Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentLuke 19
And he entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, a man by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on before him, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
This city, dating back to prehistoric times, is some 17 miles east-northeast of Jerusalem on the plain of the Jordan river. The old city (Tell es Sultan) is a mile northwest of er-Riha village (modern Jericho). Either location is properly called "Jericho." In the times of Jesus, Herod the Great (40/37 B.C.) and his successors built a winter palace with ornamental gardens, near the famous palm and balsam groves that yielded lucrative revenues. F1
In 1952 this city had a population of about 41,000. It is situated 835 feet below sea level; and the 17-mile road to Jerusalem rises to 2,500 feet above sea level, the altitude of Jerusalem, which is 3,800 feet above the Dead Sea level. F2 Thus, the road that lay before Jesus was a steep one, literally as well as spiritually.
The meaning of this name is "pure"; F3 and there is nothing known of this man which would entitle men to deny his right to wear it.
Chief publican, and ... rich ...
Zacchaeus was not a tax collector, but a superintendent of tax collectors, nor is there any hint here of how Zacchaeus had become wealthy. Herod might have appointed a man independently wealthy to administer the tax system. The idea that "Zacchaeus had amassed his wealth by fraud" F4 is foreign to this passage. As Ryle noted, "Here we see the camel passing through the eye of the needle, and the rich man entering the kingdom of God!" F5
Could not for the crowd ...
Zacchaeus' small stature and the press of the crowd effectively shut off Zacchaeus' view, so that he could not see Jesus; but there was something else that blocked his way. "According to the Judaism of that time, his calling excluded him from membership in the people of God who would benefit from Messiah's coming." F6 The Pharisees had categorically excluded all publicans. It could be that Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus' calling the publican Matthew to the apostleship, or perhaps of Jesus' compliment paid to the penitent publican in that parable of the Pharisee and the publican. These might well have been stimulants prompting his curiosity to see the Saviour.
Climbed up a sycamore ...
Spence identified this tree as the ficus sycomorus, the fig-mulberry, having fig-like fruit and leaves like the mulberry. F7 Such trees are strong, with great lateral branches, and are easily climbed. That a man of this chief publican's dignity would have resorted to such a maneuver suggests his foresight, energy, determination, and ingenuity. It would be well if all men exhibited such qualities in their pursuit of knowledge of the Lord.
Verses 5, 6
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
Said unto him, Zacchaeus ...
"The Lord's perfect knowledge is clearly shown in this case. He knew not only the name of the man in the sycamore tree, but the state of his heart." F8 We are unable to find any grounds of accommodation with those who question whether or not the omniscience of Jesus is in view here, asking, "Did someone identify the rich tax collector in his unusual perch for Jesus?" nor with the conclusion that "In the synoptics, there is none of the emphasis in John on Jesus' remarkable intuitive knowledge of men." F9 On the contrary, there is such an emphasis here. Furthermore, the synoptics repeatedly stress it:
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said,
Wherefore think ye evil in your
hearts? (Matthew 9:4)
And knowing their thoughts, he said
unto them, Every kingdom divided
against itself, etc. (Matthew 12:25).
But Jesus perceived their wickedness,
and said, Why make ye trial of me?
Behold, I tell you beforehand
And straightway Jesus, perceiving in
his spirit that they so reasoned
within themselves, saith unto them,
Why reason ye these things in your
hearts? (Mark 2:8).
And Jesus, perceiving in himself that
the power from him had gone forth,
turned him about in the crowd ... to
see her (he already knew it was a
woman, that she had been healed, that
she was a woman of faith, and that he
would save her soul) (Mark 5:30).
But Jesus perceiving their reasonings,
answered and said unto them, Why
reason ye in your hearts?
But he knew their thoughts (Luke 6:8).
But when Jesus saw the reasoning of
their heart, etc. (Luke 9:47).
Furthermore, the incident before us, as well as that in Luke 22:10, makes it absolutely certain that the Gospel authors intended that we should understand that Jesus was omniscient. Of Jesus' knowing Zacchaeus, Henry said, "Commentators in general rightly refer our Lord's knowledge of the name and circumstances of Zacchaeus to his divine omniscience." F10
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.
