As a part of my seminary education I had to learn how to follow what’s called an Inductive Bible Study (IBS). Those of us who were learning how to do IBS often joked if we weren’t careful learning the process would give us IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). For the ordination process I have to do exegesis work and submit a two page summary of it for the boards. I have never written a two page exegesis. I quite honestly do not know how. So I thought I would submit this and allow you the reader to make suggestions. Please let me know what you think. Just FYI. I will being offering the sermon based on this work November 4th.
In His Peace,
See vv 3,4,7, and synonym looked v5
Comment: See, and its synonym looked are the means people are attempting to understand Jesus. Zacchaeus just wants to see Jesus. Jesus looked up and saw Zacchaeus in a tree. The crowd observes Jesus talking to Zacchaeus, and grumbles. The crowd does not appear to like what they see.
Questions: Why did Zacchaeus only want to see Jesus? Why didn’t Zacchaeus want to hear Jesus teach, or observe a miracle? What made Jesus look up at Zacchaeus out of all the people in the crowd?
Seek v.3, 10
Comment: Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus in verse three, and then in verse ten it is the Son of Man who has come to seek the lost and to save them.
Observation: Intercalation is when a word, phrase, theme or idea starts and ends a pericope of Scripture. This passage begins with Zacchaeus seeking Jesus and ends with Jesus finding Zacchaeus. In this passage the Inclusion uses seeking as a metaphore and carries an ironic twist as the one seeking is found by the one being sought.
Questions: How would first and second century Christians have understood the irony, and the theological signifigance of those who seek God are first sought by Christ? Was this a concept already in place in the first century? Were there similar theologies from earlier time periods?
they grumbled the crowd interjects
Observation: Intercalation is a phrase or sentence inserted in the middle of a story. In this narrative the crowds grumbling is almost an aside to the conversation going on between Jesus and Zacchaeus.
Questions: What purpose does the crowds grumbling serve? Could it be argued the crowds grumbling is symbolic of a general resistance to change in the first century, or a testimony to the cinicism of the people in the city of Jericho?
A. Preparation 19:1,2
Observation: Preparation introduces characters and the setting. Luke 19:1-2 tell the reader the focus of the story will be Jesus and His interaction with the rich chief tax collector Zacchaeus. The setting is Jericho – a city destroyed by God during Joshua’s invasion of the land promised by God. God destroyed the city’s walls so the children of Israel could attack the city. In this story the city has long since been rebuilt, and is likely the home of Zacchaeus.
Questions: Why Jericho? Why not Jerusalem or any of the other cities in Israel? Why did the story take place in Jericho? What is the signifigance of Jericho to the narrative, or is there any signifigance to Jericho being in the story?
B. Substantiation1 19:3
Observation: Substantiation is the proof that a fact or belief is correct. In this passage Zacchaeus could not see because he was shorter than the crowd.
Question: Why is Zacchaeus’ height relevant to the story? Was there a social stygma against people of small starture in the first century? Was there some kind of elevated status to people of small stature? Could the B.A. be telling us about Zacchaeus’ height as if to say there was nothing intimidating about Zacchaeus?
C. Substantiation 19:9
ESV “since”, NRSV, NKJV, CEB “because”
Observation: The B.A. offers two reasons for why salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house. One, Zacchaeus is a child of Abraham, and two, the Son of Man came to seek the lost. The children of Abraham were set aside as God’s chosen people and were often afforded protection by God; hence, the idea of salvation coming to the children of Abraham. Zacchaeus could be seen as lost because Zacchaeus is working as a tax collector taking money from his fellow children of Abraham to give it to those who occupied Israel at the time.
Questions: Who does the B.A. mean by the lost? How would first and second century observers have understood Jesus’ words to seek and save the lost? Would they have responded the way the Pharisees did with loathing and condemnation, or would they have responded with joy at the possibility of salvation. Would Jesus affirmation of salvation coming through the line of Abraham have lead to feelings of entitlement and the searching of geneologies we see in 1Timothy 1:3-4?
Observations, Questions, Inferences (all quotations are from the English Standard Version [ESV])
19:1 “He entered Jericho and was passing through.”
