Luke 19:1-27

Friendship is a wonderful thing. The Proverbs speak of a friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). It is a truism that a man is known by his friends. That is why it is so amazing to read of Abraham that he was called the friend of God (James 2:23; 2 Chronicles 20:7).

In this chapter we are going to read of those who were both friends and enemies of God. And yet, the one who is pictured as God’s friend isn’t necessarily the one you would have chosen to be your friend. And the one who is pictured as the enemy of God may surprise you.



And He entered and was passing through Jericho. (Luke 19:1).

At first glance, we might take these words to be on a plane with "once upon a time" or "long, long ago and far, far away." But that isn’t the case at all. Since the ninth chapter of Luke, we have seen Jesus on a journey. We read back then that He "resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). We saw Him move through Galilee and we saw Him pass through the boarders of Samaria and now we see Him passing through Jericho on the last leg of the long journey.

Jericho. Then name harkens back ancient stories of blaring trumpets and tumbling walls and a great victory that God once gave to His people. It was known as the "city of the palms" because of its subtropical climate. It had the reputation for being one of the lowest cities in the world, residing hundreds of feet below sea level in the Jordan Rift Valley.

The old city of Jericho that had been destroyed in the days of Joshua was a thing of the past and had been replaced by a new city located nearby to the old mound. It was here that Herod the Great had kept his winter palace. It was a resort area boasting a warm climate in the winter and an even hotter climate in the summer.

In this day, a system of aqueducts brought water down from the Judean Mountains, making the plain of Jericho lush and fertile.


And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax-gatherer, and he was rich. (Luke 19:2).

The name Zaccheus is merely a Greek rendition of the Hebrew name Zacchi (Ezra 2:9) and seems to be derived from a word describing that which is clean or pure. Perhaps the parents of Zaccheus had high hopes for him as a child and hoped that he would be one who exhibited a pure life. If this is so, then their hopes were soon dashed, for Zaccheus became known as one who had dirtied his name.

Zaccheus was a tax-gatherer. He was not just a tax-gatherer; he was a chief tax-gatherer. He was not the type of tax-gatherer that Matthew had been. He was not the type of tax-collector who sat by the side of the road and collected taxes from those traveling on it. Zaccheus was a chief tax-gatherer. He hired others to do his dirty work for him. He had other people who worked under his franchise.

He had purchased this franchise from the Roman Empire. The agreement was that he would pay a certain amount to Rome and he got to keep the rest. He had gotten rich by overcharging people on their taxes.

Zaccheus was materially rich but socially poor. He was considered a social outcast and classed with thieves and robbers. He was shunned by all decent people and excluded from worship in the synagogue. He was a man who had tried to climb the ladder of success, not matter what the price. It had cost him his self-respect. He was used by the Romans and hated by the Jews, but he wasn’t liked by anyone.

And if it was not already bad enough that people looked down on him for his chosen profession, people also looked down on Zaccheus because of his size. Verse three tells us that he was small in stature. He was a little fellow in a big world.



And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. 4 And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. (Luke 19:3-4).

Because Zaccheus was short in stature, he had a difficult time in getting close to Jesus. We can imagine him standing on his toes and even jumping up into the air to see over the heads of the taller members of the crowd. But all to no avail. And then he has an idea. Down at the end of the block is a large sycamore tree with branches overhanging the road where Jesus will pass by. Off he goes and soon this rich little tax-collector is perched in the tree as Jesus passes below.

He looks a little silly up there, doesn’t he? His fine clothes are probably a bit wrinkled. His perch is unsteady -- certainly not very dignified. But there is something winsome about him. When was the last time you will willing to look silly for Jesus?

There is a wonderful contrast evident between the person of Zaccheus and the two characters who were introduced in the previous chapter:

The Rich Ruler

The Blind Beggar


Luke 18:18-30

Luke 18:35

Luke 19:1-4

Materially wealthy

Materially and physically impoverished

Materially wealthy with ill-gotten gains


Wishing to see

Wishing to see Jesus

Goes away without Christ

They both receive Jesus and seek to follow Him

He riches caused him to remain lost

His faith made him whole and he began to follow Jesus

He faith led him to give up his half his possessions and return that which has been taken wrongly.