"The moment Jesus ran counter to their prejudices, all else was forgotten." F11 That great multitude, clamoring for the kingdom of God to start, did not have the slightest conception of what God's kingdom truly would be. In just a moment, Jesus would address that epic ignorance with a great parable.
And Zacchaeus stood and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.
Conclusions of scholars with reference to this verse are radically different, some insisting that this refers to what Zacchaeus promised to do on that occasion and in the future, and others being equally certain that it refers to a rule of life that Zacchaeus had already long followed, the latter view being preferred here. As Bliss said, "(This view) has in its favor the present tense of the verbs - `I give, I restore.'" F12 Since the Lord Jesus himself made a momentous argument for the immortality of the soul to turn on the tense of a single verb (Matthew 22:32f), they must be rash indeed who set aside the present tense in this passage in favor of future tense.
Nevertheless, it has been quite popular to do this. As Clarke said, "(The passage means that) probably he had already done so for some time past, though it is generally understood that the expressions only refer to what he now proposed to do." F13 Spence has the following:
The chief publican's words do not
refer to a future purpose, but they
speak of a past rule of life which he
had set for himself to follow, and
probably had followed for a long
period. So Godet, who paraphrases
thus: "He whom thou hast thought good
to choose as thy host is not, as is
alleged, a being unworthy of thy
choice. Lo, publican though I am, it
is no ill-gotten gain with which I
entertain thee." F14
H. Leo Boles also concurred in this interpretation: "It seems that he was expressing what he had done and that which he proposed to continue doing." F15 Furthermore, the arguments against this interpretation are unconvincing, as noted below.
- "There is the absurdity of giving half one's goods and remaining rich." F16 This is an argument from preconceived guesses regarding how rich Zacchaeus actually was. Besides that, the meaning could not possibly be that on regularly stated occasions Zacchaeus delivered half his estate to charity, but rather that total of half his goods had been expended in such activities.
- "He would then be justifying himself (like the Pharisee in the temple), and Jesus would not have stated that he was saved." F17 The weakness of this is that it could be applied with even more force to a statement of what Zacchaeus merely PROPOSED to do. If there was self-justification in his statement of what he had already been doing, why would not there also be even more self-justification in bragging about what he INTENDED to do?
- "No one will extort anything from anyone if he knows that afterward he will have to compensate him fourfold." F18 This argument leaves out the consideration of Zacchaeus' position as "chief' of the Jericho tax administration. Through improper action of subordinates, it would have been, as Spence noted, "easy to commit involuntary injustice." F19 In view here is a godly administrator of the tax revenues, who, when a case of injustice had been brought before him, habitually restored, not merely the amount exacted, but fourfold. With such an administrator, there would not have been many violations; and therefore, we must reject the notion that "There was not one (in that vast concourse of people) who had not been robbed by this chief publican through exorbitant taxes." F20
- Summers insisted that this verse should be translated, "Since I have defrauded," thus making Zacchaeus here confess that he was a defrauder; but while it is true that such a conditional statement in Hebrew idiom as "If I have defrauded" might be understood as an affirmation of the thing suggested, there is no evidence that such is the case here. Such conditional statements are often used in their primary sense of being conditions. Thus Paul said, "If (Timothy) come shortly, I will see you" (Hebrews 13:23).
- Some have sought to support their views by the allegation that the murmuring of the crowd proved Zacchaeus to be a public robber, inferring that if Zacchaeus had been accustomed to give great wealth to the poor and make fourfold restitution of extortion, the crowd would not have murmured against Jesus' association with him. However, that was not a Jericho crowd, but was made up of many pilgrims from all over Galilee and other provinces on the way to Passover. They would have known of Zacchaeus only that he was a publican.
- "Today has salvation come to this house ..." "TODAY confirms the conclusion that Zacchaeus' financial resolution had just been made." F21 The error in this conclusion is in the idea that, if Zacchaeus had already been doing such charities, he would, therefore, have been saved already. It was not his giving money that saved this man, however; it was his joyful reception of Jesus Christ into his home and heart. Regardless of former charities, the event of that reception had just taken place, and thus Jesus quite accurately said, "Today, has salvation come."
