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Of Zaccheus a publican. The ten pieces of money. Christ rideth into Jerusalem with triumph: weepeth over it: driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and teacheth daily in it. The rulers would have destroyed him, but for fear of the people.
Anno Domini 33.
Luke 19:1-4. And Jesus entered, &c.— After conferring sight on the beggars, (see Matthew 9:27; Matthew 9:38.) Jesus entered Jericho attended by them, by his disciples, and by the multitude: he made no stay however in this town, because he hastened to be at Jerusalem eight or ten days before the passover, intending to preach and work miracles in the most public manner, under the eye of all the people, and of the grandees; whose resentment should influence him no longer, because his ministry had continued the determined time, and he was resolved to die at this passover. A man, however, belonging to this town, one of the principal tax-gatherers, having heard of our Lord's miracles, had a great curiosity to see what sort of a person he was; but he could not for the crowd; for, the passover being at hand, the roads to Jerusalem were full of people; and many of them happening to meet with our Lord, chose to travel in his company, that they might behold his miracles. Zaccheus, therefore, ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore-tree to see him. It seems he was in Jericho, when Jesus passed through: this accounts for his running before the multitude on this occasion; for by the 5th verse it appears that his house was further on, in the way to Jerusalem. His desire to see Jesus was increased, no doubt, by the account which he had received in Jericho, of the miracles performed on the blind beggars; for the news of so extraordinary a transaction would be quickly spread abroad. The words, and he was rich, at the end of Luk 19:2 seem to refer to the discourse in the last chapter, Luke 19:24, &c. particularly to Luke 19:27. Zaccheus is a proof that it is possible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 19:5. Zaccheus, make haste,— Jesus had never seen him before; yet he called him by his name, and by what he said insinuated, that he knew his house to be further on the road. What a strange mixture of passions must Zaccheus have felt, upon hearing one speak, as knowing both his heart and life!
Luke 19:7. Gone to be guest with a man— Or, To a man. The phrase καταλυσαι παρα τινι, properly signifies, "to bait at a person's house on a journey;" referring to the laying down their own burdens, or loosening them from theirbeasts, at such times and places.
Luke 19:8. And Zaccheus stood,— Stood forth;—in order to make the noble declaration following. By the half of his goods, he probably meant his income. Εσυκοφαντησα, which we render taken by false accusation, properly signifies any kind of oppression, especially under any pretence of law; and therefore would be more properly rendered, "If I have taken any thing wrongfully, by injurious charge, or oppressive claims in my office." See Ecclesiastes 4:1; Ecclesiastes 5:8. LXX. One great reason of the odium which followed the occupation of a publican, was the injustice which many of that denomination practised in their office. This verse may be either considered as a declaration of what Zaccheus had been accustomed to do, agreeably to the force of his expressions which run in the present tense, I give, I restore, not in the future, I will give, I will restore, and likewise agreeably to the testimony with which Jesus honoured Zaccheus, that he was a son of Abraham;—or, we may take it as a declaration of his resolution, with respect to his future conduct. That Zaccheus was a Jew, appears from his name, which is the same with Zaccai, Ezra 2:9. Four-fold was the utmost which the Jewish law required, even in cases of a fraudulent concealment and conviction; (unless where an ox had been killed or sold, and so its labour lost to the owner, and its discovery rendered more difficult, Exodus 22:1.) for the phrase of restoring sevenfold, Pro 6:31 seems only proverbial, to express making abundant satisfaction: but if a man, not being legally convicted or accused, voluntarily discovered the fraud he had committed, besides his trespass-offering he was to add to the principal only a fifth part, Leviticus 6:5. Zaccheus therefore shews the sincerity of his repentance by such an offer. Some commentators have remarked, that oppressive publicans were by the Roman law required to restore fourfold; but this was only after judgment obtained, where they had been guilty of extortion by force; whereas, before conviction, it was enough to make restitution of what had been taken; and even after it, in common cases, all that the law required was restoring twice as much. Archbishop Tillotson justly observes, that, "had more than an eighth part of Zaccheus's possessions been unjustly gotten, he could not have been able to make such restitution, after having given away half of what he now had to the poor, even though he had stripped himself of all."
Luke 19:9. And Jesus said unto him,— And Jesus spake concerning him, that is, to the guests; as is evident from the speech itself. The proposition προς is used in this sense, ch. Luke 20:19. Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 4:13.
