles made a trip to a distant region. He went there to get crowned king and then come back home.
- 19:13 Before he left he called in 10 of his slaves. He gave them each 10 bags of money— enough for each of them to pay about 1000 days of wages.4 He told them, ‘Use this to do business while I’m gone.’
- 19:14 The local citizens he ruled hated him. They sent a delegation of representatives to go where he was headed. They carried this message for those who planned to crown him king: 'We absolutely don’t want this man ruling over us.'
- 19:15 He got crowned king anyhow. Then he went home. He called in the slaves he had given the money to. He asked what they did with it.
- 19:16 The first slave said, ‘Sir, I doubled the money you gave me. You now have 10 extra sacks of money.’
- 19:17 The king said, ‘Wow! Because I could count on you to take care of this relatively small matter, I’m going to put you in charge of 10 of my cities.’
- 19:18 The second slave said, ‘You get all 10 bags of your money back plus five more.’ 5
- 19:19 The king said, ‘I’m going to put you in charge of five of my cities.’
- 19:20 Another slave came and said, ‘Sir, look here. I kept your money in this piece of cloth, which I hid in a safe place.
- 19:21 I didn’t want to lose any of it because I’m afraid of you. For one thing, you’re a hard man to please. Also, you take what you want—confiscating from others what you didn’t earn, and reaping a harvest of crops when you didn’t do any farming.’
- 19:22 The king said, ‘Well, after a mouthful of nasty words like that, it seems as though you found enough rope to hang yourself. You are one bad slave. So, you know I’m hard to please and I take what doesn’t belong to me, including crops from farmers?
- 19:23 Why didn’t you at least play it safe and deposit my money in the bank so I could have gotten some interest on the investment?’
- 19:24 The king told his associates, ‘Take the money away from that slave and give it to the one who doubled my investment.’
- 19:25 The people told the king, 'Sir, he already has a lot of money!'
- 19:26 The king answered, 'I’ll tell you this, everyone who has something and uses it well is going to get more. But everyone who has just a little and uses it poorly is going to lose what little they have.
- 19:27 And now let’s deal with those critics of mine who said they didn’t want me as their king. I don’t want to be their king, either. Bring them here and execute them.'"
Jesus enters Jerusalem like a king
- 19:28 After Jesus told the story, he went on up into the hills toward Jerusalem.
- 19:29 As he approached the villages of Bethphage and Bethany on the slopes of a ridge called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples ahead.
- 19:30 He told them, “Go into the next village. You’ll find a young donkey that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
- 19:31 If someone asks why you’re untying it, just tell them 'The Lord needs it.'”
- 19:32 The disciples found everything just as Jesus described it.
- 19:33 As they started untying the colt, its owner asked, “Why are you doing that?”
- 19:34 The disciples said, “Because the Lord needs it.”
- 19:35 They brought the colt to Jesus, saddled it with some of their cloaks, and then helped Jesus up onto it.
- 19:36 As he rode up toward the crest of the ridge, people began carpeting his path with their cloaks.
- 19:37 Then as he started his descent down the Mount of Olives,6 the crowd of followers got loud. They started cheering and yelling their thanks to God for all the incredible miracles they had seen.
- 19:38 They said,
“Here comes the king God approved.7
There will be peace in heaven—and glory for the One who lives there in the highest heaven.”8
- 19:39 Some Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus, “Teacher, tell your disciples to be quiet.”
- 19:40 Jesus said, “I’ll tell you this instead: If the people don’t shout for joy, the rocks will do it for them.”
- 19:41 As Jesus got closer to Jerusalem, he started to cry.
- 19:42 He said, “How I wish you knew where you could find peace today. But it’s too late now. The path to peace is hidden, and you couldn’t find it now if you wanted to.
- 19:43 The day is coming when your enemies will surround you with a siege wall.
- 19:44 Then they’ll level this city and kill the people, adults and children alike. They will not leave one stone on top of another. This is going to happen because when God came to save you, you didn’t recognize him."
Jesus gets violent in the Temple
- 19:45 When Jesus got to the Temple, he saw merchants selling their products. He drove them out, saying,
- 19:46 “It’s written,
‘My house is a place to pray, but you’ve made it a place to steal.’”9
- 19:47 Jesus started teaching in the Temple every day. Top Jewish leaders started plotting to kill him. These included the chief priests, the scholars known as scribes, and other leading men in the city.