We have pursued this far enough, somewhat more than necessary, because of the interest intrinsically attached to it. Those who desire to look at this incident differently may do so, dogmatism not being possible in a situation where so many students of God's word have been unable to agree; but the preferable view here is that of Clarke, Boles, Godet, Spence, Dean Plumptre, etc.
Verses 9, 10
And Jesus said unto him, Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Jesus' singling out Zacchaeus as the only man with whom the Lord ever invited himself to lodge, and the further compliment here to the effect that Zacchaeus was a "son of Abraham," indentifies the chief tax collector as a part of the true Israel of God, "an Israelite indeed," as the Saviour said of Nathaniel (John 1:47), and, in such quality, contrasting dramatically with those who were sons of Abraham only by fleshly descent (as were the Pharisees), and further establishing the likelihood that Zacchaeus was a man of rugged honesty, piety, and devotion. It should be noted that Jesus did not say that "Today has this man become a son of Abraham!" He was already that, in the highest and truest sense of the words. He was like aged Simeon, and others who waited for the kingdom of God. "He was a son of Abraham, in spirit as well as by descent. The Jews denied the right of a publican to be considered a son of Abraham." F22
Dean Plumptre has an interesting
suggestion that Zacchaeus the publican
was the same as the publican in the
parable (Luke 18:10-14), who in the
temple, smote upon his breast, saying,
Lord be merciful to me a sinner. "Is
it too bold a conjecture that he who
saw Nathaniel under the fig tree had
seen Zacchaeus in the temple, and that
the figure in the parable is, in fact,
a portrait?" F23
Salvation has come to this house ...
As Ryle expressed it, "Salvation comes to a house when the head and master of it is saved."F24
To seek and save that which was lost ...
Significantly, even so upright a person as the chief tax collector, a true spiritual seed of Abraham, was nevertheless "lost" until he should be saved by the Lord of life. All men are alike lost in sin, and without hope whatever, until they shall joyfully receive Jesus and love him. Barclay's insistence that "In the New Testament, this word `lost' does not mean DAMNED, or DOOMED," is obviously wrong. He said, "It simply means `in the wrong place.'" F25 Vine defined the meaning here as "spiritual destitution and alienation from God"; and in other New Testament passages, the word means, "the loss of eternal life." F26
It was the great mission of the Redeemer to seek and save the lost; and that was to be done by the sacrifice of himself on Calvary; and there could be no other objective which would justify so great a sacrifice, except that of saving men from eternal damnation. Thus, in what it took to save the lost, one may read the pathetic nature of their state.
THE PARABLE OF THE POUNDS
The name of this parable is a little misleading (the name has been assigned by men), because there is much more in it than the analogy concerning the pounds.
And as they heard these things, he added, and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear.
The reasons why Jesus spoke this parable are suggested here. As Geldenhuys noted:
It was to teach that the kingdom of
God will not take place immediately,
that the kingdom will not bring with
it a Jewish political triumph, that
all of Jesus' followers must work
faithfully until he comes, and that
the final judgment is the time when
the faithful will be rewarded, and the
unfaithful and hostile punished. F27
The parable is as follows:
He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and return. And he called ten servants of his, and gave them ten pounds, and said unto them, Trade ye herewith till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, We will not that this man reign over us. And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. And the first came before him saying, Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more. And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant; because thou wast faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath made five pounds. And he said unto him also, Be thou over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layest not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant, Thou knowest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid down, and reaping that which I did not sow; then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest? And he said unto them that stood by, Take away from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath ten pounds. And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds. I say unto you, that every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him. But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
It would be just as reasonable to declare this parable as "resembling that of the Ten Virgins" as to declare that it resembles Matthew's parable of the talents. After all, were there not ten virgins and ten servants! This parable is unique to Luke, and encompasses a wide spectrum of teaching far beyond that found in any other parable. One portion of this parable (the detail of the ten servants and the ten pounds entrusted to them) does, in fact, recall Matthew's parable; but the lessons and analogies in view are utterly different. As Summers said, "The parable contains much allegorical material." F28 We shall not be concerned with the radical criticism which tries to find here a clumsy melding of two different parables; because the analogies which shall be noted, and the perfect, interlocking unity of the whole parable are devastating to any such notion.