Luke 19:10. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save, &c.— Farther to convince the people that our Lord acted agreeably to his character, in keeping company withpublicans and sinners, he told them, that the great design of his coming into the world was to save such; alluding to the parables of the lost sheep, lost money, and lost son, which he had lately delivered, to prove how agreeable it was to reason, to the duties of his mission, and to the will of God, that he should keep company with the worst of sinners, in order to recover them unto God their rightful owner. And therefore, though Zaccheus had been as bad a man as the multitude supposed him, and his vocation bespoke him to be, Jesus was in the exercise of his duty when he went to his house.
Luke 19:11. He—spake a parable, &c.— Because his followers were accompanying him to the royal city, in expectation that the kingdom of God would immediately appear, and with a resolution to assist him in erecting it; he spake a parable, wherein he shewed them their duty, describing the true nature of the kingdom of God, and taught them that it was not immediately to appear: considered in this view, as suited to the circumstance of time, and to the case of those to whom it was delivered, this parable will appear a most wise and seasonable admonition; and by neglecting the instruction which it was designed to give them, the Jews deservedly brought ruin on themselves. The evangelist says, that as they heard these things, namely, that salvation was come to Zaccheus's family, he added, and spake a parable; whence we gather that he spake the parable in Zaccheus's house.
Luke 19:12. A certain nobleman, &c.— A certain noble lord took a long journey into another country, to be vested with and confirmed in his kingdom, and then to return, with all his honour and authority, to distribute proper rewards to his subjects: so Christ is of high and noble birth, as the Lord from heaven; and being King of Israel, and of the whole church of God, he ascended up on high, to be invested with his spiritual and glorious kingdom. In short, the meaning of this part of the parable is, that before Jesus set up his kingdom, he was to die, and to ascend into heaven. See on Matthew 25:14.
Luke 19:13. And he called his ten servants,— By the ten servants we may understand the apostles and first preachers of the gospel; to whom Jesus gave endowments, fitting them for their work, and from whom he expected a due improvement of those endowments, in the propagation of the gospel. This was their particular duty in the erection of the kingdom of God, about which they were now so solicitous. Instead of occupy, Dr. Doddridge reads trade.
Luke 19:14. But his citizens hated him,— His natural subjects hated him without a cause, as appears from the message or embassy which they sent after him to the potentate, from whom he sought, what in the latter times has been called investiture. For, in that message they alleged no crime against him, but only expressed their ill-will towards him, by declaring that they would not have him to reign over them. This is a fit representation of the causeless opposition which the Jewish great men made to Jesus. But the embassyhad no effect; the prince received the kingdom, and returned with full authority, which he exercised in calling his servants to account, and in punishing his rebellious subjects. So the opposition which the Jews made to our Lord's spiritual kingdom proved ineffectual: having all power in heaven and earth given unto him after his death, as mediator, he will return to reckon with his apostles, and ministers, and rebellious subjects; nay, he has returned already, and punished the Jews with a most exemplary punishment, for resisting his government. See ve
Luke 19:16. Thy pound* hath gained ten pounds.— The modesty of these servants is remarkable: they do not say, that, they themselves have gained the ten or five pounds, but Thy pound hath gained, &c. attributing their success, not to themselves, but to the gifts of his grace. It is observable, that in Matthew 25:20; Mat 25:46 where the servants are represented as doubling the different sums intrusted to each, the reward is spoken of as the same: but here the sum intrusted being the same, and the improvement described as different, there is a proportionate difference in the reward; which as it is a beautiful circumstance, was, no doubt, intended for our instruction. See Luke 19:20-21.
* The original word μνα, here translated a pound, signifies a quantity of silver weighing twelve ounces and a half, which, according to five shillings the ounce, is three pounds, two shillings, and sixpence.
Luke 19:20-21. Lord, behold here is thy pound, &c.— We have in these verses a proverbial description of an unjust rigorous character. The slothful servant, by applying it to his lord, aggravated his crime not a little: he imprudently told him, that, knowing his severe and griping disposition, he thought it prudent not to risk his money in trade, for fear he should have lost it: that he had hid it in a napkin, in order to deliver it to him at his return; and that this was the true reason why he had not increased his talent, as others had done theirs. Thus slothful ministers of religion, and pretended servants of Christ, will be ever ready to throw the blame of their unfaithfulness on God himself. See on Matthew 25:24. "This negligentand slothful servant," says Quesnelle, "ought to make all pastors and clergymen tremble; who imagine that they lead an innocent life, if they do but avoid the grosser sins, andonly lead an easy and quiet life, in idleness and indolence: in a priest it is a great evil, not to do any good: not to use the gifts of God, is to abuse them: he loses them, who does not make them serviceable to the church. Rest is a crime in one who is called to a laborious life; and we cannot live to ourselves alone, when we belong to the church of Christ."
Luke 19:22-23. Thou knewest that I was an austere man,— Didst thou know, &c.? "Thou hast been slothful in the highest degree;—for, to argue with thee, on thine own base principles,—if thou really hadst believed me to be the rigorous person thou sayest I am, thou wouldst certainly have been at the pains to lend out my money;—a method of improving thy talent which would have occasioned thee no trouble at all.
Thy excuse therefore is a mere pretence." In like manner, all the excuses which wicked ministers offer in their own behalf, will stand them in no stead at the bar of God; whether they be drawn from the character which they affix to God, or from their own inability, or from the difficulty of his service, or from any other consideration whatever.
Luke 19:25. Lord, he hath ten pounds.— So far as this seems to express any thing of envy in the fellow-servants, it is not, I think, to be regarded as a significant circumstance, but only as an incidental one, to intimate to us, that his lord gave to the diligent servant what he had gained, for himself.
Luke 19:26. I say unto you,— I assure you; as much as to say, "You may take it on my authority."
Luke 19:27. But those mine enemies,— "Those who are guilty of rebellion against me, by doing all in their power to hinder my obtaining the kingdom, bring hither, and put them to death this instant." Κατασφαξατε, is literally, slay them with the sword; and it properly expresses the dreadful slaughter of the impenitent Jews, by the sword of each other, and of the Romans. That does not seem, however, the only design of the passage; for it plainly relates to the far more terrible execution which shall be done on all impenitent sinners in the great day, when the faithful servants of Christ shall be rewarded.
Thus Jesus taught his disciples, that though they might imagine his kingdom was speedily to be erected, and that they were soon to partake of its joys; yet he was to go away, or die, before he obtained it; and that they were to perform a long course of laborious services before they received their reward. That, having obtained the kingdom at his resurrection, he would return, and reckon with his servants, to whom he had given ability and opportunity for his work; and would treat them according to the fidelity which they shewed in the trust committed unto them. Particularly, that he would execute vengeance on those, who, for his conversing familiarly with sinners, or for the difficulty or disagreeableness of his laws, or any other cause whatever, had refused to let him reign over them, or hindered the erection of his kingdom among others. This Jesus did, in some measure, when he destroyed the Jewish nation by the Roman armies; and still continues to do, by the extraordinary judgments with which he sometimes visits mankind: but he will do it more eminently at the end of the world, when he shall come with millions of angels, finally to reward his faithful servants, and to punish his enemies. The kingdom of Christ, spoken of in this parable, is his mediatorial kingdom; in which he rules men by his word and Spirit, and exercises the highest acts of kingly power; calls all his subjects without distinction to his tribunal, judges them, and rewards or punishes them according as he knows they deserve.
They who affix a more generalmeaning to the parable, suppose that the character and end of three sorts of persons are described in it. 1. The character of those who profess themselves the servants of Christ, and who act in a manner suitable to their profession. 2. The character of those who take upon them the title, but do not act up to it. 3. The character of those, who, though they be in some sense Christ's subjects, neither profess themselves his servants, nor yield him obedience, but endeavour to shake off his yoke, and oppose him with all their might. The first sort are the true disciples of Christ. The second sort are hypocrites. The third are the openly profane. The judgment which the servants met with from their lord, represents the judgment and end of the different sorts of Christians just now mentioned: True and faithful disciples shall be munificently rewarded with the honours and pleasures of immortality; hypocritesshallbespoiledofalltheadvantages on which they relied, and stripped of those false virtues for which they valued themselves; so that, being shewed to all the world in their proper colours, their pride shall be utterly mortified, and they themselves loaded with eternal infamy. Lastly, the detection and punishment of hypocrites shall add to the honours of the truly holy and pious, whose glory will thus shine more conspicuously: for, as the houses and lands which our Lord promised to those who followed him in the regeneration, Mar 10:30 signify not the things themselves, but the satisfaction arising from them; so the pound in the parable, given to him that had the ten pounds, signifies, that holy persons in heaven shall have satisfactionsinfinitelygreaterthananywhichthehypocritescouldpossessherebelow, from their false presumption on the favour of God. Thus shall the men who possess true goodness be rewarded: having in their own eyes always appeared as nothing, they shall be raised, by the approbation of God, through the Blood of his eternal Son, to a becoming sense of the excellent qualities with which they are adorned by his grace. And as for the open enemies of Jesus they shall be punished with exemplary punishment, severe in proportion to the degrees of their guilt.