Both the blind beggar and Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus. Neither would be stopped by their circumstances. They both persisted in their attempts to meet Him and they were both rewarded. As we saw in the parable of the unjust judge and the persistant widown, it was not the casual seeker who was rewarded, but the persistant petitioner who found Christ.



And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." 6 And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly.

And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." (Luke 19:5-7).

This must have shocked Zaccheus so much that he nearly fell out of the tree. It is striking because Jesus does not merely say, "Today I am going to stay at your house." Rather, He says, "Today I must stay at your house."

Jesus HAD to stay at the house of Zaccheus. Why? What was the compulsion that brought Him into the home of this greedy little tax-collector? It was the compulsion of grace and of love. It was the same compulsion that was taking Him within a few days up the Jericho road to Jerusalem. It was the same compulsion that would take Him to the cross.

The words of Jesus brought about a response. First they brought about a response from Zaccheus. Jesus said, "Hurry and come down" and the very next thing that we read is that he hurried and came down. The words of Jesus also brought a response from the crowd. It was a negative response. It was a response of grumbling: And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner."

Who did this grumbling? Who is the "they"? Who were these grumblers? We are not told. I suspect that it included everyone except Zaccheus. Maybe even the disciples. Maybe even a converted tax-collector named Matthew.

What is it that causes people to grumble over grace? I think it is because, deep down where we do not admit it to others, we have a feeling that we are at least a little deserving of God’s kindness. I want to tell you about that feeling. It is wrong. You are not deserving at all. That is what makes God’s grace so wonderful. The whole point of grace is that it is undeserving.

There are two types of people presented in this narrative.

It is only the first type who find that Jesus comes and stays with them. It is only the first type who are healed by the Great Physician. It is only the first type who are among the company of the redeemed.



And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:8-10).

We are told that Zaccheus stopped. Apparently, this took place even before Jesus actually came to his house. He hears the grumbling and he sees the grace of Christ and he realizes that a response is required. There are several observations that we can draw from this passage.

  1. Zaccheus offered to give a great deal to the poor, but he does not give all of his possessions to them. Why did he limit himself to only half? One thing that comes to mind is that he would need the other half to repay all those whom he had previously defrauded.
  2. The offer of Zaccheus is completely voluntary. Jesus does not tell him to give up all of his possessions as He had told the rich ruler. Neither does Zaccheus make any attempt to bargain God down from a previously set command. His offer is a response to grace. It is an act of gratitude.
  3. The offer to repay fourfold those who had been swindled is an act of generosity. This is a sign of a changed heart. When God changes someone, He does it radically.

Did you notice how Jesus described the salvation of Zaccheus? He says that "he, too, is a son of Abraham." I don’t think that Jesus is talking about his physical ancestry. He is speaking of his spiritual heritage. Zaccheus is a son of Abraham because he has demonstrated the same kind of faith that Abraham demonstrated: Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:6-7).

Here is the point. We are also sons of Abraham. It isn’t through physical ancestry. It is through faith. And that means that we have entered into something that started a long time before Pentecost. And it means that there are promises that we can claim all throughout the Scriptures.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29).



As we move to this section, it seems at first glance to be unrelated to what has just happened. But I do not think that this is the case. Jesus is about to tell a parable. The parable will serve to illustrate the significance of the events of the past two chapters.

1. The Setting for the Parable.

And while they were listening to these things, He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. (Luke 19:11).

Throughout the last several chapters there has been a steadily growing expectancy regarding the revelation of the kingdom. For the past three years, first John the Baptist and then Jesus have been preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand. The disciples know that they are on a fateful pilgrimage to Jerusalem and that something significant is going to happen when they get there. Even though Jesus has spoken plainly, they still do not understand. They are anticipating that the kingdom of God is going to appear immediately.

This parable is going to deal with that anticipation. The kingdom will indeed appear, but it will not be in the sense in which they are expecting. Instead of taking His throne in the city of Jerusalem, the King is going to depart.

2. The Departure of the Nobleman.

He said therefore, "A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’" (Luke 19:12-13).

The nobleman represents Jesus. He is headed with His disciples for Jerusalem and there is a cross on the horizon. It will be followed by a resurrection and that will be followed by a departure. Jesus is going to leave them and He is going to leave them for a very long time.