ANALOGIES IN THE PARABLE
The nobleman = Jesus Christ our Lord
His going into the far country = his ascension to God in heaven
His receiving of a kingdom = reigning over the church
His citizens refusing him = secular Israel's rejection
The ambassage they sent = "We have no king but Caesar."
The ten servants = all of the servants of Christ
"Trade ye ... till I come" = the faithful work of Christians
The ten pounds = the trust God gives to every man
The one who gained ten = the faithful Christian
The one who gained five = the faithful Christian of less ability
The one who hid his pound = the wicked and unfaithful Christian
Ten cities and five cities = different kinds of employment in heaven
Taking away the pound = punishment of unfaithful servants
Slaying his enemies = judgment of Jerusalem as a type of
The return of the nobleman = the Second Coming of Christ
Extended absence of nobleman = the long period of time before
the Second Coming
There are collateral analogies in most of the above which will be noted below, making this by far the most extensive of Jesus' parables, as far as the comprehensive nature of its teaching is concerned.
A certain nobleman ...
What an appropriate comparison for Jesus, who was of the royal seed of David, heir to the theocracy, and legitimate holder of the Davidic throne of Israel. As Barclay said, "This parable is unique among the parables of Jesus, because it is the only parable whose story is based on an actual historical event." F29 Many of Jesus' hearers could no doubt remember the occasion, following the death of Herod the Great, when his son Archelaus made the long journey to Rome to have his rule over Judea confirmed by Augustus Caesar. While Archelaus was on that journey, Josephus relates that the Jews "greatly complained of Archelaus, and desired that they might be made subject to Roman governors; but when Caesar had heard what they had to say, he distributed Herod's dominions among his sons, according to his own pleasure." F30
Of course, there is a clear reference, in this mention of a nobleman going into a far country to receive a kingdom, to the historical fact of Archelaus having done so, and with the additional fact of the Jews' having sent messages to Caesar against him. The point, left out of sight in the parable, is also true that their ambassage did no good; Archelaus reigned anyway! So would Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the very place where Jesus spoke this parable was at Jericho, "where this very Archelaus had built himself a royal palace of great magnificence." F31
"Notice that the story is not about a nobleman who set up a kingdom, but who went into the far country to receive one." F32 Jesus did not set up the kingdom while on earth; the kingdom began on Pentecost, after he received it in heaven. "The crowning of Jesus is still to come," F33 at the time Jesus spoke this. This occurred in heaven (Matthew 28:18-20; 19:28; 1 Corinthians 15:25,; 15:25, ).
Citizens hated him and sent an ambassage ...
This received a most illuminating comment by Trench:
Before yet he had gone to receive his
kingdom, the Jews cried to Pilate, "We
have no king but Caesar," and again,
"Write not King of the Jews"
(John 19:21). But the strictest fulfillment
was in the demeanor of the Jews after
his Ascension in their antagonism to
Christ in his infant church. F34
Ten servants ...
The number "ten" stands for an infinitely greater number, such use of numbers being common among the Hebrews. "His citizens ..." mentioned in the next verse (Luke 19:14) were also his, and under obligations to acknowledge this rule; but the servants were especially "his" in the sense of being redeemed by him. The citizens were his because he had created them and was their rightful lord.
Ten pounds ...
Each servant received the same trust, the pound standing for life with all of its emoluments. Literally, "the pound" was "a mina, worth 100 drachmas ($20.00)." F35
The three servants who reported are typical of all, and as Trench declared, "The three are adduced as specimens of classes," F36 the other seven being passed over for the sake of brevity.
We will not that this man reign over us ...