Luke 19:28. When he had thus spoken, he went before,— Or, He went forward. Having finished the parable, our Lord left the house of Zaccheus, and proceeded onward to Jerusalem, shewing by his alacrity in the journey, how willing he was to undergo those heavy sufferings, which he knew were to befal him at Jerusalem. See on Mark 10:32.
Luke 19:33. The owners thereof said— Perhaps had not the owners of the beasts happened to be by, and had not St. Luke expressly mentioned them, the malice of ancient or modern infidels would have found some occasion for raising an outcry on the ambiguity of the words, The Lord hath need of him. Its being a weak and contemptible cavil would not have prevented their use of it, as we learn from abundant experience. If the people here spoken of, were not, as they possibly might be, the acquaintances of Christ, they might easily meet with him at Jerusalem, if they had a mind to inquire after the ass and colt. Or, they might be left, agreeably to the owner's direction, at some house in the city, or be sent back by some of our Lord's attendants, though the evangelists do not descend to such minute particulars.
Luke 19:40. The stones would immediately cry out.— This may signify either that God would by miracle raise up others to glorify his name; rather than silence should be kept on this occasion; or that it was a thing altogether impossible, without the exercise of irresistible power, to make the multitude hold their peace. See on Matth. iii
Luke 19:42. If thou hadst known,— O that thou hadst known! It is certain, as we have before observed, that the particle ει is sometimes used to express an ardent wish; and the connection here will very well bear it. But if our translation be retained, it must be acknowledged that the broken manner of speaking is very emphatical: our Lord will then seem to pause, in a silent reflection on the happy consequences which would have attended their obedient regard to his invitations and addresses. See on Luke 19:44.
Luke 19:43. Shall cast a trench about thee,— Jesus here foretold particularly the principal circumstances of the siege of Jerusalem, and with his prophesy the event corresponded most exactly; for when Titus attacked the city, the Jews defended themselves so obstinately, that he found there was no way to gain his purpose, but to encompass the city with a fence and a mound. By this means he kept the besieged in on every side, cut off from them all hope of safety by flight, and consumed them by famine. The work which he undertook was indeed a matter of extreme difficulty; for the wall measured thirty-nine furlongs, or almost five miles; nevertheless, the whole was finished in three days; for, to use the expression of Josephus, "the soldiers, in performing this work, were animated by a divine impulse."See his Jewish War, book 6: chap. 13 and for the other circumstances, the notes on Matthew 24:0.
Luke 19:44. Because thou knewest not the time, &c.— Our Lord here assigns the cause of the destructionof Jerusalem, and her children; it was because that when God visited them by his Son,—the Seed of Abraham and David,—the Messiah,—they did not know it, but rejected and crucified him, being blinded through the hardness of their hearts. The destruction of the city, and ofher inhabitants, clearly foreseen by our Lord in all its circumstances, was a scene so affecting, that it moved his tender soul, and made him weep. The miseries of his bitterest enemies had more influence to afflict and melt his soul, than the admiration, the acclamations, and hosannas of his friends, to elate him with joy. His weeping was a wonderful instance of his humanity, and is so far from lessening the dignity of his character, that it beautifully illustrates it. Were it worth while, the reader might be put in mind that the historians of Greece and Rome, to aggrandize their heroes, have been at pains to relate occurrences at which they shed tears;—but this would be to fall egregiously below the greatness of the subject. Is it possible to have the least relish for goodness, and not be enraptured with the conduct of our Lord in the present instance, and that inexpressibly tender spirit which he now discovered;—especially if we consider, that the objects moving his compassion were enemies; and his fortitude was such, as to enable him to look without perturbation on the greatest disasters ready to fall on himself? See Matthew 20:18-19. Let wondering mortals then behold in this an example of compassion and generosity, infinitely superior to any thing that the heathen world can furnish;—an example highly worthy of their admiration and imitation.
Luke 19:48. All the people were very attentive to hear him.— They hung as it were on his lips while he spake, is the literal import of the original.
Inferences drawn from the history of Zaccheus, Luke 19:1-10.—In this pleasing narrative Zaccheus the publican sets an example particularly of two great and important Christian duties, namely, restitution, and almsgiving; which calls upon us to consider how far we are obliged to follow it.
