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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Luke 19

 

 

Verse 1

§ 109. JESUS’S VISIT TO ZACCHEUS, Luke 19:1-28.

1. And—Luke, after having detailed many contests in this region of our Lord against the Pharisees in behalf of the publicans, brings the strife to a triumphant close in the case of Zaccheus. See notes on Luke 15:1; Luke 16:14; Luke 17:10; Luke 18:9.

Passed through Jericho—This celebrated city was about fifteen miles from Jerusalem. See notes on Matthew 20:29.


Verse 2

2. A man named Zaccheus—His name signifies pure; and being Hebrew, indicates that he was not, as some suppose, a heathen, but a Jew. The name in the Apocrypha belongs to one of the soldiers of Maccabaeus. Macc.

Luke 10:19.

Chief among the publicans—The office of tax collector for extensive provinces was by the Romans generally conferred upon a person of the order of the knighthood. It was therefore a high dignity, and generally confined to Romans alone. But as in some cases, according to Josephus, Jews received the appointment, that may have been the rank of Zaccheus. Otherwise he was an agent for the receiver general; collecting the taxes and transmitting them to him, over a large district, with inferior tax gatherers under him.

He was rich—Yet how unlike the rich man in Luke 16:19 he proved to be.


Verse 3

3. He sought to see Jesus—Greek imperfect tense, he was seeking to see Jesus. He was anxious, and engaged in attaining the object. It is a wonder that when Jesus had been ranging so long in the Jordanic country, and perhaps often in Jericho, preaching Gospel to crowds of his brother publicans, that this chief publican had never seen the great preacher. But he had heard much of him; and a deep feeling was awakened, not of mere curiosity, but of a desire to receive relief for a wounded conscience from this friend of publicans and sinners, of whom, perhaps, it was said that he had

power to forgive sins. Who he was—He desired not only to observe the external appearance of this rabbi, but to ascertain who he was. Is he one of the old prophets, or is he the Messiah? He knew that his name was Jesus, that is, Saviour, and in some degree trusted that he could save his people from their sins.

The press—The pressure of the crowd.

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Verse 4

4. A sycamore tree—That is, a fig-mulberry tree; the tree with the leaves of a mulberry and a fruit like a fig. When of full growth it takes three men to embrace its trunk; and, being usually planted by the roadside, it serves, by its far-extending branches, either for shelter, or for such means of overlooking as Zaccheus here practiced.

To pass that way—It was publicly known that his route lay toward Jerusalem.


Verse 5

5. Saw him, and said… Zaccheus—Both from his thus looking up and from his calling the name, Zaccheus was doubtless convinced that Jesus had more than mortal perception. As Jesus knew Nathaniel under the fig tree, so he knew Zaccheus in the sycamore tree. And, like Nathaniel, Zaccheus recognized him as his Lord. And as Jesus pronounced Nathaniel “an Israelite indeed,” so he here pronounces Zaccheus “a son of Abraham.”

Make haste—Hurry and have done with such expedients and concealments.

Today—My call to suffer at Jerusalem brooks no delay. And it is probable that Jesus remained for the night, the willing guest of a happy host.

Must— Jesus waits not for the uttered invitation, for he knows that a wish in the publican’s heart, deeper than words can express, invites him. He does not say I will; it is a settled case. Thy faith and my love render it fixed and necessary.


Verse 6

6. He made haste—Joy quickened his movements.

Received him joyfully— Leading the Saviour’s way to the courts of his home. See vol. 1, pp. 121, 326.


Verse 7

7. All murmured—Here is the last mutter of the cavillers at our Lord’s dealings of mercy to the outcast publicans. See note on Luke 19:1. It was, however, no murmur of Pharisees alone; but of all the crowd, who, supposing that he is on his way to take possession of the Messianic kingdom at Jerusalem, deem it unbecoming for him to give countenance to an agent of Roman despotism.


Verse 8

8. And Zaccheus stood—As they arrived at his door followed by the murmuring crowd.

I give to the poor—Zaccheus is not, as some strangely construe him, telling what he has heretofore been accustomed to do; but what it is now a part of his new life to do. I hereby give.