(Luke 19:14) Of this, Cox remarked, "Servants, what are you doing with the pound entrusted in your keeping? Citizens, we beg you to let this man reign over you, that you may reign with him." F37
The portion of this parable dealing with the pounds is significantly different from Matthew's account of the Talents. As Boles said, "They are different in every essential and important point." F38 In Matthew, a much larger sum was entrusted, a talent being vastly greater than a mere pound; but there the apostles were in view, and their trust was greater than that of other Christians. There each received, not the same, as here, but according to his ability, etc.
Of the unfavorable opinion of his lord, held by the man who hid his pound, it should be observed that the irreligious always have an antagonistic view of God. The king's answering him out of his own mouth shows that men will not be able to complain if God condemns them.
To every one that hath shall be given, etc. ...
This was a saying of Jesus, intrinsically true, and used on several occasions. Only those who employ their God-given abilities shall keep them and find them expanded.
Bring hither, and slay before me ...
"This pictures the terrible fate of Jerusalem, indicating the inexorable judgments of God in history"; F39 but it prefigures also the Second Coming and final judgment scene. The fact that the unfaithful servant was merely deprived, contrasting with the capital punishment executed here, has led some to suppose that:
A distinction is drawn between the
reproof of a servant and the execution
of an enemy. The judgment of
believers for reward and that of the
opposing world for condemnation seem
to be distinguished here. F40
Such a speculation would seem to be unjustified on the grounds that in Matthew, the Lord said, "Cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30).
This bringing of his enemies and slaying them must not be understood as merely inert matter in the parable. As Trench said, "It belongs to the innermost kernel of the parable," F41 showing the unmitigated wrath of Almighty God as it shall finally be vindicated upon the wicked.
In this great parable, it is of the greatest significance that Jesus is the nobleman who went to receive a kingdom. Therefore, Jesus is Lord and King, and such this parable was designed to declare him, no less than it was designed to show that no immediate political victory for the Jews would mark God's kingdom. The arrogant assertion of many to the effect that Jesus fully expected a glorious kingdom at that point in history is refuted by the implications of this parable, which envisages a time-lapse of centuries. The very fact of Jesus' prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, as he undeniably did, an event forty years future from his crucifixion, and making that to be a type of the final judgment, as the overwhelming number of Bible scholars agree, shows that the holy Saviour fully knew, and revealed it beforehand, that centuries were involved in the progress of his kingdom to the final judgment.
And when he had thus spoken, he went on before going up to Jerusalem.
The verses of Luke 19:28-44, beginning here, "form a transition from Luke's central section (Luke 9:51-19:27) to the final events in Jerusalem." F42 Jesus will enter Jerusalem as King of Israel, knowing already that he would be rejected and crucified; and yet he would do so in such a manner that all ages would see and understand perfectly his purpose and intention.
Verses 29, 30
And it came to pass when he drew nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go your way into the village over against you; in which as ye enter ye shall find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat: loose him, and bring him.
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
Everything about the triumphal entry was carefully designed to stress the Kingship of Jesus. "The mount that is called Olivet ..." was the point from which Jesus started the entry; and why did he choose that place? Zechariah prophesied that "The Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9), declaring also that "in that day his feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east"! (Zechariah 14:4). As Miller noted, "Every feature of the story indicates Jesus' intention to declare himself King." F43
Bethphage, and Bethany ...
The latter of these was the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead only a few weeks previously. Bethany means "house of dates," and Bethphage means "house of figs."
Ye shall find a colt tied ...
Of course, the mother and colt were both tied, and both were taken for Jesus' use. An unbroken colt would have been unusable by the disciples without the mother also. See parallels in Mark (Mark 11:1-11) and Matthew (Matthew 21:1-17).
Believers in the omniscience of Jesus (see under Luke 19:6) do not need to suppose that Jesus had "apparently made previous arrangements regarding the colt," F44 because such a supposition must also account for other evidences of omniscience. If Jesus pre-arranged this, there would have had to be a definite fixing of a certain time for the disciples to come after it. There could hardly have been a decision to keep the colt and its mother tied up several weeks (since Jesus' last trip to Jerusalem) until he should send for them. Thus, even if pre-arranged, Jesus would have had to know the exact hour in advance, and that is in itself omniscience. The far more preferable view is to understand this as another instance of the omniscience of the Saviour.
