Reading for Thursday, March 29: Luke 19
In Luke 19, our journey to Jerusalem comes to an end. But not before a final redemption story and parable.
The redemption story: Zacchaeus, the wealthy chief tax collector, a known swindler. He hears that Jesus is coming through Jericho and — like our shrewd manager from ch16 — takes the necessary steps to secure his position. Specifically, he climbs a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. And his life is radically transformed in the encounter. “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,” (v8). This is what salvation looks like; this is what discipleship looks like. And the episode functions as a final reminder as to the nature of Jesus’ ministry: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost,” (v10). This sets the stage for the Passion to come.
On the heels of this encounter, Jesus offers up a final teaching: the parable of the minas. Jesus tells this parable in response to the prevailing expectation that the Kingdom of God would appear soon, perhaps upon His entry into Jerusalem. And so the teaching is, at one level, a reminder that the Kingdom will not come in its fullness until Jesus returns (v15). The question then becomes one of faithful stewardship: will the Son of Man find faith on the earth when He returns (Luke 18.8)? Christ implores His followers to exemplify faithfulness in matters small and large. This brings glory to God. But the parable ends on a chilling note: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me,” (v27).
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the throng sings praise: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Yet, Jesus finds the occasional sorrowful: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it…” (v41). Jesus mourns over the rejection He will experience in Jerusalem, but I believe He also mourns for every prophet Jerusalem has rejected. He mourns their rejection of God and all His messengers. Jerusalem, whose name means “city of peace”…yet she represents the place of bloodshed for God’s anointed. A careful reading of Luke’s Gospel reveals a harsh tone to Jesus in this journey toward Jerusalem, but it’s a harshness prompted by tears, judgmental language borne out of sorrow. Jesus weeps for Jerusalem just as He weeps over us — when we fail to recognize the time of God’s coming (v44).
A final zealous act — the cleansing of the Temple — prompts the religious leaders to plot against Jesus, seeking to murder Him. And now the Passion week begins…