If I have—A sorrowful and delicate way of confessing that, though not his uniform custom, yet it had been done.

By false accusation—Accusing him of selling his property to avoid his taxes, and so making gain from his penalty. The Greek word for the perpetrators of this kind of false accusation is a compound, fig-exposer; and was the epithet applied in Athens to a class of informers who exposed those who imported figs without paying the duties.

Fourfold—The Roman law of forfeit prescribed a fourfold restoration. But the law regarding the extortion of publicans simply required a restoration of the defrauded sum. David, in his excitement at the parable of Nathan, pronounced a sentence of fourfold restoration, which lighted upon himself. 2 Samuel 12:6. Moses required in cases of forfeit the restoration of a double amount. Exodus 22:4; Exodus 22:9. But Zaccheus doubles that double from his full repentant heart. The man who feels the evil of sin, and longs for a deliverance, will feel that restoration is not a law of hardship, but a relief and a delight. Though Zaccheus here probably intended no defence against the murmurers, (for there is no proof that he heard their cavils,) yet his words might well have shamed them into silence.


Verse 9

9. And Jesus said—One half he said to Zaccheus; and (turning no doubt his face) the remainder he addressed to the crowd. This day is salvation come to this house, is his joyous assurance to Zaccheus. He is a son of Abraham, is his testimony to the Jews of Zaccheus. You may have supposed him an alien, sold, and selling his nation, to heathen; but he is a true son of Abraham, bound to Abraham’s bosom.


Verse 10

10. That which was lost—Lost in sin, as doubtless Zaccheus was. And these are the solemn words with which Jesus closes his mission to the publicans of the Jordan, and his defence of the mercy that inspired it.


Verse 11

11. And as they heard these things—The Lord seems to address the listening multitude from the gallery of the court of the house of Zaccheus. See our supplementary note, p. 121; and p. 326, of vol. 1.

He added and spake—The parable was in the proper train of discourse.

Kingdom of God should immediately appear—The word appear indicates their expectation that it was to be revealed as in a glory from above. On this expectation see note on Matthew 20:21.

The parable of the pounds, though much the same in structure with that of the talents, Matthew 25:14, (on which see our notes,) was undoubtedly uttered on another occasion and to illustrate a different point. It was, indeed, the same parable varied to different occasions. The present parable was based upon well known historic facts of the day. Both Herod and his son Archelaus received the kingdom of Judaea by going to a far country; that is, to the emperor at Rome. (See our notes on Matthew 2:22.) And when Archelaus went to Rome to obtain the royalty, the Jews sent an embassy to the emperor to express their desire not to have the man to reign over them.


Verses 11-27

Parable of the Pounds, Luke 19:11-27.

From the front door of Zaccheus’s house we seem to trace the Lord’s course into the court, preceded by Zaccheus, and followed by the press (Luke 19:3) or crowd, who were in a high state of excitement at the expectation that Jesus was proceeding to Jerusalem for the purpose of assuming the glorious Messianic kingdom. (See on Luke 19:7.) Our Lord, therefore, in the following parable teaches them that, so far from erecting a kingdom now at Jerusalem, Jerusalem is to be but his point of departure to a far country, namely, to his Father in heaven. By him being invested with a divine royalty, he would return to a day of final judgment, and administer retribution.


Verse 12

12. A certain noblemanA well-born personage. Herod was the son, not of a king, but of an eminent general; and Archelaus was the son of Herod. These facts were fresh in recollection at Jericho, which had been adorned with the stateliest buildings by the Herod family, and the palace of Archelaus still ornamented its streets.

A far country—The nobly born, nay, divinely born, Son of God was to go to the highest heavens, to be invested by God, his Father, with the kingdom of grace and judgment.


Verse 13

13. Ten servantsThe citizens who rebelled against him were countless, the servants who obeyed him were but ten; a small round number indicating not the fewness of the finally saved, but the fewness of his then real followers. A sad intimation to the crowd that was now pursuing him how few of them were his true disciples.