Matthew's mention of the colt's mother, and all the evangelists' mentioning, in the case of either the colt or its mother, the fact that it was tied has been thought, since the days of Justin Martyr, to be a reference to Gen. 49:11 where, after Jacob's prophesy of Shiloh (Jesus Christ), he specifically mentioned the binding of the ass and the ass's colt, in connection with the washing of Messiah's clothes in "the blood of grapes," a reference to his crucifixion. Thus, the bound donkey (Matthew) and the bound donkey's colt (Mark and Luke) are both laid under tribute to support the prophetic picture of Jesus' Passion.
And if any one ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say, The Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went away, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.
It is clear that Luke intended his readers to conclude that Jesus possessed omniscience, the event unfolding exactly as Jesus had said that it would. If Jesus had prearranged this, the owner would not have asked this question. A well-known psuedocon, based on Mark's saying that "certain of them that stood there" questioned the disciples, whereas Luke stated that "the owners" did so, barely deserves notice. The same persons are referred to in both cases; the owners were "standing there."
Verses 35, 36
And they brought him to Jesus: and they threw their garments upon the colt, and set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their garments in the way.
Brought him to Jesus ...
Matthew's statement that the foal's
mother was brought to Jesus as well as
the foal does not contradict Mark and
Luke. Matthew's account is probably
intended to emphasize that Zechariah's
prophecy was literally fulfilled. F45
Spread their garments in the way ...
This was commonly recognized as an act of homage to a king or other royal person. The officers of Jehu's army paid such a tribute to him (2 Kings 9:13); and Spence says that "Agamemnon walked on costly carpets and tapestries when he entered his palace at Mycenae." F46
Moreover, it must not be thought that there was anything unkingly about Jesus' riding on a donkey. The donkey was always ridden by a king who was going upon a mission of peace; in war, he rode a horse. As Ryle said, "In Eastern countries, asses have in every age been used by persons of high rank." F47
The scene was one of unbelievable splendor and magnificence. The number of people was far greater than some have supposed. Some have written this off as "a rather small affair"; but it cannot be doubted that incredibly large numbers of people participated. Hobbs tells us that thirty years after this particular Passover, a Roman governor required a count of the lambs slain at Passover, and the "number was a quarter of a million." F48 Since one lamb was the requirement for every ten people, the total number who partook of the Passover was two and one-half million! Jesus had only recently raised Lazarus; and John's Gospel recounts how the throng that surged around Jesus was dramatically increased by the countless thousands flowing out of Jerusalem to see Jesus who had raised Lazarus, and by the continuing flood of Passover pilgrims accompanying the Lord on his entry. The fearless Christ was truly the King. As Barclay said,
It is a breath-taking thing to think
of a man with a price on his head,
deliberately riding into a city in
such a way that every eye is fixed on
him. It is impossible to exaggerate
the sheer courage of Jesus. F49
Verse 37, 38
And as he was drawing nigh, even at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God for all the mighty works which they had seen; saying, BLESSED IS THE KING that cometh in the name of the Lord' peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
Every action Jesus had taken on this entry journey had been taken with the purpose of precipitating just such an acclamation as this which greeted his coming into the Holy City. It was Luke's purpose to trace this development, and he naturally selected the specific cries of the great multitudes that fitted his purpose. That vast crowd of hundreds of thousands of people "said many things"; only a phenomenal ignorance of crowds can deny this; and, for that reason, there is no need of embarrassment because Matthew and Mark and John related many acclamations that are not repeated here.
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest ...
There are traces in this of the angel's announcement to the shepherds; and one wonders if in that vast throng there might have been one of the shepherds who heard the angelic hosts the night the Lord was born. Fittingly, these words recall the events of the Nativity.
Verses 39, 40
And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said, I tell you that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.
