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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Luke 19

 

 

Verses 1-4

Zacchaeus the Publican.

Jesus at Jericho:

v. 1. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

v. 2. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

v. 3. And he sought to see Jesus who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

v. 4. And he ran before, and climbed into a sycamore tree to see him; for he was to pass that way.

Having healed the blind man at the city gate, Jesus continued his way into the city with the intention of passing through, for he was on His way to Jerusalem. But there came an interruption. A man called by name Zacchaeus (pure), who held the position of head man or overseer over the local collectors of taxes, and who had become rich through the extortions connected with his work, was the cause of the delay. The business of publican, or tax collector, in Jericho must have been especially lucrative, for the city was known for its balsam trade, and Jericho was on the main road of traffic between Joppa, Jerusalem, and the country east of the Jordan. So it had been a comparatively easy matter for Zacchaeus, by the use of a little graft, to amass a fortune. Now he had heard much of Jesus and was filled with great curiosity concerning this Prophet of Galilee, what He might look like, what His appearance was. It was an eager and persistent curiosity which took hold of the man; he tried again and again, but for some time without success, for his small size hindered him from seeing over the shoulders of the many people that were crowding around the Lord. And who knows but what the message concerning Jesus had awakened and created the first longings for the mercy of the Savior? "He desired impetuously and diligently, with a devout, humble heart, only to see Christ. That was his sanctuary, that was his snow-white ornament before God's eyes, which ornament the Lord especially commended to His disciples when He said: Be harmless as doves. " Finally Zacchaeus hit upon a plan by which he hoped to realize his desire. He took notice of the direction in which Jesus was heading, probably along the main street of the city, and then ran ahead, in front of the crowd, and climbed on a sycamore fig tree, such as are common in the valley of the Jordan. In that way he could easily look over the heads of the people and see the Lord when He would reach that point


Verses 5-7

The call of the Lord:

v. 5. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.

v. 6. And he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.

v. 7. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

Although this entire proceeding was done with. out commotion, in silence and with haste, yet Jesus, the omniscient Lord, was very well aware of all that was going on, just as He knew the name of the man in whose heart such feelings had been aroused. The saving grace of Christ planned all with tactful kindness. He came to the spot opposite or beneath the tree with its strange burden; He looked up and saw the publican; He called to him with friendly frankness. He at once fathomed the heart of the man with the same look of revealing omniscience which once followed Nathanael to his position under the fig tree, Joh_1:48, and read his heart's longing. The Lord bids Zacchaeus hurry and come down, since it was necessary for Him to make a visit at his house that same day. With this invitation the Master conveyed His complete understanding of the situation to the heart of the man in the tree, so that the latter was now disposed to pay the most cheerful and hurried obedience to the call. Even so today a heart that may be filled with thoughts of doubt, and yet desires to know the Lord more closely, is cheered by the many gracious invitations which come in the Gospel, which are transmitted through the means of grace, and pays joyful obedience to the friendly call of the Savior. Zacchaeus lost no time in climbing down from the tree, for his heart was filled with ecstatic joy, and he welcomed the Lord into his house with grateful hospitality. But the Lord, by this action, again provoked the great mass of the people, for their hatred of the publicans was almost inherent, and they murmured, saying: With a sinful man He has gone to be guest. Human nature has not changed to this day; it is scandalized even now when some person whose special transgressions in the past were well known turns to the Lord and is received into the Christian congregation.


Verses 8-10

The pledge of Zacchaeus and the Lord's answer:

v. 8. And Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

v. 9. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

v. 10. For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Faith is bound to show itself in works of repentance and mercy. It had been no mere curiosity, but desire for salvation which had prompted Zacchaeus to seek the Savior, and now the personal impression created by the Lord in word and deed made his heart sure of its trust. He did not slink into a corner and make half-hearted promises, but made an open confession of his sins and an equally open statement as to his manner of making amends. He promises the Lord to give half of his goods to the poor; as a proof of his entire change of heart he makes restitution. And wherever he has defrauded any man in any manner whatsoever, he is willing to restore the unjust gain fourfold. See Exo_22:1. He did this of his own accord; it showed the sincerity of his conversion. "He had been a publican and a usurer; but now that he has the Lord as his guest, matters are changed with him, and he is ready to restore all where he has cheated any man; he also gives half of his goods to the poor. For he believes that they are all his equals and members of Christ; of which he formerly, before Christ came to him, did the opposite, taking money from the poor, grafting and harming wherever he could graft and harm. At once the matter is changed with him; he cares no more for such things; his riches are no longer his treasure, but Christ; he makes use of his goods without discrimination, not that he alone may have a full supply, but that he also may give food and assistance to the poor. " Therefore Jesus also, seeing this proof of the faith which He knew to be present in his heart, proclaims this publicly: Today salvation is come to this house, in the conversion of Zacchaeus by the advent and influence of Christ. Zacchaeus was now in truth a son of Abraham, spiritually considered, a child of the promise. Although the personal ministry of Jesus was confined principally to the children of Israel, He is come to seek and save that which was lost. All poor sinners throughout the wide world are included in His gracious counsel of redemption. That is the purpose of His coming. His seeking of the lost must be done if salvation, rescue, is to come to them all; there is none excepted.


Verses 11-14

The Parable of the Talents.

The departure of the nobleman:

v. 11. And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.

v. 12. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into afar country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.

v. 13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

v. 14. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.

To seek and save that which was lost, this, as Jesus had just stated, was the purpose of His coming. As the Messiah of the world He could have no other object, according to the prophecies of old. And therefore He wanted to impress this fact upon all His hearers, especially His disciples, once more. At the same time He wanted to indicate to them in just what way He expected His servants, His disciples and the believers of all time, to continue His work. He wanted to impress upon them the sense of responsibility in their position as followers of the Lord. He was nearing Jerusalem; the last act of the great drama was about to begin; He would soon be removed from their midst as their visible Leader. They must give up the foolish idea with which they were obsessed, as though Christ would still have a temporal rule, an earthly kingdom. Some of the disciples even now had the idea that He would be proclaimed king at Jerusalem at this time. So He wanted to make it clear to them that He was going away, and that they were, in the meantime, to continue the work which He had begun, in the upbuilding of the Church by the preaching of the Gospel. A certain man of noble birth, a prince, took a journey into a far country in order to take possession of a kingdom which belonged to him. He had the definite purpose and intention to return. But before going, he called ten of his servants to him and gave to them ten pounds, or minae (the value of each being somewhat less than twenty dollars). His instructions were brief and to the point: Do business until I come. The servants were to invest the money profitably, and gain for the master as much as possible. No sooner had the lord left than the citizens of his country sent an embassy after him with the message: We do not want this man to be king over us. They declared a state of open revolt against him.


Verses 15-21

The accounting:

v. 15. And it came to pass that, when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.

v. 16. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.

v. 17. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.

v. 18. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.

v. 19. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.

v. 20. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin;

v. 21. for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man; thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.

The prince pursued his intention in spite of all the hatred and enmity of his rebellious subjects; he did not change his plans in one particle; at the appointed time he returned to his country. His first official act upon his return was to summon the servants before him to whom he had entrusted the silver. This was the most important business: it had to be settled before anything else was undertaken. He wanted to know what business they had done and what success they had had, for the object had been to test their fidelity and capacity. The first servant came before him with a modest report. Successful he had been indeed, but he ascribed this to the mina of the lord: it had gained ten further pounds. That was a splendid increase, showing the hard and faithful work of the servant. The lord therefore praised the servant as good, noble, devoted, and rewarded him far beyond his hopes and deserts, giving him authority over ten cities. It was a gracious reward of faithfulness. A second servant had had similar success and reported on it with the same modesty. He was also praised highly and placed in charge of five cities. But with a third servant things did not look well from the start. With slinking gait he approached, with whining voice he attempted to excuse his failure. He brought back the one piece of money which the lord had entrusted to him, having had it wrapped up and carefully laid away in a napkin. As in the case of the average useless servant, his excuse contained an accusation against the master. He had been afraid on account of the austerity of the lord, literally, because he was such an exacting employer. Besides, he took things which he had not laid down, and harvested where he had not sowed. The servant had, from the start, despaired of pleasing the master, since he was afraid of an exorbitant demand for profit. This was a feeble and unjust accusation, merely calculated to cover over the servant's laziness. It was his business to serve the master to the best of his ability.


Verses 22-27

The punishment:

v. 22. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow;

v. 23. wherefore, then, gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?

v. 24. And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.

v. 25. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)

v. 26. For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.

v. 27. But those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them bring hither, and slay them before me.