Ten pounds—In Greek, ten minae. This was probably the Greek and Roman mina, which ranged from fifteen to twenty-five dollars.

Occupy—The present meaning of this English word to the ordinary reader would be keep possession, hold and fill; but by its old English use it signifies to traffic. Trade and traffic until I return.


Verse 14

14. His citizens—For it was not a foreign kingdom which this nobleman went to obtain, but the sovereignty over his own state. Our Lord here predicts of himself that he is about to depart, laden with the rejection by his countrymen of his claims. He came to his own and his own received him not.

Sent a message after him—The Jews sent their embassy to the court of the emperor against Archelaus. By parity, the rejection of Christ by sinners goes to the very court of heaven. Nay, it rejects God himself.

We will not The verb will here, as in several places of the New Testament, loses much of its force by being mistaken for the auxiliary verb will. Let it here be rendered “we WILL that this man shall not reign over us.” It is a wicked, insulting will that continues the foul rebellion.


Verse 15

15. When he was returned—The men for whose correction our Lord is uttering this parable were committing the same mistake which a few in every age since his First Coming are committing; namely, the supposition that the judgment and kingdom of glory are to come in their own day. It passed from this carnal crowd of Jews to the apostles and to the early Church. It has been repeating itself from age to age in the ancient Chiliasts, the millenarians of the middle ages, and the second adventists of the present day. It often, but not always, is the error of pious but eccentric spirits, in whom a carnal love of excitement somewhat blends with deep religious faith.

Had gained by trading—The nobleman had not given them weapons for fight. The Lord reserves justice and judgment for his own hands. What the nobleman gave to the servants was the current coin and the peaceful business of the realm. It is thus the duty of Christ’s servants not to advance his power by persecution, but to enrich his spiritual realm with its fitting toils and sacrifices.


Verse 16

16. Thy pound hath gained—The Lord in the last verse spake of what they had gained; the servant himself here speaks modestly of what the Lord’s gift had gained. Good works are from grace, and yet are performed freely. The power that is to perform is by grace; the exercise of the power is by freedom. And works freely performed from grace have a merit graciously ascribed to them, and a reward conferred. And the reward is proportioned to the work. The gainer of ten pounds is rewarded with ten cities, of five pounds, with five. Wise is the man who by grace and in faith makes a large investment in hope of the reward.


Verse 17

17. Ten cities—Let us beware here how we transform the parable into the literal, and fancy that real crowns and kingdoms and cities are to be the rewards of the righteous. All these images are but the emblems of highest earthly prosperity, to indicate the bliss of which earth has no real specimen or example. If all in heaven are kings, who are the subjects? This entire style of language refers to the ancient custom, still existing in the East, of rewarding favourites with the government and revenue of provinces and cities. Cyrus the Great bestowed upon Pytharchotus the Cyzican, his favourite, seven cities. Artaxerxes gave to Themistocles as some say two, or as others say, five. Parysatis, queen of Persia, had two or three cities, whose revenues paid the expenses of her wardrobe. With what munificence then should the King of heaven and earth reward the objects of his favour?


Verses 17-27

17-27. Compare notes on Matthew 25:20-30.


Verse 20

20. Another came—Not all the servants, but specimen cases, are described as coming.

A napkin—The word in the original is the Greek of the Latin word sudarium, which is derived from the word sudor, sweat, as being used to wipe sweat from the face. We can hardly think, however, that our Lord aimed at the point which Trench specifies; that this lazy servant having no need of the linen to wipe off his sweat, used it to wrap up his pound. It was a handkerchief, which was appropriated to the purpose of concealing money.


Verse 25

25. And they said—That is, they that stood by, mentioned in the last verse, and who are the officers of the divine execution, the angels of the final judgment. Their words, as dramatically given, elicit the statement of the principle of divine judgment in the next verse.


Verse 26

26. Every one which hath—For every hath there is a richer hath; and in every hath not, a deeper, poorer hath not. As wealth furnishes means for larger wealth, so that the richest man has most means for still greater riches, so it is with virtues and vices. The good possess the richest means of still greater goodness, and vice accumulates self-depraving force in geometrical ratio. How, then, if left to itself, can wickedness be otherwise than eternally and eternally increasing?