- 19:48 They couldn’t come up with a plan, however, because Jesus was so popular. All the people loved listening to him teach.
The word describing Zacchaeus is often translated “chief tax collector.” It’s unclear what that means because this is the only time the word shows up in the Bible. Some Bible experts speculate that it means he is the one who holds the contract with the Roman Empire to collect the local taxes. Jews would bid for the job of collecting taxes. The best bid got the job. Bidders would guarantee to collect a certain amount of money for the Empire. They were allowed a reasonable profit, though ancient documents suggest tax collectors sometimes went a little overboard. The bidder who won the contract could hire a team of taxmen to help him.
See the note for 17:6. The Gospel of Luke is the only book in the New Testament that mentions this tree.
Usually translated Son of Man. See note 5:24.
Literally, “10 minas.” That would pay a common worker’s salary for more than 2 1/2 years.
The 10 minas grew into 15.
When travelers finally reach the peak of the ridge of hills known as the Mount of Olives, this is the moment they usually catch their first glimpse of Jerusalem. It sits on the next ridge, just across a small valley called Kidron.
A more traditional translation would be: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (NASB). The crowd seems to be quoting Psalm 118:26.
The people are quoting two passages from the Jewish Bible that many Jews during this time linked to their hopes for a Messiah to free them from the Roman Empire: Psalm 118:26; 148:1.
Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11.
When Jesus came to Jericho, he decided to spend some time in the home of Zacchaeus, “a leader of the tax collectors” (19:2). The crowd grumbled about it. If you were Jesus, what would you have said to the crowd?
Jesus told the crowd of people with him a parable about a cash investment “because they knew he was getting close to Jerusalem, and they thought God’s Kingdom was about to become a reality” (19:11). Luke doesn’t say exactly what they were expecting the Kingdom to look like. What do you think they might have expected?
In the parable about the cash investment (19:11-27), try to match the characters in the parable with characters in the story of Jesus. Who do you think is the king? The critics? The slaves entrusted with money? And what do you think the money might represent?
In the parable about the cash investment, Jesus rewards the good slaves and he executes his political enemies. Do you think that translates to a reward in heaven and punishment in hell, or perhaps to rewards and punishments here on earth, or possibly to a story element that doesn’t have a spiritual application?
What do you think is the spiritual message behind this statement: “I’ll tell you this, everyone who has something and uses it well is going to get more. But everyone who has just a little and uses it poorly is going to lose what little they have” (19:26)?
Jesus rode a colt—a young donkey—into Jerusalem to fulfill prophecies, according to Matthew’s version of this story (Matthew 21:4-5). In one prophecy, Isaiah talks about a king coming into Jerusalem (Isaiah 62: 11). In another, Zachariah describes the king as humble and riding on a young donkey (Zechariah 9:9). Some Jews apparently associated this with the Messiah they hoped would come and free them from the Roman Empire. It seems as though Jesus wanted to send the message that he was the Messiah. Do you think he cheated a little bit in the way he manipulated this event, by riding into Jerusalem in a way that fit the script?
Luke says Jesus rode a colt, which is a young donkey. Matthew has him riding what appears to be a colt and a donkey—two animals at once, or at least with two animals side-by-side. Some Bible experts say Matthew was trying too hard to make the story fit the prophecy, which as far as he was concerned involved two animals. But the prophecy was written as poetry. And one of the traits of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. Instead of rhyming lines as many poets do in English, Hebrew poets repeated ideas. So the prophecy that talks about a donkey and a colt is actually talking about one animal, not two, many Bible experts agree. What do you think of the possibility that Matthew simply misunderstood the prophecy? Or would you argue that Jesus actually rode a young colt, while its mother walked nearby to keep it calm (an argument some scholars make)?
Jesus seemed to predict the fall of Jerusalem. He said the enemies “will not leave one stone on top of another” (19:44). This is exactly what happened about 40 years later. Romans leveled Jerusalem in A.D. 70, crushing a Jewish revolt. To what extent do you think the future is already set? And to what extent are we able to affect the future by the decisions we make?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus explained why he was going to spend the day with the tax collector. He said he has come “on a search and rescue mission, to save those who are lost” (19:10). Do you think many Christians today feel that way about their responsibility to people outside the faith?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Christians want to justify an angry outburst, they often talk about Jesus getting angry in the Temple and chasing away the merchants who were selling their products in the Temple courtyard (19:45). What do you think about that?