Luke 18.35 – 19.10
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”
42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.
19 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Between the rich ruler who rejects Jesus and the rich ruler who accepts Jesus, Luke positions the healing of a blind man. Mark and Matthew place this event as Jesus is exiting Damascus. Luke has it as he is entering because it serves (in part) to transition from the blind ruler to the ruler who wants to see – climbs a tree so he can see – and is healed by receiving Jesus and his Gospel.
The difference between what Jesus commanded the (nameless) rich ruler to do – give everything to the poor – and what Zaccheus offers (with no command) – giving half to the poor – is significant in one respect: that the command to sell possessions, like all commands, comes in specificity. Neither the command the one refuses to obey, nor the freely given obedience of the other may be taken as an exact model to follow. Instead, each must do what Jesus commands, whether it is to sell everything, or to come down from a tree and follow.
Luke uses the present tense here, indicating that what Zaccheus describes was his standing practice, not a one-time event that was the result of a conversion, but an ongoing, regular practice. He was already following the most stringent interpretation of Torah and thus not deserving of his reputation as a notorious sinner. His generosity had not impoverished him but his possessions held no hold on him. They were not the impediment for him they were for the other rich ruler.
And so it must be with us. As we saw yesterday, we can expect Jesus to demand from us whatever gets in the way of having an intimate relationship with him. The rich ruler stands as a warning for us. Zaccheus stands as an example of what it looks like to follow Jesus. Camels don’t fit through the eyes of needles, except when a miracle has occurred. The grace of God transforms our hearts in such a miraculous way as to make living like Zaccheus possible for us too. Then we will be able to say, ‘I was blind, but now I see. I was a slave, but now I am free.’
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.