Verse 27

27. Mine enemies—Vengeance upon enemies of the opposite party was anciently of the most terrible kind, when some banished prince or political leader was restored to power. Sylla, the Roman dictator, ordered a general massacre on his return from exile. And in modern times, restorations like those of Charles II. and Louis XVIII. resulted in severe executions and retributions. But divine justice may be justly more terrible than the most terrible of human vengeance. We refer the entire application of this parable to the final judgment. It may indeed be made to suit the destruction of Jerusalem, or any other judgment in history, just so far as such judgment is analogous. But such a suiting of the parable to their cases is simply transferring, not interpreting the meaning.


Verse 28

§ 111.JESUS PROCEEDS TO JERUSALEM, Luke 19:28-44.

Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; John 12:12-50.

28. Thus spoken… went before… up to Jerusalem—And now our Lord, having explained what was not the purpose or the coming result of his going to Jerusalem, and having left for record his announcement that it was for no earthly kingdom, is ready to prosecute his march. After leaving the house of Zaccheus, he proceeds, followed by the passover crowd, to Bethany; at which place be arrives, as we suppose, on Friday afternoon, and spends the Saturday-Sabbath preceding the passion week; and at the supper, in the house of Simon the leper, is anointed by Mary. (See notes on Matthew 20:34.) The next day, being Palm-Sunday, and the first day of passion week, he makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (See notes on Matthew 21.)


Verse 31

31. The Lord—The owners’ yielding to the authority of the Lord does not necessarily imply that they were his disciples; for, attended by the applauding multitudes, he was acknowledged Lord of the present hour. Even the Pharisees saluted him as master, Luke 19:39; with the multitudes he is king, Luke 19:38. These multitudes are called disciples in the larger sense of believers.


Verse 39

39. Pharisees from among the multitude—They seemed to be spectators of the procession, who called to Jesus as he passed to moderate the voices of the chanters.


Verse 40

40. If these should hold their peace—The proud Pharisees had sullenly left to these disciples the office of celebrating this advent, and now the grumblers would even have them silenced. But if at a crisis so intense, so awful, even these should hush, and no human voice should welcome the Prince, we might expect that God would literally shame the hard hearts and base spirits of men by making the very stones upon which they trod utter voices and cry out.

The wail of Jesus over Jerusalem, 41-44. This pathetic passage is furnished by Luke alone.


Verse 41

41. Near… the city—At the moment when descending the summit of Olivet the city appeared in its beauty before him.


Verse 42

42. If thou hadst known… but now—The sentence is broken, as if by the impulse of feeling.

Hid from thine eyes—For sin hath a blinding power. The man who wilfully gives himself up to one deception, knows not to what endless snares of error he may have surrendered himself as a consequence.


Verse 43

43. The days shall come—We have here one of the most striking predictions ever uttered.

A trench—A ridge or low wall of earthworks, flung up from a ditch made by the excavation.


Verse 44

44. Lay thee… and thy children within thee—Thy children and thyself laid in one common ruin. By children is meant, not minors, but native born inhabitants of any age.

One stone upon another—The Greek reads literally, they shall not leave in thee stone upon stone. That is, the stone courses or tiers shall be wholly overthrown. It need not be interpreted that not a single stone shall be left lying upon another. See notes on Matthew 24:2.


Verses 45-48

§ 112.CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE, Luke 19:45-48.

See our notes on Matthew 21:12-13. That there were a first and second cleansing, see notes on the parallel in Matthew and on John 2:13-17.


Verse 48

48. All the people were very attentive to hear him—The Passover brought numbers of his friends from Galilee; his preaching had won many followers in the region beyond Jordan; the raising of Lazarus in Bethany had made his name wonderful among the people of Jerusalem and its precincts. The influence of the ruling orders was for the time overborne, and the cause of Jesus seemed for the time triumphant.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/luke-19.html. 1874-1909.

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