OBS: The passage Luke 18:35-43 takes place near Jericho and concludes outside of Jericho. The passage beginning Luke 19:1 has a new location and is separate from Luke 18:35-43. OBS: Jesus passed through Jericho.
INF: Jericho could have been too big to conveniently walk around. Jesus could have been purposefully looking for an opportunity to minister to someone.
QUE: How far is it from Jericho to Jerusalem? How large was Jericho at the time?
OBS: The statement is short and matter of fact without any poetry. The verse appears to be straight narrative set in the past tense.
19:2 “And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.”
OBS: Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and financially well off.
INF: Zacchaeus was likely not well liked by his own people as first century tax collectors often cheated those they collected from to support their own lifestyles. The fact Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and rich could mean Zacchaeus had cheated a lot of people.
QUE: What were the stages for becoming a chief tax collector? How rich might Zacchaeus have been?
OBS: The B.A. makes a point of identifying Zacchaeus as a man.
QUE: Could Zacchaeus have also been a girl’s name? Were there female tax collectors? What impact does Zacchaeus’s gender have on the narrative for a first and second century audience?
19:3 “And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because small of stature.”
OBS: Zacchaeus was seeking to be able to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd. Zacchaeus is not seeking to know Jesus. Zacchaeus just wants to be able to see this man, Jesus.
INF: There could be some irony between Zacchaeus and Jesus as the one who is seeking is being sought after. It begs the question who is really seeking who in this passage?
QUE: Could the B.A. be making a point of Zacchaeus’s stature as a means of helping the reader identify with the likely unloved man? Could the B.A. be saying no one is too lowly and unloved to be saved by Jesus? Would this message have resonated with a first or second century audience more?
OBS: Zacchaeus could not see over the crowd to see Jesus, but Zacchaeus was trying – making an effort to see Jesus.
QUE: What is the significance of seeking to see?
OBS: Zacchaeus’s ability to see Jesus is blocked by the crowd because of Zacchaeus’s height.
QUE: Could Zacchaeus’s height and the crowd be symbols or metaphors for something else?
INF: The crowd could be the world, and we could be lowly Zacchaeus unable to see Jesus for the crowd?
19:4 “So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him. for he was about to pass that way.”
OBS: Carry over from verse three. Zacchaeus’s efforts to seek to see Jesus lead Zacchaeus to run and climb a tree.
INF: Zacchaeus’s efforts running, climbing, anticipating Jesus coming are all significant to the author.
QUE: Why is the type of tree important to the Biblical Author? Why might it be important to the first century audience?
QUE: How did Zacchaeus know Jesus was about to pass that way when Zacchaeus could not see Jesus for the crowd? What symbolism, or significance would the first or second century hearer have taken from this passage?
19:5 “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
OBS: Irony – the Son of God who came down fromheaven to seek the lost looks up at a short man in a tree who was a chief tax collector – a man deemed the lowest of the low among his own people – a traitor. The King of Kings looks up at a man of small stature and poor reputation.
OBS: Jesus speaks to one who made an extra effort to see Jesus. We are not told if others in the crowd climbed trees to see Jesus – only Zacchaeus.
INF: It could be infered Jesus decided to stay at Zacchaeus’s home because Zacchaeus made the greater effort to see Jesus. (I am not sure I am comfortable with the inferrence because the text does not specifically make that claim.)
QUE: Why did Jesus stop to talk to Zacchaeus? Why did Jesus “must stay” in Zacchaeus’s house? Was it for Zacchaeus, the crowd, the audience, or all of the above?
19:6 “So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.”
INF: Zacchaeus was happy to see Jesus.
OBS: Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector – someone seen as betraying his own people by collecting taxes for the Romans. Zacchaeus could have easily been scared of Jesus, but Zacchaeus wasn’t.
QUE: Why wasn’t Zacchaeus afraid? Why was Zacchaeus so eager to see Jesus? What is the B.A. trying to say through Zacchaeus’s eagerness?
19:7 “And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone to be a guest of aman who is a sinner.”
OBS: “they the B.A. is being sloppy with pronouns.
QUE: Who are “they”?
