John T. Willis

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jesus Asks Zacchaeus to Spend the Night at His House--Luke 19:1-10

As Jesus travels from Galilee to Jerusalem, in Luke 19:1-10, he is getting closer to Jerusalem, because now he enters Jericho just after he approached Jericho in Luke 18:35-43. A wealthy chief tax-collector named Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus and climbed up into a tree. Jesus saw Zacchaeus, and asked Zacchaeus to spend the night at his house. Very important truths appears in Luke 19:1-10. This paragraph falls into three parts. 1. Zacchaeus made an attempt to see Jesus. Luke 19:1-4. a. Luke tells his audience that Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. This presupposes the previous paragraph in Luke 18:35-43. 19:1. b. Luke tells his audience that a man named Zacchaeus lived in Jericho where he was a rich chief tax-collector. This whole account calls to mind the call and banquet of Levi in Luke 5:27-32 [see the previous blog on that text]. "Zacchaeus" is the Greek counterpart of the Hebrew word "Zaccai," which appears in Nehemiah 7:14; Ezra 2:9; 2 Maccabeen 10:19, the last of which identifies Zaccai with an officer in the army of Judas Maccabee. The Hebrew word "zakkay" means "clean, innocent," used in parallelism with "saddiq," which means "righteous, upright." "Zacchaeus" has the same name as the father of a famous rabbi from the end of the first century CE, Yohanan ben Zakkai. In later church tradition, he becomes the bishop of Caesarea appointed to the task by Peter against his will. Clement of Alexandria identified him with Matthias. Zacchaeus was very wealth because of his job as a chief tax- collector. 19:2. c. Zacchaeus desperately wanted to see Jesus. The Bible does not explain why he wanted to do this. He had a problem: he was short in stature. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus because Jesus was going to pass by that way. This story prepares the audience [the hearers] for Jesus' approach to Jerusalem as the Son of David who brings salvation to the lost. 19:3-4. 2. Jesus sees Zacchaeus and asks Zacchaeus to spend the night at Zacchaeus' house. Luke 19:5-6. a. Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was sitting in the sycamore tree. Jesus looked up to Zacchaeus and said, Hurry down from this tree, because I must stay at your house today. Zacchaeus took the initiative of attempting to see Jesus, and Jesus responded by taking the initiative to spend the night at his house. It is important to understand that Jesus voluntarily and willingly asked that he spend the night at the home of a rich man, not a poor man, a chief tax- collector, not an ordinary citizen, and a sinner, not one of the reputed upright. Jesus does not favor the poor or the rich, but is interested in the heart: John 2:24-25 emphasizes that Jesus "knew all people, . . . for he himself knew what was in everyone." This is a very important truth. This calls to mind Proverbs 30:7-9: "Two things I ask you; do not deny them to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God." b. Zacchaeus responded by hurrying down from the sycamore tree and was happy to welcome Jesus. 19:6. 3. Critics in the crowd grumbled about the interchange between Jesus and Zacchaeus. Luke 19:7-10. a. Luke states that ALL in that crowd grumbled about the fact that Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner. Hence, they direct their grumbling at Jesus. All of this prepares people for the crucifixion when Jesus arrives at Jerusalem. 19:7. b. Apparently, Zacchaeus was sensitive to this hostile criticism, so he said to Jesus: Half of my possession to give to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much. Zacchaeus never deliberately uses kickbacks or blackmails. He is a very honest person. AND Zacchaeus is well versed in the Bible. He knows very well Exodus 22:1: "When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and FOUR sheep for a sheep. The thief shall make restitution, but if unable to do so, shall be sold for the theft." This same law appears in 2 Samuel 12:6 in the account of the rich man and the poor man in the lawsuit which Nathan reported to David. It is obvious that Zacchaeus was trying very hard to serve God faithfully. 19:8. c. Jesus responded by declaring: Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. In contrast to the grumbling of the crowd, Jesus as the great bringer of salvation visits the house of an humble sinful servant of God. Zacchaeus was an Israelite, a Jew, and like any other Israelite, he was entitled to the blessings of Abraham, in particular to the form of those blessings now coming through Jesus. 19:9. d. Jesus then capitalizes on this point: The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost. Here Jesus emphasizes the picture of his Heavenly Father as a shepherd, who seeks the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, and feed them with justice (Ezekiel 34:16, see also Ezekiel 34:4 and the entire chapter). Soon Jesus will enter Jerusalem to die on the cross to seek out and save the lost. 19:10. Share YOUR thoughts and imaginations and insights and experiences and messages with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Whitewashed Tombs

We human beings always attempt to put on a good front, to present ourselves in a certain way to convince other people that we are just this type of person. Christians in particular try very hard to convince others that we are good, godly people. Jesus describes alleged godly people in these terms in Matthew 23:27-28: "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like WHITEWASHED TOMBS, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are fully and hypocrisy and lawlessness." 1. Most universities build beautiful buildings and spend a tremendous amount of money to keep the campus beautiful with flowers and trees and paintings and sculptures. All of this is very nice to the external eye. What is the character of the people? Are they committed to God through Jesus Christ? Are they REALLY concerned for the well-being of the students, or are they REALLY concerned about their own fame and wealth and personal interests? Are they seeking to be in control of others, or do they consider others better than themselves? A very important text along this line is Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." 2. Fads constantly sway millions of people. Some obvious current fads are professional sports, the music industry, the internet with all of its aspects, and beer and wine. One hundred years ago, most of these did not even exist. One hundred years from now, new fads will replace these fads. We all seek satisfaction, and in every case we think this fad or that fad will satisfy our needs. This never works. This is the theme of Ecclesiastes. The recurring expression is: "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." We attempt achievement, education, sex, pleasures of all type, hard work, external religious activities, and many other things to satisfy our desires. ONLY ONE THING can satisfy our desires: that is GOD our creator, sustainer, king, and lord. The composer of Ecclesiastes champions this important concept: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12;13-14). Share YOUR insights and concerns and fears and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis