From the Sublime to the Ridiculous (Luke 18:31-19:10)
31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man54 will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
My father is and was quite a guy. He is a retired school teacher. When I was growing up, he was the principal of a small elementary school. When I was in high school, I got a job at an automotive parts house. During the summer, I worked full-time. One summer, business at the parts house was a little slow, so my boss informed me that I would not be working full-time, but only as I was needed. I went across the street to the local Dairy Queen to get a second job, driving a small three-wheeled scooter, with a freezer on the back. I sold “Dilly Bars,” little blobs of ice cream with a stick in them, dipped in chocolate.
That was quite an experience. I had the thrill of attempting to climb some steep hills, and the trauma of trying to descend them, with a freezer on the back of my scooter. I was constantly followed around by little kids, all of whom wanted a Dilly Bar, and only some of whom had money. I was also hotly pursued by dogs—some rather large ones—trying to eat me, coming in the cart after me. I was continually having to escape, kicking the animals away as I fled. All in all, it was not a status job.
The problem came when I needed to be at both jobs at the same time. My father was willing to help me, but he was not much into automobiles, and so he could not fill in for me at the parts house. This left only one option—the Dilly Bar scooter. Only now can I begin to fathom the sacrifice it was for my dad to get into that cart and drive around the neighborhood, followed by kids and dogs. But the most humbling event was the day that a woman came up to the cart to buy a Dilly Bar. To my father’s embarrassment, and to the woman’s astonishment, they recognized each other. The woman was the wife of one of the school board members, and my father was the principal of the school. My father was always good at handling awkward situations like this, and so he quickly said to the woman, “Like to buy a Dilly Bar and help a boy through college?”
Our passage consists of three paragraphs, each of which involves a significant amount of humiliation. Jesus’ rejection by His own people, His mocking, scourging, the spitting of His persecutors, and His cruel death on a Roman cross were the deepest humiliation. The blind man who received his sight had to undergo a humbling experience to get Jesus’ attention, in spite of the stern warnings of those who wished him to be silent. And Zacchaeus, the little rich man, who was not able to see over the crowd, humbled himself to climbing a tree so as to catch a glimpse of the man from Nazareth, the One who might be the Messiah.
I believe that humiliation binds each of these very different events together. In addition, I think that one can say that there is also the common theme of misunderstanding apparent in all three incidents. Jesus’ very clear statements about His up-coming rejection, persecution, and execution were not understood at all by the disciples. And the purposes of Christ were not understood either, as we can see in the next two episodes, where in both cases, men either tried to prevent men from coming to Jesus (as they did the blind man), or they resented Christ’s coming to them (as Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus). The purpose of Jesus, “to seek and to save what was lost” (19:10), was simply not grasped at all.
The subject of the coming kingdom of God has been in view since the question as to when the kingdom would come was raised by the Pharisees in chapter 17. In chapter 18, the focus changed from the timing and circumstances of the coming kingdom to who it would be who would enter into it. Jesus taught that those who would enter His kingdom would be not be those who expected to enter. And so the self-righteous Pharisee is not justified, but the penitent tax-collector is (18:9-14). Jesus taught His disciples that while the rich young ruler, and those like him would have much difficulty getting into the kingdom (18:18-27), those who were child-like would possess it (18:15-17).
The rich young ruler sadly left the presence of the living Lord because of what he did understand. He understood that his possessions could not come before his Lord. Strangely, the disciples continued to follow Jesus, but they really did not understand. Peter, apparently speaking for the rest of the disciples, said to the Master, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You” (Luke 18:28). The inference seems to be this, “Lord, we have left all to follow you. What’s in it for us?”
The Lord’s answer was gracious and encouraging. He told them that they would not leave these things as some great sacrifice, for they would indeed gain greatly, not only in heaven, but in the present age. They would receive a many fold return, in the present, and eternal life as well (verses 29-30).
The Ultimate Sacrifice
I believe that the revelation of our Lord to His disciples in verses 31-34 was intended to put their “sacrifice” into perspective. Did they think that they were giving up everything for the kingdom of God? In reality, they were not giving up, but gaining, as our Lord’s immediately preceding words indicate. There was really only one sacrifice on which the kingdom of God was based, and that was the sacrifice which the Lord Jesus would make—the sacrifice of His own precious blood, to atone for the sins of the world.
Before we look at the prophecy of our Lord’s death which He gives to His disciples here, let us refresh our minds as to those specific statements Jesus has already made, as recorded by Luke. The following are not the only references to the Lord’s death, but they are those which are the most direct:
Luke 6:20-23 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
Luke 9:20-31 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
Luke 9:43-45 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Luke 12:43-45 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.
Luke 13:33-35 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Luke 17:24-25 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
In Luke’s gospel we find a progressively revealed indication of the rejection, maltreatment, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord. Luke has informed us that Jesus will be rejected by the Jewish leaders (9:21-23), betrayed by one of His own (9:43-45), rejected by His generation (17:24-25), and now rejected and crucified by the Gentiles (18:31-34). Luke, in writing this gospel for a Gentile audience, does not wish them to miss their own role in the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. The prophecy of His suffering and death, given in 18:31-34 is very specific and detailed. It is totally different from the vague predictions of the fortune tellers and false prophets.
The amazing thing for me is that even with such a specific prophecy, the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about (verse 34). The reason for their lack of understanding is given in our text: the meaning was hidden from them—God deliberately withheld it. They were not ready for it. They would only understand Jesus’ rejection, crucifixion, and death after His resurrection.
There was no way that the disciples were going to raise a question about His meaning at this point. In the first place, what Jesus said was not what they wanted to hear. It was most unpopular. It did not fit in with their (human, cf. Matthew 16:23) expectations. Peter had tried to straighten Jesus out the first time He clearly spoke of His coming death, and he was strongly rebuked. I can see the disciples looking at each other, with puzzled glances, but also giving each other the high sign, not to raise any questions or to attempt to change the Master’s mind. They had tried this once before, and weren’t about to try it again. They had learned their lesson.
It is at this point that I wish to pause momentarily. At this point in their lives, the disciples understood very little of what Jesus was saying, nor did they grasp what He had come to do. It was not until after our Lord had fulfilled His task on Calvary, not until after He was raised from the dead, not until Jesus Himself had taught them (cf. Luke 24:27), not until the coming of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples were able to put all of this together.
Prophecy is never perfectly grasped until after its fulfillment. Jesus was not attempting to explain to His disciples what was about to happen, so that they could understand and have their minds and hearts at ease as all of these prophecies were coming to pass. Our Lord’s purpose was to underscore and draw their attention to the specific events of His death ahead of time, so that after its fulfillment they might understand that this was, indeed, inspired prophecy.
Why is it that so many Christians think that they can spell out the future, becoming experts in prophecy so that they can map out all of the details of the second coming? Why do we think that we can understand these things when no one else in history has done so. Even the prophets themselves were puzzled by their writings, and pondered what their meaning might be (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12).
If our Lord were to be graded by one of the homiletics (the science of preaching) professors in seminary, He would probably fail, for much (some might even say most) of what Jesus said was not understood by His audience. If the Lord Himself did not make everything He taught perfectly clear, how can we expect to do better? If our Lord did not make everything perfectly clear, with several very pointed applications, why is it that we think we must do so?
Frankly, there is a lot to be learned from hearing or reading that which we don’t understand. In the first place, we are (or should be) humbled by the fact that we don’t understand everything we hear. The problem with most of us is that we think we know too much, rather than thinking we know too little. Not understanding keeps us meditating and praying for insight into the Word of God. Not understanding all we read or hear helps us to look forward to heaven, for it is there that we will know all things fully. And yet, having said all this, we still are resistant to the fact that we need to study those things which we do not understand, and we do not like having to wait until later on to know what it means. The disciples knew very little, but they did know one thing, that Jesus was sent from God, and that He was loving, powerful, and kind. They knew enough to follow him. That is all we really have to know. The rest is frosting on the cake. Let us learn to be content with what we do not know.
The Healing of the Blind Man
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Luke’s account of this event is not without parallels in the gospels of Matthew (20:29-34) and Mark (10:46-52). Matthew’s account informs us that there were two blind men healed on this occasion;55 Mark’s account tells us the name of the man, Bartimaeus, and even his father (Timaeus).
This was a scene that was, at one and the same time, tragic and comic. Bartimaeus was sitting by the road as it led into Jericho (v. 35). Beggars always have certain spots picked out where the traffic is more frequent, and where, for some reason, there seems to be more generosity expressed (e.g. outside the temple). He could not see, so his begging would have been triggered by what he heard—a footstep, the sounds of passers-by talking, etc. The blind man would have heard Jesus approaching Jericho. He would have heard the sounds of the crowd from some distance. He asked those around him what was happening. Someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.
Bartimaeus knew about Jesus, perhaps from what he heard as he sat along the street. You can imagine how the rumors would circulate about Jesus among the sick and the infirmed, especially concerning His miracles of healing. Bartimaeus began to call out to Jesus. He wanted healing and he believed Jesus was both able and willing. He did not call to Jesus by the name that was told him—Jesus of Nazareth—but rather by the name which identified Him far more accurately—Jesus, Son of David. The blind man may have had a physical handicap of blindness, but he knew that Jesus was more than a man; He was Messiah. Thus, Bartimaeus called to Jesus as Messiah, for He could heal the sick and give sight to the blind.56 Bartimaeus pled for the one thing which touches the heart of a righteous God toward an undeserving sinner—mercy. He did not merit anything, but he did beg for mercy.
Those who were leading the way into town—probably the elders of Jericho—were irritated by the interruption and the unseemly disturbance which Bartimaeus posed. Here he was, yelling at the top of his lungs. He was being a nuisance. They therefore told him, in effect, “Shut up!” They sternly warned him to be still. Would they throw him in jail for disturbing the peace? How could Jesus, an important person, be bothered by such interruptions? He would not wish to stop for one blind man. The man must be silenced.
Jesus never seemed to conform to human expectations. He stopped, and ordered that the man be brought to him. At this point, Mark exposes the hypocrisy of those who once tried to silence Bartimaeus, for now they tell him to “take courage” (10:49). Mark also tells us that the man jumped up, threw off his coat, and went to Jesus. He was not going to be stopped. When asked by Jesus what he wanted, it did not take him long to speak up. He wanted to see. Jesus immediately healed him, informing him that it was his faith that had made him well (v. 42). Bartimaeus began following Jesus, and he may never have stopped. He also was glorifying God, which may also never have stopped. All the people joined in, giving praise to God.
Jesus Treed a Tax-Collector
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Tax collectors were not new to Jesus. Early on in His ministry, Jesus had attracted, and worse yet (in the eyes of the Pharisees), received them warmly. In Luke 5:30, Jesus was accused by the Pharisees for eating and drinking with “tax-gatherers and sinners.” It would seem that the two terms, “tax-gatherer” and “sinners” were synonymous to the Pharisees. There was hardly any lower form of life than these traitors. Jesus must have deeply offended the Pharisees when He told the parable of the penitent “tax-collector” and the self-righteous “Pharisee” in chapter 18 (verses 9-14), especially when it was the penitent tax-gatherer who went away justified, and the Pharisee went away unjustified.
Zaccheus was not just an IRS man, he was a “chief tax-collector.” He would have been thought of about as fondly as a high level drug dealer. He was rich (v. 19), and this wealth very likely came, in part, from his crooked dealings (cf. 3:12-13). For some unexplained reason, Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus. He may have yearned for more than this, but he made a diligent effort to see Jesus as He passed through Jericho.
But Zaccheus had a problem—he was a short man. I can visualize him bouncing up and down on his toes, trying to see above the taller folks who crowded ahead of him. “Boing, boing, boing,” he went, almost like a cartoon character, but his efforts were to no avail. Finally, he came up with a plan. He looked down the street, where he knew Jesus would have to pass. There it was! A tree. Perhaps not such a great tree, but a tree nonetheless. He could climb that tree and Jesus would pass by.
It would have been amusing, I think, to see this rich man trying to shinny up that tree. What a contrast this was to the way the rich young ruler must have come to Jesus. I envision him driving up, as it were, in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes limousine. But here, the rich little man Zaccheaus is scampering up a tree, perhaps falling a time or two, but finally getting high enough to see Jesus. There were probably little streams of perspiration running down his face. His clothing may have gotten soiled or spotted, maybe even torn. But he was now able to see Jesus.
While this rich little man is quite different, in many respects, from the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, he is also similar to him. Both men wanted to see Jesus. Both men would not be stopped by hindrances. And both men were rewarded by the Master. The difference between the two was that Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. He wanted to be noticed and summoned to come to Jesus. Zaccheus, on the other hand, may have wished to remain unnoticed. It was not a very dignified thing he did. We might even say it was child-like (cf. 18:15-16).
Jesus took note of Zaccheus, although we are not told why. He stopped, looked up, called him by name, and told him that he must come to his house. This “must” has the same feel to it as does this situation, described by John in his gospel: “He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:3-4, emphasis mine).
Why did Jesus express the necessity of going to the house of Zacchaeus? Why the “must”? What was so necessary that it required going to the house of Zacchaeus?
As a tax-collector (a chief tax-collector, no less), Zacchaeus was considered a sinner, the same as a Gentile. Such a person should not be accepted into the hospitality of one’s home, Pharisaism would say (cf. Luke 5:29-30). One should most certainly not enter into the home of such a person, to accept their hospitality and to eat their food. In the process of doing so, one would defile himself, in violation of the law, as interpreted by Pharisaism. Jesus not only accepted an invitation, He invited Himself. This brought an immediate, strong reaction: “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner’” (verse 7).
This was not merely the reaction of a few. Luke tells us that they all began to grumble. Did this also include the disciples? Perhaps.
The explanation for our Lord’s actions comes in verse 10:
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (verses 9-10).
The purpose of our Lord’s coming was still not clear. First and foremost, Jesus came to save sinners. Yes, He would later establish the kingdom of God on the earth, but the basis of this kingdom, that which Christ must accomplish at His first coming, was the forgiveness of man’s sins. Men could not enter into the kingdom of God in their sinful condition. Jesus came to bear the penalty of man’s sins, and to provide them with His righteousness. This was the foundation of the kingdom.
Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. He did not come to associate with the rich and powerful. He did not come to provide positions and power for the disciples. He came to save sinners. To do so, He must associate with sinners. Thus, while it may offend the sensitivities and the social mores of His day, Jesus would go where sinners were, so that the gospel could come to them and they could be saved. If one’s goal is to save sinners, then being with sinners is simply a means to that goal. Jesus’ ministry was governed by His goal of seeking and saving sinners. Did Zacchaeus think that he had sought the Lord? He had. But the Lord had also sought Him.
What a beautiful picture of the tension that is maintained here between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. The blind man called out to the Savior for mercy and received it. Zaccheus did not call upon the Lord, but the Lord called to him. The Scriptures clearly teach that no one who truly comes to Jesus for mercy, on the basis of faith, will be turned away. They also teach that anyone who comes to Christ for salvation does not come on their own initiative, but is drawn by God:
“WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13, citing Joel 2:32).
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).
It is therefore God who both begins and finishes the work of salvation, and yet man is not to be passive:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith (Hebrews 12:2).
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, In order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in you faith supply moral excellence, and in you moral excellence, knowledge … (2 Peter 1:4-5ff.) .
God’s sovereignty does not remove our responsibility both to seek God and to obey Him. And yet when we do, we know that it is because God has caused us to will and to work His good pleasure. No man who truly seeks God as Savior will ever be turned away. Those who do seek, will find that they have first been sought by Him, the One who came to seek and to save the sinner.
It is only after reporting the grumbling of all who beheld Jesus going to the house of a “sinner” like Zacchaeus that Luke also informs us of the change which faith has brought to this man. It would seem that even before Jesus entered his house, Zacchaeus stopped and spoke to Jesus of his intended purposes, as a result of Jesus’ coming into his life. He would, he said, give half of his possessions to the poor. In addition, he would repay four-fold anyone whom he had defrauded (verse 8).
The first thing that I notice is that Zacchaeus offered a great deal to the poor, but not all of his possessions. Why only half? Did Jesus not require the rich young ruler to sell all? Notice that Zacchaeus’ offer is completely voluntary. Jesus has not laid this on him as some kind of condition. The man determined to do this, as an act of gratitude, not as a duty which he would be grudgingly perform.
Second, I believe that he offered to give only half of his possessions to the poor for a very practical reason—paying back those whom he had defrauded would require the rest of his wealth. In my mind, Zacchaeus did give away all he owned: half to the poor, and the other half to those whom he had swindled.
Third, I find this man’s offer to repay by paying back four times what he stole very interesting. When I look at those Old Testament passages which prescribe the repayment due to those from whom we have stolen, I find that the minimum repayment, as it were, was the return of the stolen goods, plus a 20% penalty—a kind of rental fee (cf. Leviticus 6:1-5). In other places repayment of stolen goods was determined on whether or not the stolen object could actually be recovered (cf. Exodus 22:1-5). The thing which impresses me about Zacchaeus’ offer is that he did not promise to make the minimum repayment, but the maximum one. Zacchaeus was willing to grant that his theft was of the worst kind, and was willing to make things right with this frame of mind. He did not minimize his sin.