The multitude was shouting BLESSED IS THE KING; the sneering Pharisee was complaining, "Teacher, rebuke thy disciples." Ash was surely correct in the opinion that "this title (KING) ties this episode to the parable of the rejected king (Luke 19:11-27)." F50
The stones will cry out ...
Hab. 2:11 has this: "For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam of the timber shall answer it." Jesus may have referred to this. What he evidently meant was that such an event as God's sending his only Son into this world would be duly attested, regardless of the objections of the priestly hypocrites. His reply to the Pharisee had the effect of saying, "Look, Pharisee, there is no way for you to hide what is taking place right now!" If that vast multitude could have been stilled by some means, the very stones would have shouted the glory of God for what took place when God's Son entered Jerusalem. As Lamar said:
Years afterward, when the praises of
Jerusalem were hushed in fire, and
blood, and desolation, how eloquently
did the silent stones in the streets
proclaim his divinity! F51
JESUS WEEPS OVER THE CITY
Significantly, at a time when the most unprecedented outpouring of praise and acclamation was being voiced by the vast multitude, Jesus, far from being enraptured and thrilled by such a demonstration, gave expression of his bitterest sorrow in an outburst of weeping.
And when he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now are they hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies shall cast up a bank about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall dash thee to 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.
He saw the city ...
Dummelow, Bliss, Childers, Spence, and many others affirm that a most extraordinary view of Jerusalem and the temple was afforded by any of the routes that Jesus might have taken from Bethany into the city; however, Ash says that Jesus could have seen the crowds and the southeast corner of Jerusalem, but not the temple." F52 Barclay says, "The whole city lies fully displayed in sight." F53
And wept ...
The word does not mean merely that tears forced themselves up and fell down his face. It suggests rather the heaving of the bosom, and the sob and the cry of the soul in agony. We could have no stronger word than the word used here. F54
And why did Jesus weep so bitterly in the very moment of what men would have hailed as his most magnificent hour?
All this moved Jesus to tears. He saw something which others did not see. He saw the coming destruction of the city. He knew that all of his efforts to avert the tragedy had been repulsed and rejected. F55
Even more, however, than the physical ruin of the city and the brutal slaughter of tens of thousands of her citizens, Jesus saw in his impending rejection by the people of Israel a second disaster, comparable in every way to the one in Eden. If, and only IF, the Jews had received the Son of God, hailed him as Lord and Saviour of mankind, and led the campaign for all nations to accept his authority, the subsequent centuries would have been times of unbelievable joy and happiness upon the earth. Eden indeed might not have been fully recovered, but humanity blew its second chance when the Jews rejected their King. This writer believes that it was the incredible moral setback of the human race which was sustained in the rejection of the Saviour which might have precipitated the bitter weeping of this occasion. True, the crucifixion could not have been avoided; the prophecies had foretold it, as well as the rejection; but it was the near totality of that rejection which bound all subsequent ages in wretchedness and frustration, at least as contrasted with what might have been.
Shall cast a bank about thee ... compass thee ... dash thee to the ground, etc. ...
It has become fashionable in certain school of criticism to allege that the verses containing these prophecies "were not uttered by Jesus, but are a vaticinium post eventum," F56 that is, a retrospective inclusion of these words by Luke writing after the destruction of Jerusalem; but such extravagant claims are the kind that lead intelligent men to reject the totality of such "source criticisms." This Gospel was written before Paul's death, long before Titus destroyed Jerusalem; and there simply cannot be any intelligent doubt that Jesus prophesied the very thing that happened. Such is not only proved by the unanimous record of the holy Gospels, but is it likewise proved by the historical fact that not a Christian was lost in the siege of the Holy City. If Jesus did not predict it, how did that come about? Geldenhuys has a marvelous comment on these expressions as the true words of Jesus Christ. F57
This lament over Jerusalem is actually one of three. See fuller comment in my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 23:37. They are in Luke 13:34, Matthew 23:37 and here. Some would meld the three, or suppose only two; but this is not necessary at all. There were good and sufficient reasons on each of the three occasions for Jesus to have exclaimed over the fate of the Holy City which he so clearly foresaw.