INF: Likely “they” are the crowd
QUE: What do “they” mean by referring to Zacchaeus as a sinner? Is it because Zacchaeus was a tax collector? Does Zacchaeus have still other faults “they” know about, but the reader does not?
INF: They are casting aspersions upon Jesus because Jesus is going to eat with Zacchaeus. Since Jesus is going to be the gues of a known sinner Zacchaeus then Jesus must be a sinner too – that kind of thing.
QUE: What does it say about the crowd that they think that way?
19:8 “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’”
OBS: Zacchaeus makes a point of publicly declaring what Zacchaeus will do to be worthy, or not seen as a sinner, before Jesus, or perhaps just before the crowd.
QUE: What is the significance – is there any significance to (1) Zacchaeus giving half of what he owns to the poor, and (2) restoring to anyone he has defrauded fourfold? How would this compare to the woman who gave all she had? Is Zacchaeus promising to send himself to the poor house? What does this oath/promise do to Zacchaeus’s status as a Jew? What does the promise do to Zacchaeus’s status in Roman culture? Can you quit a job being a Roman tax collector?
19:9 “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he is also a child of Abraham.”
OBS: Jesus refers to Zacchaeus as a child of Abraham. It’s easy to forget Jesus came to the Jews first. Most of the Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus teaching, preaching and healing Jews.
QUE: What does the B.A. mean by saying “salvation has come to this house, since he is also a child of Abraham?”
INF: Salvation – as understood by first century Jews came through a person’s lineage as a child of Abraham.
QUE: Was this something Zacchaeus earned by offering to give all of his money away? Could Jesus be viewing Zacchaeus’s attempts to see Jesus, and promising to give away so much of his money as a change of heart, or profession of faith?
QUE: Is there a message about salvation in this text for 1st and 2nd century Gentiles?
19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
OBS: The B.A. uses Son of Man language which is often a reference to the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament book of Daniel 7:13.
QUE: What does apocalyptic literature have to do with this passage as understood by 1st and 2nd century Christians? What does this O.T. reference tell us about the intended audience?
QUE: Who are the lost? What does it mean the Son of Man is searching for, and saving the lost?
INF: In this passage the lost person being saved is Zacchaeus – a Jew who had become wealthy collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. It is likely, from this passage, the lost are Jews who no longer place God first and foremost in their lives.
QUE: Is there a message of salvation in this passage for Gentiles? Would Gentiles be considered a part of the lost since all of humanity were originally part of God’s creation? Is it too Jewish, too narrow a point of view to say the lost are only those of the house of Abraham since all of humanity was created by God?
Questions (answered based on inferences, primary and secondary sources)
Is there a message of salvation for Gentiles in Luke 19:1-10?
There are perhaps two ways to answer this question. One answer largely depends on what Jesus meant by calling Zacchaeus a Son of Abraham. The second depends on verse ten stating the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
John the Baptist condemns Pharisees and Sadducees for relying on their ancestry as descendents of Abraham instead of acting like descendents of Abraham by doing works meet for repentance (Matthew 3:7-9). In the Old Testament genealogy was very important; especially following the Exile as we have long genealogies in Ezra and Nehemiah where those returning proved their right to the Promised land by succession. However, the New Testament takes a different view of genealogy because of the people’s way of relying on their blood lines instead of acting upon what made Abraham righteous in the first place. Abraham was declared righteous by God because Abraham believed the promises of God (Genesis 15:6). Then Abraham acted upon that faith and God’s promises by being willing offer Isaac (Abraham’s only son) as a sacrifice to God.