The useless servant was condemned by his own. words; by them he was convicted as lazy and wicked. If he had that honest conviction that the master was actually so strict and exacting that he expected to get blood out of a stone, he should have remembered his station and acted in accordance with his conviction. It would have been a perfectly simple matter for him to have taken the money which he feared to invest of his own responsibility and put it into the bank. With sarcastic emphasis the lord says that he, upon his arrival, might have taken his own with interest. Then the servant would have kept his fingers and his conscience unsoiled. Incidentally, he would have saved himself the punishment which now descended upon him. His one lonely piece of money was given to him that had ten pounds. And when those that were present, probably some of the other servants, faintly remonstrated, saying that that servant was already well provided, the master told them: To everyone that hath there will be given; but from him that hath not even that which he hath will be taken. Every one that has a gain to show because he has faithfully managed the affairs entrusted to him will be rewarded with more and greater things than he originally received. But he that has no gain to show, through his own fault, because he has not used the gifts and goods entrusted to him, will be deprived of all that he has. But so far as the citizens of that country were concerned; the lord's sentence upon them is that they should be punished in proportion to their crime of rebellion. They should be brought before him and there be slaughtered, thus paying the full penalty for their crime.

The meaning of the parable is evident. Christ is the noble-born Prince. Though born a true man, He was and is at the same time God, blessed forever. He left His country, His people, the chosen nation of God, through Passion, death, and resurrection, Php_2:8-9; Heb_1:3-14; Heb_2:1-18; Heb_3:1-19; Heb_4:1-16; Heb_5:1-14; Heb_6:1-20; Heb_7:1-28; Heb_8:1-9, in order to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and thus to receive, also according to His human nature, the kingly power and glory of His Father. The citizens of His country are the Jews, the children of Israel. They openly declared themselves against the Lord; they were a rebellious, stiff-necked people. They wanted nothing of the rule of the exalted Christ. And with them all unbelievers cry: We will not have this man to reign over us. The servants of the Lord are the believers, the Christians. To them Christ has entrusted, in the interval between His ascension and His coming to Judgment, many splendid gifts and goods, both spiritual and temporal, out of free kindness and grace. "Here human merits are rejected; for thou hearest that the servants take the money from the lord, in order to do business and gain with it. And the lord, because they were faithful, gives them the money and the gain, and, in addition, the cities, all for grace and goodness. " Above all, the Lord has given to His Christians, to the Church on earth, His Gospel. With this, with the means of grace, they are to do business, they are to gain souls for the kingdom of heaven. And those Christians in whom faith is mighty to drive them onward are glad to serve the Lord to the best of their ability. They serve in church, in school, in the various organizations which aid the spread of the Gospel; they give time, money, work, with never a thought of sacrifice, some with more ability and success, some with less. There are some, however, that bear the name of Christians, but know nothing of the power of Christianity, that neglect the work of the Lord, that are never interested when they are approached, that are always too busy with their own affairs. Such people are useless servants, hypocrites. The day of reckoning is coming. Then the Lord will reward the faithful servants far above their work, with the reward of grace; He will give them glory and bliss without end. But the useless, lazy servants will receive their reward according as they have merited it. They will have no part in the eternal kingdom of Christ. And as for the open enemies of Christ, the rebels against His rule of kindness, the great Judgment Day will bring them everlasting shame and condemnation. With the Jews that called down the blood of Jesus upon themselves and their children, they will be punished with everlasting death and destruction.


Verses 28-31

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem.

Christ commissions two disciples:

v. 28. And when He had thus spoken, He went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.

v. 29. And it came to pass, when He was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples,

v. 30. saying, Go ye into the village over against you, in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat; loose him, and bring him hither.

v. 31. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.