Verses 45, 46
And he entered into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold, saying unto them, It is written, And my house shall be a house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of robbers.
THE SECOND CLEANSING OF THE TEMPLE
This was the second cleansing of the temple, the first having taken place quite early in his ministry; and there are significant differences. Here there is no order to "cease and desist," as in the first. It was too late; the day of grace was past. Also, the finality of "ye have made it a den of robbers" was not in the first.
This cleansing of the temple, as was also the first, was a symbolical declaration of his Messiahship, and Kingship, on the part of Jesus. It was a fulfillment of Psa. 69:9 and Mal. 3:1-3. The zeal for the Lord's house which was prophesied was here manifested by Jesus, and the holy Messenger of the covenant suddenly came to his temple. Further discussion will be found in this series of commentaries under Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15, where are recorded parallel accounts of this second coming.
Verses 47, 48
And he was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him: and they could not find what they might do; for all the people hung upon him, listening.
Luke here summarized the situation as it existed on Monday of the final week. Only this day and the Tuesday following it remained for Jesus to continue his teachings. The tragic events of the cross would begin to unfold on Wednesday, culminating in the crucifixion itself on Thursday.
Sought to destroy him ...
The glowering hatred of the leaders had reached the boiling point. They would kill Jesus by any means whatever, preferably by assassination (Matthew 26:4); but whatever it took to accomplish their purpose they were ready to do. Their impatience, however, would have to wait upon the Lord. He, not they, would set in motion the forces that led to his death; and his consent, not theirs, was the condition required to be fulfilled before they could act. The consent of Jesus was the sine qua non of our Lord's Passion. Without that, the criminal and bloodthirsty leaders were reduced to frustration, as so vividly portrayed here. "They could not find what they might do!"
Footnotes for Luke 19
1: The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), p. 613.
2: The Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago: William Benton Publisher, 1961) Vol. 13, pp. 1,6.
3: F. N. Peloubet, Peloubet's Bible Dictionary (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1925), p. 746.
4: Ray Summers, Commentary on Luke (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1974), p. 223.
5: J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 290.
6: Donald G. Miller, The Layman's Bible Commentary (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1959), p. 132.
7: H. D. M. Spence, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, Luke, p. 135.
8: J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 295.
9: Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 222.
10: Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960), Matthew-Acts p. 294.
11: J. S. Lamar, The New Testament Commentary (Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase and Hall, 1877), p. 233.
12: George R. Bliss, An American Commentary on the New Testament (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: The Judson Press, n.d.), Vol. II, Luke, p. 278.
13: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: Carlton and Porter, 1829), Vol. V, p. 476.
14: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 135.
15: H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Luke (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1940), p. 360.
16: George R. Bliss, op. cit., p. 278.
17: Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), p. 472.
19: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 135.
20: Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 270.
21: Anthony Lee Ash, The Gospel according to Luke (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1972), II, p. 94.
22: James William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), p. 187.
23: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 136.
24: J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 297.
25: William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), p. 245.
26: Vine's Greek Dictionary (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), II, p. 18.
27: Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 474.
28: Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 226.
29: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 246.
30: Flavius Josephus, Wars, Book II, chapter 6.
31: J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 303.
32: Charles L. Childers, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1964), p. 583.
33: E. J. Tinsley, The Gospel according to Luke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 173.
34: Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Parables of Our Lord (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p. 509.
35: Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 583.
36: Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 511.
37: Frank L. Cox, According to Luke (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1941), p. 60.
38: H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 362.
39: Donald G. Miller, op. cit., p. 134.
40: Everett F. Harrison, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 256.
41: Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 512.
42: Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 98.
43: Donald G. Miller, op. cit., p. 135.
44: Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 98.
45: Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 483.
46: H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 139
47: J. C. Ryle, op. cit., p. 311.
48: Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 278.
49: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 249.
50: Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 100.
51: J. S. Lamar, op. cit., p. 238.
52: Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 101.
53: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 251.
54: Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 484.
55: Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 588.
56: Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 464.
57: Ibid., pp. 484-485.
58: Ibid, p. 199.