As to the first we may observe, that Zaccheus, by a conduct more than strictly just, made what was prescribed by the Levitical law in one particular case, (Exodus 22:1.) the general rule of his practice.—We need not however propose the ample reparation that he made, as a standard which we are strictly bound to come up to. It will be sufficient to shew that we are indispensably obliged to, and to insist barely on, the usual and single restitution; only that when we have wronged any person, we return him strictly as much as we have wronged him of, and fully repair the damage that he has sustained: We may only except the case of an absolute incapacity, which is indeed an universal dispensation; but, with this one reserve, in all other cases, we are indispensably obliged to make an equivalent reparation for the injuries that we have done.
Now, as God is the author, so he is the guardian of human society, and has taken the properties of men under his protection. To secure these, and preserve the world in peaceable order, he fences the possessions of every man with a strict command to the rest, not to covet or desire them. When that fundamental law is violated, and inordinate desires break loose, then, to prevent our putting them in execution, other commands are opposed, to secure property in its several branches. When we transgress these commandments too, and actually invade the rights of our neighbour, then the sin is completed, and woeful is our condition. Yet God, whose mercy is over all his works, as a supplement to the former laws, has added this now under consideration,—viz. That after we have wickedly coveted, after we have unjustly taken the goods of our neighbour, we shall restore them to him again, and re-establish the order that we had violated. There is no room for farther precepts on this head: if we continue to transgress this last, this merciful commandment, no shadow of excuse remains; we shall die in our sins. The Almighty Legislator will proceed to judgment, and sad will be his sentence against the transgressors; see 1Th 4:1-2; 1Th 4:6 where St. Paul expressly declares, that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as defraud or oppress their brother in any matter.
But although no inspired writer had thus forewarned us; yet the mere common sense of mankind would be sufficient to discover this truth to us, though utterly unable to fulfil it in the least degree, from pure motives, from the mere light and powers of nature. Who can deny, or doubt, that we are obliged to be just, that we are obliged not to do wrong? If we ought not wrongfully to take the goods of our neighbours, then certainly we ought not to keep them. The theft or fraud was a transient act, a sin indeed;—but the deliberate keeping the unjust gain, is a permanent habit of injustice; and as long as that lasts, we can have no reasonable hopes of God's mercy; we render ourselves incapable of it.
All sins may be forgiven on repentance. But without restitution, where that is possible, there can be no true repentance. An effectual repentance ever includes these two necessary parts;—a sorrow for sin, and a determined resolution to forsake it; and both these necessarily imply restitution, as will appear when we consider them severally.
Sorrow for sin, where it is sincere, must beget earnest wishes that we had not committed it. Lamenting the past folly with contrite pangs; we wish that we had never done it. We would give the world to undo it, if that were possible. Now this is the immediate tendency of restitution; as it relates to man, it undoes the deed. He therefore who does not endeavour to make restitution, has no real contrition. For if he be truly grieved that he has gotten another man's goods; why does he keep them? if he wishes he had nor done so, why does he persist in it? These things are inconsistent, and destroy each other.
The second material of repentance is a resolution not to repeat the crime. As long as we wilfully detain what belongs to another, we repeat the crime, or, what is equivalent, we continue and persevere in it. Now is it reasonable to hope that God will forgive a sin which we obstinately persist in? If we die without making restitution, do we not die in our sin? And can we then have any hopes of mercy?—the holy scriptures assure us, that we cannot.
The Church of England, in the warning which its ministers are ordered to give for the celebration of the Lord's supper, has been particularly careful to remind all its members of this, among other conditions, requisite in a worthy communicant. "My duty (says the minister,) is to exhort you, &c.—that ye may come holy and clean to such a heavenly feast,—The way and means thereto is, first, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments,—and if ye shall perceive your offences to be such, as are not only against God, but also against your neighbours, then you shall reconcile yourselves to them, being ready to make restitution and satisfaction according to the uttermost of your powers, for all injuries and wrongs done by you to any other:—for otherwise the receiving of the holy communion doth nothing else but increase your damnation." And then follows a charge to all such, that at their peril they come not to the holy table.
The same injunction is implied in those words of our Lord, Matthew 5:23. If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Without this, our oblations will be ineffectual, and our prayers rejected; our brother must first be reconciled by doing him justice; for justice must be satisfied before there is room for charity. God will not accept the one for the other; and indeed it seems impious to think that he should. In all other cases, the satisfaction is made to the person wronged; how else indeed is it satisfaction? In the example of Zaccheus, you see, that notwithstanding he gave half his substance to the poor, yet he was ready to make four-fold satisfaction for the damages he might have done. He was not liberal at the expence of others; he did not confound charity with restitution, his alms with his debts; but he discharged each obligation separately.