This leads me to make another observation: while salvation is not by works, when genuine salvation comes to a man, his life radically changes. Salvation is a radical event, bringing men from darkness to light, from death to life, and from evil to righteousness. Genuine conversion produces change in the lives of those who are saved. Zacchaeus evidences a genuine conversion by the change which can be seen—a sudden change in his case—in his actions. May it be so of us as well. Men may not understand the change which has occurred in our lives when we have met the Master and been saved, but they should see change. That is part of what the book of James is all about.
The sinner, Zacchaeus, is now a saint. Salvation has come to his house. He will never be the same again. And yet, while the crowds could finally rejoice and praise God for the sight which blind Bartimaeus received (18:43), there is no record of any praise to God for the salvation of Zacchaeus. At least, I hope, there should have been a sigh of relief.
Two things impress me about our text, in addition to what I have already said. The first is that Jesus was seldom understood by men. His disciples did not understand His straightforward predictions of His rejection, suffering and death (cf. 18:34). The leaders did not understand the heart of Jesus, and thus sought to silence the blind man and keep him from Jesus. And seemingly no one understood what it meant to “seek and to save sinners” and thus all grumbled when Jesus invited himself to the home of a sinner. Prior to the cross, and to the coming of the Spirit, very little of what Jesus said was grasped by His audience, including His closest followers.
Should it come as a surprise to us, then, that when we live as Christians we are not understood either? The apostle Peter later tells his readers that misunderstanding should be expected, for God’s ways are not man’s ways:
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead … Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange things were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation (1 Peter 4:3-5, 12-13).
The “way of the cross” necessitates being misunderstood, resisted, and rejected. That is what our Lord experienced, and it is what His followers will find to be their experience as well.
Finally, I find that all three paragraphs of our text contain the common theme of rejection and humiliation. Jesus’ atoning death for the sins of the world required not only death, but rejection and humiliation. His was a humbling death. It was not glorious, in one sense at least. The blind man humbled himself and endured the rejection and resistance of the crowd. He would not be silenced. He would not be stopped. He did receive mercy. But it was only through humiliation that he was to come to Jesus. So, too, for the rich man, Zacchaeus. Unlike the rich young ruler, who seemed to come to Jesus with his riches and pride, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, and he withstood the sneers and grumbling of the crowd. His, too, was the experience of rejection and humiliation.
The cross of Jesus Christ is a cross of rejection and humiliation. Our Lord willingly bore this cross. But the way to that cross is often also through rejection and humiliation. But what a blessing that way is, when it leads us to the Prince of Life, to the forgiveness of sins, and to His mercy. Let us gladly seek the cross through the valley of rejection and humiliation, for this is the way our Lord came to His cross.
54 It was interesting to track the expression, “the son of man,” through the Bible, using my computerized concordance program (NIV). I found that the expression is found in only five Old Testament and seven New Testament books: Numbers (1); Job (1); Psalms (3); Ezekiel (93); Daniel (2); Matthew (28); Mark (13); Luke (25); John (12); Acts (1); Hebrews (1); Revelation (2).
Prior to the book of Ezekiel, the expression is nearly equivalent to “man,” the “son of man” simply being human, one born of man (cf. Numbers 23:19). In Psalms 8:4 and 80:17, however, more than this is implied, for here we find an allusion to the One who is to come who is born of man, but who is also the coming King, the Messiah. In Ezekiel, the expression is used of the prophet himself. The Lord Jesus, of course, was a prophet, and thus could use the term of Himself as a prophet. Daniel’s prophecy in 7:13 implies more than just a mere man. It to these “more than just a man” texts that our Lord seems to be alluding when He calls Himself the Son of Man in the gospels. John’s gospel (9:35; 12:34) seems to use the expression with the most precision. There are other texts which do not use the precise term, but do seem to refer to the Messiah as the “son of man” (cf. Ezekiel 1:26-28; Daniel 10:5, 16, 18).
55 My opinion is that the one man, Bartimaeus, was by far the more prominent. It would seem that he may have become an active member of the church, years later, and thus he and his father may well have been known. This detail would have been of much interest to those who knew him, to learn how this man first came to Christ. Bartimaeus may also have been the more vocal and aggressive, so that the second (unnamed) blind man of Matthew’s account may have been healed on this heels, so to speak, of Bartimaeus.
56 Remember that at the outset of our Lord’s ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1 & 2 (cf. Luke 4:16-21), where the prophet spoke of Messiah bringing “recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Remember also that when John the Baptist had his doubts and sent men to inquire of Jesus, as to whether or not He was the Messiah, Jesus pointed to His giving sight to the blind (Luke 7:21), among other things, as evidence of His being Messiah.
Related Topics: Christology