See Mat_21:1-11; Mar_11:1-11. Not so strongly as Mark, Luk_10:32, and yet with considerable emphasis, Luke places Jesus at the head of the little company that was going up to Jerusalem. He was their Hero, their Leader, their Champion, going into the face of danger for the sake of the redemption of the world. From the low country in the neighborhood of Jericho, Jesus, His disciples, and other pilgrims that were with them, ascended to the highlands, to the mountains, on one of which Jerusalem was situated. Jesus stayed in Bethany on the Sabbath, continuing His journey on the next day. Both Bethany and Bethphage were situated on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, the latter being hardly more than a hamlet or crossroads, with a number of farm-buildings. When Jesus had reached a point on the outskirts of Bethany where the road led toward Bethphage, He sent two of His disciples with the order to go quickly ahead of the slowly moving procession into the hamlet over against them, into the suburban country-place. Upon entering, they would find there a colt tied in a certain place, which had never been ridden, no man having ever sat upon it. This they should loose and bring to Him. If there should be opposition on the part of any man, either the owner or some of the laborers that might be near, as to why they were untying the animal, their answer should be that the Lord had need of the animal.


Verses 32-35

Jesus ready for the entry:

v. 32. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as He had said unto them.

v. 33. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?

v. 34. And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

v. 35. And they brought him to Jesus; and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.

What the omniscience of Jesus had seen at a distance, the disciples found true as they came to the indicated spot. And when they were loosing the colt from the post or doorway where it was tied, the masters of the animal actually did ask why they were taking this liberty. But when the disciples answered according to the instructions of Jesus, that the Lord had need of the animal, no further objection was raised. So they brought the colt to Jesus, and, quickly throwing upon it their mantles, or upper garments, instead of a saddle, set Jesus upon the unbroken animal. The entire incident is charged with the miraculous. The Lord here sent forth a few rays of divine glory through the veil of His humanity. He knew where the colt and the mother animal were standing. A word from Him sufficed to make the owners willing to let Him have the foal. It was His attitude that inspired the disciples to act as they did, thereby unconsciously aiding in the fulfillment of a prophetic saying. Note: Even as the disciples trusted in the instruction of Jesus, even though the keeping of this might bring them into trouble, so all Christians should be willing to trust in the Word of God at all times and to follow its precepts without hesitation, even if the keeping of them may call down upon their heads difficulties and persecutions. It is better to be on the side of the omniscient, almighty God than upon that of the powerless world.


Verses 36-40

The joyful reception by the people:

v. 36. And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way.

v. 37. And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,

v. 38. saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

v. 39. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.

v. 40. And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

As a snowball which begins to roll at the top of a mountain soon grows to a mighty avalanche, sweeping everything before it, so the enthusiasm that took hold of the disciples soon grew to a holy ecstasy, infecting also the bands of pilgrims that were going the same way and others that came out of the city to meet the procession. As Jesus continued on His way toward Jerusalem, they took their upper garments, their festival clothes, and spread them out on the road, as for the reception of a mighty king, an emperor. As He then reached the spot where the road doubles the brow of Mount Olivet, the excitement of the multitudes rose to its greatest height. The entire company of all the disciples broke forth into an exultant doxology, praising God for all the wonderful things that they had seen. They sang with a loud voice a section of the great Hallel, Psa_118:26, with such additions as suited the occasion. They rendered all glory to the highest God for the rich manifestation of His grace in Christ the Redeemer. They sang His praises, because through the atonement of the Messiah the enmity between God and man had now been brought to an end. As on the great festivals, the multitudes could not restrain their joy, for the disciples were not alone in their enthusiastic outburst, but were ably seconded by the people. The joyous shout rose in a triumphant chorus, until the sides of the hills and the depths of the Kidron Valley resounded with the triumphant acclaim. And when some of the ubiquitous Pharisees began their usual grumbling, asking the Lord to rebuke and silence His disciples, they received poor comfort. For He told them that the very stones would burst forth in shouting if the disciples should hold their peace. The entire demonstration was arranged by God for the sake of His beloved Son. The Spirit of the Lord had taken hold of the pilgrims for a short while. God wanted to give His Son evidence and witness of the fact that the time was coming when all tongues would have to confess that Jesus is the Lord, though it was necessary for Him first to pass through the valley of His inexpressibly bitter Passion. Yet the work which He was to perform in Jerusalem was great and glorious and worthy of being praised by all creatures.


Verses 41-44

Christ's lament over Jerusalem:

v. 41. And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,

v. 42. saying, 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.

v. 43. For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,

v. 44. 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.