We shall not be answerable for the injustice we suffer, but for that which we do; it concerns us much more not to cheat, than to be cheated. This therefore should be our principal care; here lies our greatest danger, and all degrees at men are liable to it. Almost every state in life has its peculiar temptations to fraud and oppression; and to be aware of them is one necessary step towards escaping them.
In all cases where we have committed injury, restitution must be made, as far as possible, or there can be no remission of sin. This thought therefore should be a perpetual check upon us, to restrain all acts of fraud or violence; because it represents the unprofitableness of them, and takes away the force of temptation, which consists only in the supposed advantage that they may bring. All unjust gain is a bait, a specious bait, covering a cruel hook; which, when swallowed, must be painfully disgorged; or, if retained, will drag us to sure perdition. To this purpose may well be applied those words in the book of Job, (xx. 15.) He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again.—A painful operation!—but there is no other remedy.
With respect to almsgiving, the second subject of our present reflection, the example of Zaccheus is highly instructive. The first thing to be remarked in it, is, that he set aside a certain portion of his income for charitable uses; and this every man should do, who is in a condition to give alms. He who never thinks of giving alms, but when some pressing occasion calls upon him,—is in danger of losing the heavenly reward in the worldly motives which solicit, and perhaps extort his contributions. A regard to the opinion of men, fear of censure, or desire of applause, may have a great share in such unpremeditated accidental bounties. But when in religious privacy, with a heart raised in devotion, we have prepared our offering to the Lord, the future distribution of it upon proper occasions will be purer, and consequently more agreeable to the divine will.
In this therefore we ought to follow the example of Zaccheus, and consecrate some certain portion of our gains, or annual income: but what that proportion is, is nowhere determined. We can only say in general, that all who are not poor themselves, must give some part of their substance to the poor: the proportion is and must be left to their own determination.
If it be asked, what other men have done? it may be replied, "Many have been known to give all that they had; others, as Zaccheus, have given half their goods; but the common proportion, whereof we have many instances in ecclesiastical history, is the tenth part." The best rule, however, seems to be that laid down by the apostle, and of which we desire to admonish every reader: he who soweth little, shall reap little; and he that soweth plentifully, shall reap plenteously. Let every man do according as he is disposed in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. And when such a fund of charity is once settled, it will be very easy to make a right distribution of it.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, While the conversion of every sinner's heart bespeaks the great power of God, the change wrought on some appears still more worthy to be remembered and admired; as in the case of Zaccheus.
1. He was a publican, yea, chief among the publicans, and rich; two great obstructions to the salvation of his soul: but the chief of sinners who comes humbly to Christ, may become one of the chief of saints.
2. He took great pains to get a sight of Christ, and to satisfy a curiosity, which the great fame of him had raised: being short, and unable to overlook the crowd of people that usually attended Jesus in his travels, he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore-tree, that he might see him as he passed by. Note; They who would gain a sight of Jesus, must break through every obstacle in their way.
3. There the eye of Jesus discovered him; and now he surprises him with the calls of his grace, and, by name addressing him, desires him to come down quickly, intending to be that day his guest. With joy the publican obeyed, little expecting such a favour, and received him with heartiest welcome. Note; (1.) Many who have come merely through curiosity to hear and see some minister, whose fame has been spread abroad, have been graciously surprised with the call of God, and from that hour converted unto him. (2.) There is a wondrous providential disposition of our affairs to lead us to God, or to render us utterly inexcusable, which, if we be converted, we can reflect upon with amazement. (3.) When Christ calls, we should gladly run; his word applied in faith, will open for him a welcome into our house and our hearts, and make us with delight reply, Come in, dear Lord, to me. (4.) Come down is the gospel call; we must sink low in our own eyes, to rise high in God's favour.
4. Many, who were present, were exceedingly offended, that one, who professed himself a prophet of such distinguished sanctity, should go to eat with a person who was so notorious a sinner. His profession made him odious as a publican, and his riches might be regarded as the fruit of extortion: but it did not follow, because he had been bad, that he was so now, as their censure implied; nor was Jesus to be blamed for visiting those, who, the more desperate their case seemed, so much the more needed his healing grace.
5. Whatever Zaccheus had been, he now gives the most undoubted proofs of genuine and unfeigned repentance. The grace of Jesus had powerfully wrought upon his heart, and the effects of it appeared visible in his words and actions. However grasping he had been of wealth, and intent on gain, now at a stroke half his goods he gives to the poor; and if any man had ought to lay against him of fraud or extortion, he was ready to make the utmost restitution which the law demanded. See the Annotations. Note; (1.) One of the best symptoms of real conversion to God, is deadness to the world. (2.) There can be no true repentance without restitution, at least without the desire and endeavour to make it to the utmost of our power. (3.) They who would shew the spirit of true charity, should not leave it merely to their wills to bequeath their wealth to pious uses, but employ it during their lives.