The purpose of his leaving is to receive a kingdom for himself. He will receive that kingdom and then He will return. Notice that it is not when He comes back that He is going to get the kingdom, but it is while He is away. Do you see it? He receives the kingdom during the "away time." It is today that Jesus is receiving the kingdom. His kingdom is growing like a small seed that is growing into a great tree. It pictures the growth of the church in this age.

In his departure, there is left a promise of his return. In the light of that eventual return, a responsibility is left to the slaves of the noblemen. They are given a certain amount of money and they are to do business until his return.

What is the business with which the church is to be involved? It is the business of making disciples and the business of teaching the things that Jesus taught and it is the business of proclaiming the coming kingdom. It is the business of Jesus.

3. The Rebellion of the Citizens.

"But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’" (Luke 19:14).

This introduces a second group of people. They are not the slaves of the nobleman. Instead they are the citizens. Their citizenship is of the kingdom which the nobleman is destined to receive. What do these people represent?

The Nobleman

Jesus who is soon departing to receive the kingdom

The Slaves

Followers of Christ who are charged with doing His work until He returns

The disciples

The blind beggar


The Rebellious Citizens

Enemies of Christ who want no part of His kingship

The Pharisees

We have seen the Pharisees as the major opponent against the ministry of Jesus. They have opposed Him at every turn. They have rejected Him as the King and this will become very evident later in this chapter when He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and it is the Pharisees who will speak out against the praises that are accorded Him.

Incidentally, there is a teaching making its way in Christendom that it is possible for one to trust in Jesus as Savior without recognizing Him as Lord. This parable teaches differently. When we come to the end of the parable, we shall see what happens to those who "do not want this man to reign over us."

4. The Return of the Nobleman

"And it came about that when he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him in order that he might know what business they had done.

"And the first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.’

And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’" (Luke 19:15-19).

The nobleman returns after receiving the kingdom. Those who are opposed to his kingship are not able to prevent it. But the first order of business concerns those slaves who were left with a charge to continue in the business ventures of their master.

Each slave is rewarded according to what he has done with what he has been given. The slave who brought a 10-fold increase was rewarded by being given ten cities over which to rule. The slave who brought a 5-fold increase was rewarded by being given five cities over which to rule. The other slaves were evidently rewarded accordingly.

5. The Judgment of the Worthless Slave.

"And another came, saying, ‘Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’

"He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Then why did you not put the money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

"And he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’

"I tell you, that to everyone who has shall more be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away." (Luke 19:20-26).

This slave had acted differently than the first two slaves to be mentioned and the master’s response was correspondingly different. He had packed away that which was given to him and had stored it away for safe keeping. In doing so, he had disregarded the command of the master to do business until his return.

Notice this slave’s description of his master. He calls him an exacting man -- an , from which we derive our term "austere". This is not a very flattering picture. It seems that the opinion of this slave was not much different that the opinions of the rebellious citizens.

In any case, while he had not necessarily engaged in outright rebellion, he had not obeyed him master. His had been a passive rebellion, but a rebellion nevertheless. As a result, that which had been accorded to him is now taken away and given to one who had shown faithfulness.

6. The Judgment of the Rebellion Citizens.

"But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence." (Luke 19:27).

The enemies of the King are taken away and slain. This appears in the parable as almost an afterthought. But I am not so certain that this is the case. I thing that this parable portrays two kinds of rebellion.

The parable does not specifically tell us what happened to the unfaithful slave beyond the fact that what had been entrusted to him was now taken away. But the parable does tell us what happens to the enemies of Christ and I have a feeling that this end is also the end to which the unfaithful slave is destined.

How do I know this? Because Jesus told a very similar parable in Matthew 25. The names are changed. Instead of minas, we are now dealing in talents. But the story is essentially the same. At the end of the story, the master gives the order to "cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30).

How do you fit into this parable? Perhaps you have been taking comfort in the fact that you are not openly antagonistic to Jesus. After all, you go to church and put money in the offering plate. But are you a worthless slave? Are you utilizing what has been entrusted to you to do the work of the Kingdom? If not, then you are not notably different from the enemies of the king. Are you a citizen or a slave? And if you are a slave, then are you a faithful one?

The question has eternal dimensions, for it determines your destiny. There is only salvation for those who recognize Jesus as their Master and King.

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