THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

The End of Jesus' Journey to Jerusalem
Luke 19:1-10

. INTRODUCTION

At this point Luke concludes Jesus' journey to Jerusalem which he began in 9:51. In this long section he has detailed Jesus' teachings to His disciples in order to prepare them for the ministry which awaits them. Two of the major themes of this past year have been the need to care for the poor and the perils of being rich. Regarding this last topic, Jesus spoke of the rich man who built a larger barn in order to horde his riches, the rich man who refused to help Lazarus, and also the rich young ruler who failed to inherit eternal life because he refused to give all his riches to feed the poor. Jesus sums up His teachings on the rich by saying although it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved, with God though all things are possible. In the story of Zaccheus, Jesus shows that with God all things indeed are possible because one of the greediest of all men is about to receive salvation.


THE RICH CAN BE SAVED--THE STORY OF ZACCHEUS (19:1-10)

Jesus is about to begin the last leg of his journey to Jerusalem. He has come from Galilee, traveled along the eastern bank of the Jordan River, and has arrived at Jericho. From here He will turn west and travel the last 18 miles to Jerusalem.

Now Jericho lies in the Jordan valley. Although it predated the conquest under Joshua, it had recently been renovated due to the building programs of the Herods. It became a luxurious city inhabited by the Jerusalem priests. Its broad avenues were lined by palm trees. From this point Jesus will cross the Judean hills which separate Jericho from Jerusalem. From this point on the terrain is treacherous, the environment with its robbers hostile.

Before ascending the Judean mountains Jesus passes through Jericho. Already He has healed the blind man Bartimaeus. Before Jesus exits Jericho, the chief tax-collector Zaccheus tries to see Jesus. He cannot get to Jesus though since he is shorter than most people. Ingenuously (also a sign of his determination to see Jesus) Zaccheus scurries up a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. As Jesus gets near the sycamore tree, he calls out to Zaccheus that He "must" go to Zaccheus' house today. (The word translated "must" is used of divine necessity; in other words, it was God's will that Jesus go to Zaccheus' home today. Jesus "had" to go because it was His Father's will. Note that this same word is used of Jesus "having" to visit the Samaritan woman in John 4. It is marvelous to know that whenever Jesus "has" to do anything, it is to save someone who is down-and-out, like you and me.)

At this point the people crowding around Jesus begin to grumble, much like their forefathers did in the wilderness. Just like their forefathers did not like what God was doing in the wilderness, so now these did not like what God was doing in their midst--reaching out to the downcast. They especially hated Zaccheus because he not only was a tax-collector, he was a chief tax-collector. He probably was the supervisor of many of the tax-collectors in this strategic area through which the great caravans from the east traveled on their way to the important city of Jerusalem and from there to Egypt. Once more though we see the care God has for the down-and-out. It is not the socially accepted who respond the most to Jesus; it is the down-and-out.

Zaccheus responds positively to Jesus' claims upon His life. How do we know this? By a great display of emotion? No. By his actions. He informs Jesus that right now he is in the process of giving HALF of his money to the poor. Moreover, if he has wronged anybody financially, he will pay them back FOUR TIMES the amount he had ripped them off. (This is especially extravagant since it was customary only to pay the people back what was owed them plus interest. Sometimes people would pay them back what they owed them plus 20% but never 400%.) These acts definitely show that Zaccheus has responded positively to the claims of Jesus. Jesus acknowledges this and states that salvation has definitely come to the house of this son of Abraham. The acts, and not necessarily his exuberance, demonstrated his salvation.

Jesus then sums up His ministry: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost." Jesus' primary goal was and therefore our primary goal as His followers should be to seek and to save the lost. We should grow as Christians in order to be more effective witnesses for Him. Our fellowships should be designed to bring in the lost. Life is not about us. It is about Jesus accomplishing His mission through you and me.


THE PASSION NARRATIVE

Luke 19:11-24:53

INTRODUCTION: THE PARABLE OF THE MINAS (19:11-27)

It is at this point that Jesus finally concludes His journey to Jerusalem. He is on the outskirts of Jerusalem to begin His final fatal week in His ministry to the Jewish people. The disciples are abuzz with what is about to happen. Jesus has been proclaiming the kingdom of God; Peter has rightly acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah who will usher in that kingdom. Now that they have reached Jerusalem, the navel of the world, all that is left is for Jesus to assume the throne of His father David, destroy the Roman occupying army, and establish them as His ministers of war, finance, interior, etc. Their three years of privation are about to pay off huge dividends.

Whereas Jesus has already inaugurated the kingdom by His coming and giving us His Spirit, the consummation of that kingdom lies in the future. With this parable though Jesus is informing the disciples that everything is not going to happen the way they think it is going to happen. In fact it is going to be some time before Jesus consummates His kingdom [Luke tells us this as he introduces the parable (Luke 19:11) ]. In the meantime what are the disciples supposed to do? This parable addresses these 2 concerns.

In the parable a certain nobleman sets off on a journey to receive His kingship from the emperor. (This element in the parable would have struck a chord with the Jewish people. The Romans were the dominant world force at that stage in history; anybody who wanted to assume the position of king had to appeal to the Romans. In fact Herod the Great and his son Archelaeus appealed to Rome in order to receive the kingship over the Jews. Both men received a positive response from the Romans.) Now this king is not the only one concerned about his receiving a kingship. There are some in the land who oppose his becoming ruler; they too appeal to the emperor, asking him to reject the nobleman's request. (Again this would have struck a chord with Jesus' listeners. After ~10 years of ruling Judea, Archelaeus was deposed by Caesar Augustus after a deputation of the Jewish leaders complained to Caesar about Archelaeus. With regards to the ministry of Jesus this is a thinly veiled reference to the Jewish religious leaders who reject Jesus' rule in their lives.)

Before the nobleman starts out on his journey, he summons ten of his servants and entrusts each one with one mina a piece. (The mina today would be equivalent to 3 months worth of wages.) Although the minas belong to the nobleman, he entrusts them to the 10 servants who are to manage the money. After entrusting the money to the servants, the nobleman leaves to make his request. [Again this is a thinly veiled reference to the fact that there is an interval between Jesus' first coming and His second coming when He consummates His kingdom. Although Jesus has ascended the throne of His father David, the Father right now is in the process of bringing the entire universe beneath the lordship of Jesus. The Father's goal will be achieved upon the return of Christ when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).]

Note that in this parable Jesus explains to us that in the interval between His first and second comings we are to act as stewards to what God has entrusted to us: spiritual gifts, talents, money, time, our bodies, our energies, our attitudes, etc. Nothing belongs to us. It all belongs to Him. We're just stewards of what He's entrusted to us. Neither are we off the hook simply because we are sons and daughters of God. Just like the day of accounting came for these 10 servants, so a day of accounting is coming for you and me as well. Like Milton says, "The final exam is approaching.")

What does it mean to be a steward of all that God has entrusted to us? We are stewards when we use what God has entrusted to us the way GOD WANTS US TO USE IT. Time and time again Luke has shown us that one of the primary ways God wants us to use our resources is to help the poor. This is illustrated by the fact that right before this passage Zaccheus gave half his income to help the poor.

After a period of time the nobleman returns, after having successfully been granted his request. He comes back a king. He then summons the ten servants to hold them accountable for what they have done with the money he entrusted to them. The first servant informs the king that he has turned a healthy profit with the one mina he had been given. Now he has 10 minas. The king excitedly informs the servant that he is now going to be put in charge of 10 cities, one city for each mina he has earned. (Notice that the reward is far greater than the profit he has earned for the king. The TEN cites are worth a lot more than 30 months of wages.) A second servant reports that he has turned his one mina into 5 minas; as a result the king places him over 5 cities. (Again the reward far exceeds what the servant has gained.)

We need to appreciate what Jesus has waiting for those who have been faithful to Him. We think that we are sacrificing so much for Jesus when we give up our time, our money, our efforts, etc. We feel like we have really done something major for the Lord. Paul claims: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18). Jesus had just told the disciples: "There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers . . . for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:29-30). Something wonderful is awaiting us. Any suffering we experience here on earth will be worth what awaits us in heaven.

Notice also that the 2 servants who were faithful did not receive the same amount of reward. The amount of their reward was based upon the degree to which they were faithful in using their mina. With one mina the first servant produced 10 minas; he received TEN cities. With his one mina the second servant produced 5 minas; he received FIVE cities. Jesus is teaching that we are not all going to receive the same reward in heaven. Some will receive greater rewards, while others who have been less faithful will receive smaller rewards. (Paul develops this more fully in 1 Cor. 3:10-15.)

A third servant appears before the king. Before telling the king how much he has or has not earned with the mina entrusted to him, he explains to the king why he acted as he has acted. He tells the king that he thinks of him as a hard man, one who reaped where he did not sow, taking up what was not his. As a result the servant simply hid the mina away so that he would not lose it, for example, by faulty investing.

The king is furious with the servant. The servant had spoken a self-fulfilling prophecy. He claimed the king was a hard man, so that's what he got--a hard man. This servant was foolish, not in the sense that he was dumb but in the sense that he was rebellious. The fact that the servant could have put his one mina in the bank and safely drawn interest and yet did not showed that he was wicked. The king orders the one mina to be taken from the servant and then given to the one who now had 10 cities. When asked why the servant with 10 cities would get another mina, the master says: "To him who has, more shall be given, but to him who has not, even what he has will be taken away." In other words, those who have been blessed because of their faithfulness are going to be blessed beyond anything they deserve; whereas those who have not been blessed because of their faithlessness can expect less than nothing from the Lord. (Remember that before you start accusing God of not being fair, none of us really want Jesus to be fair. We want His grace, not justice.)

Is Jesus here speaking about the servant "losing" his salvation? Most likely not because the servant escapes the fate of those fellow-countrymen who tried to keep the nobleman from ascending the throne. Whereas the servant lost his mina, these countrymen were put to death. The Jewish religious leaders who knowingly reject Jesus' rule over their lives and over Israel can expect destruction when Jesus has consummated His rule.


THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY AND THE CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE (19:28-48)

Jesus finally arrives at His ultimate destination, Jerusalem. Throughout His ministry people have called Jesus the Messiah, the One God has anointed with His Spirit to bring in the kingdom of God. Jesus though has revealed Himself as the Messiah only to His disciples; He has been secretive about this to the crowds. Now that He has entered Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus unabashedly claims to be the Messiah. All doubts are erased. Jerusalem will either accept Him as the Messiah who ushers in God's kingdom and the rule of God, or else they will reject not only Him but also God who sent Him. The moment of decision has come to Israel. For 1700 years God has worked extensively with the Jewish people. They have rebelled against Him in their history, while at other times they have responded positively. Now though they are to decide once and for all. It is a critical moment for the Jews.

(Why did Jesus wait until He got to Jerusalem to reveal Himself to the crowds that He was the Messiah? The crowds had such a wrong view of the Messiah that He refused to reveal Himself to them as the Messiah until He was able to show them what kind of Messiah He would be. Now that He is about to die on the cross, He feels free to reveal to them His claim to be the Messiah.)

Jesus knows what the outcome is going to be even before He reaches out to Jerusalem one last time. He knows that they are going to reject Him. Accepting God simply was out of character for the Jewish people. There were glorious moments in the history of the Jewish people when they accepted God; yet for the greater part they had rejected Him. Jesus knows that they are not going to change. Because it was predestined? No; because they refused to change. Jesus then weeps because He knows that their rejection of Him will lead to their destruction in 70 A.D. by the Roman armies.

Because so much of this material is covered in the other 3 Gospels, we will just lightly touch upon some themes of this section. First, Jesus rides into Jerusalem mounted on a donkey, a direct fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy that God's Messiah would be a Messiah of peace, not of war (Zech. 9:9). Second, we see the Jewish people rejecting Jesus in the fact that the religious leaders complain against what Jesus is doing. Jesus though tells them that this day has been so foreordained that even if the people kept silent, the rocks would have to burst out in praise. Third, Jesus cleanses the Temple as a function of the Messiah. The prophet Malachi had proclaimed: "[The Messiah} will purify the sons of Levi" (3:3). The ministers, the most important element of the nation, the ones who would ultimately determine the response of the people to Jesus, needed reformation.

Before leaving this section, note one interesting element in what the people shout out to Jesus as He rides on the donkey: "Glory in the highest" and "Peace in heaven." (Notice the change from "peace on earth" to "peace in heaven." The events of the next few days will show that there is no peace on earth.) This statement almost perfectly quotes what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds. The promise at His birth is now being offered to the Jewish people. Jesus is fulfilling the purpose of His life. Although the Jewish people were going to reject that peace, Jesus was in the process of offering it and making it real by means of His death on the cross. We who have responded positively to Jesus can now experience that peace.