6. Christ testified his approbation of Zaccheus's conduct, and comforted him with a present salvation both for himself and his family, forasmuch as he also was a son of Abraham. He now shewed himself a genuine descendant of this father of the faithful: his sins therefore were pardoned, and his person accepted; whilst all his family also shared his mercy. And what Christ had done in this case, was in direct conformity with the great design of his coming into the world, to seek and save that which was lost. Note; (1.) Every sinner is a lost creature; lost in error and sin, unable to recover himself, and ready to perish eternally: and a great point is gained, when we begin to be deeply convinced of this alarming truth. (2.) Christ is the Saviour of the desperate: none are so far gone as to be past his recovery.
2nd, What Christ had said to Zaccheus, gave occasion to some, who heard him, to conclude, that the temporal kingdom of the Messiah was about to be set up in the world, and that, on his arrival at Jerusalem, he would declare himself openly. To rectify such a mistake, therefore, he spake the following parable, intimating to them therein, that the generality of the Jewish people would not submit to the kingdom of his grace, and that the kingdom of his glory was more distant than they imagined.
1. A certain nobleman, of high birth, went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom; to be invested with sovereign authority, as the governors of Judah were by the Roman emperors; and to return, with full power and authority to reward or punish his subjects. Thus the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, to receive the mediatorial kingdom, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; being quickly to return thence, in the mission of his Spirit, to spread his gospel through the earth, and in the destruction of the Jewish people and nation; and finally at the day of judgment. And as lately as he once came into the world, so surely will he return again, and will not tarry.
2. He committed to his servants a certain sum of money, that during his absence they might trade, (πραγματευσασθε, ) and improve their capital, in order that at his return he might receive the fruits of their industry. The ministers of Christ in particular, and all his people in general, are those servants; each has his portion of gifts, natural or providential, which he is required to employ for his Master's honour and interest. All that we have is derived from him, and should be devoted to him. Till he comes, we are called upon to use all diligence. Every soul won by us, will prove our own unspeakable gain; and whatever be the success of our labours, whether more or less, if we approve ourselves faithful to him till death, we are sure not to lose our reward.
3. Two of the servants, on their master's return, with satisfaction appeared before him, and rendered him a faithful account of the trust committed to them. The one had gained more, the other less; but both had been diligent, received his commendation, and were preferred according to the advantages which they had made. Whence we are taught, (1.) That we must one day be called upon to give a solemn account to our great Lord and Master of all the means and mercies, gifts and graces, which we have enjoyed, and our profiting thereby. (2.) They who are found faithful, will receive the approbation of the Chief Shepherd, and be rewarded by him. (3.) Whatever success we have, we must, to the glory of our Lord, own, that it is thy pound hath gained it; for not to our endeavours, but to his grace, are we indebted for the effect of our ministry. (4.) If we have the Saviour's commendation of our diligence, we need not care who may find fault with us. (5.) They who are most zealous in their labours for Christ, will receive the greater reward, exalted, as one star differeth from another star, in glory.
4. The third, sunk in sloth and carelessness, began to seek excuses; and, having produced the pound committed to his charge, pretended his fear of his master's austerity, as is he would cast on him the blame of his own idleness. But out of his own mouth was this wicked servant condemned; since that apprehension which he pleaded of his master's austerity, should at least have led him to place the money at the banker's, where, with lawful interest, he might have received his own. Justly therefore he commands the pound to be taken from him, and given to him who had gained the ten pounds; for his having so much is so far from being an objection, as some present seemed to intimate, that it was a reason why he should have more, having made so good a use of the former trust; while he, who made no use, or so bad a one, of the pound delivered to him, justly deserved to have it taken from him. Note;
(1.) Not only the abuse of our gifts, but our negligence to improve and employ them for Christ's honour and the good of men's souls, will be esteemed highly criminal. (2.) The pleas of slothful professors, in the day of judgment, shall turn to their everlasting confusion and condemnation. (3.) Idle servants are wicked servants. Ministers who are not active in Christ's service, effectually serve the interests of Satan. (4.) Hard thoughts of God are at the bottom of every unhumbled sinner's heart. (5.) Diligence to improve the gifts and graces which the Lord has bestowed on us, is the sure way to have both abundantly increased under his blessing; while sloth makes all our attainments wither and decay.