Jesus continued on His way, accompanied by shouts of "Hosanna!" and songs of praise, until He reached a point opposite the city. And there suddenly He burst into tears, weeping aloud, as one in the depths of grief. Note: The tears of Jesus over the reprobate city of Jerusalem are the best evidence that He is sincere in His redemption for the sins of the whole world, that He wants all men to be saved. If the inhabitants of the capital city had but known, if they had but had the right understanding, if they had not deliberately hardened their hearts! In extraordinary fullness and brightness their day of grace had come upon them, since the Son of God personally had come into their midst and brought the glorious Gospel of their redemption to them. But now the day of grace was drawing to its close, and still the understanding pertaining to their salvation was hidden before their eyes. Because of their unbelief and hard-heartedness the time of grace was rapidly coming to a close, and the salvation which they had foolishly sought by means of works was as far from them as ever. And not only the fact of their unbelief and hard-heartedness caused. the bitter tears of the Lord, but also the fact that He knew the fate of the city, saw the final destruction taking place before the vision of His omniscience. There is a picture of coming ruin before His eyes: Enemies coming upon the city, like hawks upon their prey; they dig trenches and erect walls of palisades all around the capital; they draw an impenetrable ring around her; they enclose her from all sides, leaving not a loophole of escape; they cast the city down to the ground and all her inhabitants within her (raze the city, dash the people to pieces); they do not permit one stone to remain upon the other within her: and all, because Jerusalem and its inhabitants had refused to recognize the time of their visitation, when the Lord came to them in the richness of His mercy and offered full atonement, life, and salvation to all the people of Israel. If anyone despises the visitation of grace that comes upon him in time, when the Word of God is brought to his attention, when he has the use of the means of grace, then the time will come when spiritual blindness will set in, as the penalty of such contempt; and then comes the Judgment. O, that all people to whom the Word of grace is proclaimed, would remember at all times the bitter tears of the Lord over Jerusalem, and know in time the things which belong to their peace!


Verses 45-48

The purging of the Temple:

v. 45. And He went into the Temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought,

v. 46. saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

v. 47. And He taught daily in the Temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him,

v. 48. and could not find what they might do; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.

It was on the next morning that Jesus carried out a plan that had occurred to Him the day before, when He had seen the abuses to which the Temple had been put by the people. Since it would have been very inconvenient, in some cases almost impossible, for every Israelite to bring his sacrificial animal from his home to Jerusalem, the Lord permitted those living at a distance to buy their sacrificial beasts and birds in Jerusalem. The consequence was that a thriving business soon developed, which seems to have been controlled by some of the religious leaders themselves, for they were not at all averse to making money. All would have been well if they had held their market somewhere down in the lower town. But the venders had moved up into the neighborhood of the Temple, and finally into its very court. There were the stalls for the oxen, the pens for the sheep and goats, the coops for the doves. There were also the money-counters; for it was necessary to make change. The fact that their methods profaned the courts of the Lord had apparently not entered into the minds of these eager business men. But the Lord made short work of their marketing, of their buying and selling. He began to thrust out the buyers and sellers, reminding them meanwhile of the words of the prophet concerning the fact that the house of God should be considered a house of prayer for all people, Isa_56:7, as Solomon had said in his prayer of dedication. They had converted it into a den of robbers, where the people sat haggling over prices and pocketing excessive profits. It was not only the marketing that profaned the house of the Lord, but also the fact that many of the people came there without true repentance, intending to buy themselves free from the wrath to come with sacrifices. But all sacrifices and prayers that are made with an unrepentant heart are an abomination in the sight of God, a blasphemy of the most holy name of God. But the Lord is the Judge of all such, and will, in the end, pass sentence upon all such as are guilty of hypocrisy. After Jesus had thus purged the Temple, He taught in its halls daily. The leaders of the people, the members of the Sanhedrin, were greatly embittered over His words and works, and they sought for some way of destroying Him. But they were afraid to carry out their murderous designs; they could find no way of approaching Him with an evidently hostile intention. For the common people all together, during these days, were most attentive to hear Him; they hung upon His every word as though they could not get enough of the words of salvation. The word used by Luke describes not only the most careful attention, but also the very great pleasure and gratification that was theirs because they were privileged to hear Jesus. Thus all men should at all times hang upon the Word of eternal life as it has been revealed in the Gospel, for it testifies of the Savior of the world.

Summary

Jesus visits Zacchaeus, the publican, in Jericho, tells the parable of the pounds, enters Jerusalem in triumph, but weeps in the knowledge of the future fate of the city, and purges the Temple.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 19:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/luke-19.html. 1921-23.

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