If Jesus is only referring to Zacchaeus’ lineage as a descendent of Abraham then there is not much hope for Gentiles. However, if Jesus is referring to acting like Abraham the way a son imitates his father, then Zacchaeus’ decision to give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back four fold anyone Zacchaeus has wronged; then the message of salvation is about restored faith, and a restored relationship with God – in this instance through Jesus Christ. It seems Zacchaeus’s action/promises would argue for the latter relationship. Cyprian put it this way, “Finally, he also calls sons of Abraham those whom he perceives are active in helping and nourishing the poor” (Oden 292). As such Jesus’ statement the Son of man came to seek, and save the lost is not aimed solely at the Jews, but all of those who are lost to God from the very beginning by original sin. Augustine put it this way, “All were lost. From the moment the one man sinned, in whom the whole race was contained the whole race was lost. One man without sin came. He would save them from sin” (Oden 291). N.T. Wright argues a step further to say repentance is not some general state of the soul, but the work of restoration as well (223). Not only does Zacchaeus promise to make a change in his life, but Zacchaeus makes the declaration in front of disbelieving crowds who will no doubt hold him accountable if he slips. Cupperwich’s evaluation is interesting in that he points out Jesus is not defending Zacchaeus as an example of a rich man who is all together righteous. Instead Jesus is confirming that a change has indeed taken place in Zacchaeus (Cupperwich 359). From the text is does seem more likely Jesus is recognizing this man is making great strides to free himself from the greed which has kept him from a relationship with God. As a result salvation has indeed found the lost – all of the lost.
The trouble with this line of argument is it presents an image of works righteousness, which I find very difficult. If a person could earn salvation why on earth did Jesus Christ have to die for my sins? The text leaves this difficulty vague, but I sincerely appreciate Cyril of Alexandria’s words, “He desired to see Jesus and therefore climbed into a sycamore tree, and so a seed of salvation sprouted within him. Christ saw this with the eyes of deity. (Oden 290)” Augustine echoed this sentiment when he wrote,“Thou didst raise me up, that I might see there was somewhat for me to see, though as yet I was unfit to see it. (Confessions VII.10)” Only by God’s finding Zacchaeus could Zacchaeus have had any hope of seeing Jesus (Bowie 323). By this logic all who seek Christ have in fact already been found by God, and it is the Spirit of God which enables, and convinces us Christ is worth seeking. By the evidence a publican, a tax collector who was chief among unwanted traitorous tax collectors found himself playing the host to Jesus.
Did the B.A. make such a point of mentioning Zacchaeus’s stature to better help the reader identify with Zacchaeus?
The B.A. certainly goes to some lengths to show just how lowly a person Zacchaeus was. First, the B.A. tells us Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, and not only a chief tax collector, but very rich (v.2). It is well known tax collectors made their living by cheating people. Tax collectors made their living by collecting the set amount by the Roman government and then collecting above that to be able to support themselves. In Matthew 21:31 Jesus lumps tax collectors and prostitutes together as entering the gates of heaven ahead of Pharisees because they responded to John’s testimony while the Pharisees scoffed. The Pharisees hated tax collectors for two reasons. Tax collectors were collecting money for the Romans who occupied Israel, and tax collectors in general loved the gain of money over God. Cyril of Alexandria refers to Zacchaeus specifically as a man entirely given over to greed whose only goal is the increase of gains (Oden 290). Jesus spoke of this difficulty for the rich in Matthew 6:24 when Jesus said man, “cannot serve God and wealth.” Zacchaeus was indeed a man of small stature and low reputation. This being said it is difficult – not impossible for the rich – even tax collectors to enter the kingdom of heaven.
In the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Allan Culpepper makes note of the two ways the tax collector further discredited himself in order to see Jesus. If it was unseemly to be a tax collector in Jewish society it was unseemly on much more basic level for a grown man to be seen running, and it was totally unheard of for a man in a position of power to be seen climbing a tree (Culpepper 357). Zacchaeus does both. Here I found something unexpected. I followed a footnote in Culpepper to Amos 7:14 depicting Amos as a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs. The sycamore tree has sturdy low branches, and a lesser quality of fruit which was often eaten by the poor. Zacchaeus was further discrediting himself by resorting to a tree which was often used by the poor for support, thereby, putting Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, in the same position as the poor. Zacchaeus was willing to lower himself in order to see Jesus. Personal status was not an issue for Zacchaeus. Jesus was the one who mattered, and all Zacchaeus wanted to do was catch a glimpse of Jesus.
I think the message for the reader is no one is too lowly to encounter Jesus. The rich can pass through the eye of a needle; although, it may be difficult. Even the lowliest of sinners can come close to God. The message is hope.