5. He foretels the ruin of the Jewish people in general. They were the citizens who sent after him in his absence, refusing to submit to his government: they paid no regard to his apostles and ministers, when he was ascended into heaven: and therefore, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities by rejecting his gospel, he seized the rebels with his arm of judgment, and the Roman sword miserably massacred innumerable multitudes of this devoted people, and ruined their country. And such will be the case with all impenitent sinners. They say, in the pride and rebellion of their hearts, We will not have this man to reign over us, rejecting the government of his laws and the warnings of his servants: but their terrible destruction approaches: the King, their Judge, clothed with vengeance, is ready to be revealed from heaven, when wrath to the uttermost will come upon them; and they who refused to bow to the sceptre of his grace, shall be broken with the rod of his judgments. They who will not be ruled, must be eternally ruined.
3rdly, Eager to accomplish his great work of atonement, the blessed Jesus hardens to the scene of his sufferings, not intimidated by all the dreadful events that he foresaw. Was he so willing to die for us, and shall we be cowards in his service? We have here what we met with twice before:
1. The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem amid the acclamations of the multitude. He was mounted, not as a conqueror on a triumphal car, but, as Zion's lowly King, on an ass's colt; and that not his own. He sent to borrow it for this occasion; and, having the dominion over all creatures, and in his hands the hearts of all men, the owners readily sent it at the Saviour's bidding. Mounted thereon, the garments of his poor disciples were the trappings, and served as carpets spread to adorn his entry: while, filled with wonder and praise at all the miracles they had seen, the multitude cried, Blessed be the king, Messiah: may all happiness and prosperity attend him that cometh in the name of the Lord: invested with divine authority and power: peace in heaven; let the God of heaven bless his undertaking, and crown it with success, appearing now a reconciled God to us; and glory in the highest; let the greatest honour, praise, and adoration redound to him for this salvation, and be ascribed to him by men on earth and angels in heaven.
2. Christ vindicates his disciples from the envious cavils of the Pharisees, who could not bear to hear such acclamations, and would insinuate that it was the highest pride to permit such incense to be offered to him. But, though he came in great humility, the present occasion demanded these praises; and, if the multitude had been silent, he assured these cavillers that the very stones would cry out, reproaching their stupidity, and ascribing to God the glory due unto his name.
4thly, We have,
1. The tears of Jesus shed over the devoted city, Jerusalem. Being now in full view of that rejected place, and foreseeing the impending miseries ready to overwhelm the inhabitants, he wept over it, as man, feeling the tenderest compassion towards them; saying, If thou hadst known, or, O that thou hadst known! even thou, a wicked and bloody city as thou hast been, at least in this thy day, when the most abundant means of grace have been vouchsafed to thee, the things which belong unto thy peace, temporal and eternal; but now they are hid from thine eyes, thou art abandoned to judicial blindness, to an utter reprobacy, the consequence of which will shortly be utter ruin; when thy enemies shall besiege thee, and enter into thee, massacre thy inhabitants, and leave not one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation; rejecting the light of my gospel, the warnings of my ministers, and the overtures of mercy, which were offered to thee. Note; (1.) A Christian's heart, like his Master's, feels the tenderest compassion towards perishing sinners, and grieves to behold their approaching miseries. (2.) There is a time of visitation, when the Lord is pleased to set before us the things which belong to our pardon, peace, and salvation, and to urge them upon us by his providence, his word, his Spirit: to abuse or neglect this day of grace, is to be undone. (3.) Justly are they given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, who reject the counsel of God against their own souls. (4.) All the threatenings of Jesus will be as surely fulfilled, as we have seen this against Jerusalem accomplished in the total overthrow of that city and people. Let every sinful city, every sinful soul, take warning by her fall.
2. Being come to Jerusalem, he goes immediately to the temple, cleanses it from the profanations there practised; casting out the buyers and sellers, who had made that house of prayer a den of thieves; testifying his zeal for his Father's honour; and when he had thus purged this holy place from such gross abuses, he preached there to the people the doctrines of his rich grace. Note; The preaching of the gospel is the great glory of every temple devoted to the Saviour's honour.
3. The chief priests, scribes, and rulers, were highly exasperated at his discourses and conduct, which so deeply reflected on their corruptions, and therefore sought how to murder him immediately; but they could not just then contrive any scheme for the execution of their bloody purposes, the people in general being very attentive to his discourses; ('εξεκρεματο, ) they hung upon his lips, eagerly catching every word that dropped; for he spoke with such power, energy, and conviction, as they had never heard from their own scribes.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent