Luke 19 Approaching The Great Transition and Divide.
Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus.
Jericho had a history. The people under Joshua marched to its destruction (Ch. 6). At the cost of his first born, Hiel of Bethel laid again its foundation, in fulfillment of the judgment predicted by Joshua (Josh. 6:26; I Kgs. 16:34). This is where Zacchaeus lived (v. 1). As the chief tax collector he did even better financially than a regular tax collector (v. 2). He was a short guy who had to climb a tree ahead of the crowds surrounding Jesus, to see what all the commotion was about (vv. 3-4). From this sycamore tree Jesus called him to a meal at his house (v. 5). Zacchaeus was joyful, maybe because he was likely the least liked man in the city (vv. 6-7).
However, Zacchaeus could have been joyful to know something more than just his riches, of which he was prepared to give half away to the poor. He was also conscious of the law. He knew if he was guilty of stealing and bearing false witness that he must make restitution fourfold. The law required fourfold plus a fifth-so he was going beyond even the requirement of the law (Ex. 22:1; Lev. 6:5; Nu. 5:7). Jesus said that salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house, not because of what Zacchaeus promised to do, but because he also was “a son of Abraham” (v. 9). The former was evidence of the latter, for it was Jesus who sought him out, called him, and invited him to dine with Him (vv. 5, 10).
Luke 19:11-27 Making Long-Term Investments For The Lord.
We are told by Luke that this parable was given because people “thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately” (v.11 Cf. Acts 1:6). Some things haven’t changed. There are still people today who believe in the doctrine of immanence, and coupled with this is the belief that the kingdom of God will come with Jesus returning immanently and cataclysmically as a political leader with his seat in the middle east. Luke had just noted that even with His third prediction of His death, burial, and resurrection, even His closest disciples didn’t understand Him (18:31-34). His kingdom was always intended to be one of Him as prophet, priest, and king-the threefold office to which He was anointed. His kingship is based on His word and priestly ministry.
All Jesus’ parables on the kingdom of God stress the steady long-term growth of His kingdom, and this one is no different. The nobleman here is Jesus, who left His heavenly abode “to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (v.12). With His death, burial, and resurrection Jesus received a kingdom, and with His ascension He returned to then begin His reign. Meanwhile on earth He has called His servants to “do business” till He returns (v.13). Our business that we are to do is that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (11:2). “His citizens” are clearly the apostate Jewish leadership and their followers who said “We will not have this man to reign over us” (v. 14 Cf. Jn. 1:11). It is clear that the Lord expects us to return to Him something for His investment in us (v.15).
Each of the three servants received one mina (approximately three months worth of salary), with one earning ten more, and one five more (vv.16-19). As with the parable of the steward, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (16:10). The Lord’s plan is to use the church to spread His kingdom (vv. 20-23). However, though the LORD no longer physically dwells on the earth, unlike the Master in this parable, He does work through us. Some sow, and some water, but it is still God who gives the increase, just as with literal planting and harvesting (Cf. I Cor. 3:6-7; Jn. 4:37-38). In conclusion, there are two groups in view-those who have varying degrees of productivity, and those who remain outside the kingdom (vv. 24-27).
There are some further points that flow from this parable. Firstly, it is important to keep in mind the context. What preceded this parable was the encounter with Zacchaeus, who was prepared to sacrifice a lot to follow Jesus. Also, what follows this parable is Jesus triumphant entrance into Jerusalem as King-this was and is the nature of His kingdom reign (vv. 28-40). Secondly, people will be judged by their own words-in this case confessions of defeat and acquiescence to opponents of the kingdom (v. 22). Thirdly, the Lord tests His people with small things before He gives them greater responsibilities and opportunities. Therefore, it is important to not grumble with what we have been given but to be as faithful as we can possibly be with what we have received.
Luke 19:28-40 The Triumphal Entry.
As noted in the previous section, Luke ties the parable on stewardship and the kingdom, with Jesus triumphal entry as the prophet-priest-king (v.28). Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with a specific plan and purpose. Furthermore, it was also important to fulfill everything that was spoken concerning the anointed One. Therefore he sends two of His disciples ahead of Him to get a colt that He might enter Jerusalem on it (vv. 29-35). Luke indicates that this event was predicted in the messianic psalm 118, specifically our verse 26a (v.38 Cf. Mt. 21:9). Something else occurs with Luke’s reference here. It is the same quotation he referred to when Jesus wept over Jerusalem previously (13:35). This is the underlying theme which developed as Jesus headed toward Jerusalem.
This journey mirrored the transition from old covenant to new. What often escapes us is that this move was based on covenant lawsuit judgment on apostate Israel for rejecting their Messiah-the One Moses promised would come after him. This is the meaning of Jesus words when He said, “Your house is left to you desolate” (13:35a). The temple in Jerusalem that they trusted in, would no longer be God’s house! This was also one of the underlying themes of this journey. We should not miss what is a subtlety to us, that Luke only quotes the first part of our verse 26. Verse 26b states: “We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” But this was not something that was literally happening, and hence the judgment.
However, Luke does show us how it will occur, by his combining 118:26a with Isaiah 57:14b (Cf. Lk. 2:14). This triumphal entry was giving “Glory to God in the highest” (Is. 57:14a; Lk. 2:14a). Mathew also sees additional words from the prophet Zechariah fulfilled here, namely 9:9 (21:5). Like Luke, Mark refers to the first part of Psalm 118:26, but instead of 26b he then quotes Psalm 148:1, which like John, refers to the Messiah as King (11:10). This event is also in fulfillment of the covenant with David. They all understand this as a reference to the sovereign covenant making and covenant keeping LORD as King (12:13)! Then John adds the reference to Zechariah 9:9. It is clear that all the gospel writers wanted to include at least two biblical witnesses to this event.
We can also see allusions to Isaiah 40:9-11 and 62:11-12. The old city would be forsaken, but in its place the true city of the Lord would be established. John makes an interesting point in connection with this event. “His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him” (12:16). John also connects this event with the raising of Lazarus from the dead (12:9-11, 17-19), for which cause the Jewish leadership also wanted to kill Lazarus, because his rising caused people to follow Jesus. However, he says very clearly that it was only after the ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the receiving of the kingdom at His right hand, that the disciples then truly understood this event and Jesus words to them.
This teaches us that people only come to a knowledge of the truth through the mediatorial work of the reigning prophet-priest-king. It also teaches us that this is the nature of His reign-to make His chosen people understand His word and repent and believe in His finished work. It is a priestly kingship that He as the Prophet declares through us. It is also not coincidental of course, that Mark follows this event with Jesus teaching concerning the withered fig tree (as apostate Israel) with the clearing of the temple sandwiched in between as it were (11:12-24). This, as has already been noted, a significant running theme here with all the gospel writers. The gospels are documents which declare old covenant lawsuit and new covenant renewal through the promised anointed prophet-priest-king.
Mathew also follows this event with the cleansing of the temple and the withered fig tree (21:12-22). Luke, on the other hand, follows this event by once again repeating Jesus weeping over Jerusalem before He cleanses the temple (19:41-48). Jesus journey was as the anointed prophet-priest-king, and the laying down of garments by the people was an acknowledgement that he came as a king (vv. 35-36 Cf. Mt. 21:7-8; II Kgs. 9:13). The Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the people for what they were doing (v. 39). But the people were right, and the Pharisees were wrong. This was in fulfillment of prophecy, and it was the great turning point of history with Jesus as the one focal point of it all. If the people stopped their singing, the stones of the temple itself would cry out (Cf. Hab. 2:11).
Luke 19:41-48 Transitional Judgment.
Too many miss the significance of the transition from old to new covenant with Jesus. Specifically, they miss that it was covenantal to the core. It was the time of old covenant lawsuit upon apostate Israel who had rejected the Messiah in their midst, but new covenant renewal for the remnant who did receive him, including the Gentiles. Jesus took no delight in this reality. He wept over the city. This is an ongoing running underlying theme. Luke already recorded Jesus lament over the city and what it represented (Lk. 13:34-35). They had killed the prophets who had preceded Him, and they had plotted His death. Though He wanted to at least gather their children together, much like the children of the wilderness community were permitted to go forward, they were so stubborn that they preferred to take their children with them in the suffering of their covenantal cursing. Instead Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate” (Lk. 13:35a).
This is exactly what was taking place. The physical temple was no longer the Lord’s house, for they had rejected the Master of God’s house. Jesus came to redeem all those who were members of the Father’s true house (Cf. Heb. 3:1-6). This was the day or time for the old covenant Israelite leadership to make their decision, in favour of those things that would make for their peace (v. 42a Cf. 1:77-79; Acts 10:36; Rom. 5:1). This was the same warning that was issued by the author of Hebrews in his word of exhortation of old covenant lawsuit and new covenant renewal (3:13 Cf. Ps. 95:7-8). However, the things that would be made for peace would be hidden from them, for salvation is as a result of the sovereign will of God alone (v. 42bc). Jesus then predicted the armies coming upon Jerusalem to its destruction, and the temple with it (vv. 43-44), the full prediction and accompanying events we find in 21:5-33, but especially verses 20-24.
This is what Mathew referred to from Jesus as “the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel” (24:15 Cf. Dan. 9:24-27). However, Luke records that this destruction was not coming specifically because of those of the apostate Jewish leadership who stood before Jesus. The punishment was coming because of the fathers, but the apostate of that generation who continued in that unbelief would be the ones upon whom the city and temple would literally fall, along with suffering with their apostate fathers from the past in the covenant lawsuit of which this was but one result, because they did not know the time of their “visitation” (v. 44b Cf. 21:6; Mt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2; I Kgs. 9:7-8; Is. 29:3-4; Jer. 6:6; I Pet. 2:12). Luke recorded the prophesy of Zacharias where he declared that Jesus came to establish a different house, in fulfillment of the old covenant administrations of grace that ended with the Davidic (1:67-79).
Right before Micah predicted about the mountain of the Lord’s house with the coming of the Messiah, or what he refers to as the time of “the latter days” (4:1 Cf. Heb. 1:2), he also predicted Jerusalem’s destruction. “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest” (3:12). In other words, “the latter days” or “the last days” does not refer to some future time, whether one also regards the start as happening at the time here when Jesus spoke or also in the future. This eschatological phrase refers specifically to this time of transition, which included the destruction of the city and temple and the old covenant sacrificial system with it. This transition period would also include the period of the canonical revelatorial expansion that Joel predicted and Peter testified had also come in that generation (Acts 2:16-22; Joel 2:28-32).
All of this puts into proper context the record of Jesus clearing the temple (vv. 45-48). Jesus could not have been any clearer as to what He was talking about. Jesus in this act, in fulfillment of the word which He Himself quoted, declared that until the coming destruction, this was still His house which was intended to be a place of prayer, and not one of legitimized theft (v. 46). Again, this echoes Micah (3:8-12). That was part of a covenant lawsuit judgment as well. This very event was predicted by Malachi (3:1ff). As noted earlier, Mathew follows this event with the parable of the withered fig tree, which was apostate Israel (21:12-22), and Mark sandwiches it in between this parable (11:12-24). Like the parable of the wicked vine dressers, the apostate leadership knew that He was referring to them (20:19). As an aside, John’s record of Jesus clearing the temple may have been a second earlier occurrence (2:13-3:21).
Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, wherein the LORD teaches that it is those who “hold fast my covenant,” including the promise here to the Gentiles, who will make His house a house of prayer (vv. 1-8). However, the apostate leadership and those who follow them, will suffer judgment (vv. 9ff.). Jesus words also echo the prophet Jeremiah in his word of judgment concerning those who taught that the physical temple was inviolable (7:11). As long as it was still His house he would teach in it daily, even though “the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him” (v. 47). They would rather destroy Jesus than see the destruction of the temple that pointed in fulfillment to the One who stood before them. However, God determined that there were still people who needed to be “very attentive” to Jesus teaching, so the leadership were not yet able to fulfill their wish. Their “hour” would come and that of “the power of darkness” (22:53).
It is interesting that when it got dark Jesus did not stay in the temple rather, Luke records that He went back to “the mountain called Olivet” (Cf. 21:37-38 Cf. Mk. 11:18). Mathew notes that He also went to the city of Bethany (21:17). The bottom line was as John stated, the apostate Jewish leadership had no place in their hearts for the word of God, including the law of Moses (7:19; 8:37). The people went out to meet Jesus at the temple to be taught by Him, up until the time of the plot to kill Him (Lk. 21:38). As Luke progresses in his gospel account, the leadership intensify their public questioning of Jesus’ authority (20:1-8), especially after He teaches about them as the wicked vinedressers (vv. 9-19). This intensifying divide will lead to His prediction of the temple’s destruction with the city and ultimately to His crucifixion (21-23). However, the good news includes the reality that He is risen (24).