In Luke 9.51-19.41 the author records Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem.  Along the way, Jesus taught His disciples and the crowds of the kingdom of God.  Luke 19-20 thus climaxes this narrative sequence, revealing the Jesus’ evangelistic heart.  Here Luke described those who received the message of the kingdom against the backdrop of those who rejected it.  Specifically, Luke placed Jesus’ call upon Zacchaeus just before His messages about Jerusalem and the temple; the former gave evidence of salvation, the latter none—and were thus rejected:

  1. Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost, and Zacchaeus accepted His message (19.1-10).  If one were to ask the Pharisees concerning the recipients of the kingdom, they would not have cited men like Zacchaeus, “Who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich” (v, 2).  Earlier Jesus lamented to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (18.24), but Zacchaeus, “a son of Abraham” (v. 9), sought out Jesus and joyfully welcomed Him to his home.  This caused the Pharisees no small indignation; they complained that Jesus had too freely gone to lodge with “a sinful man” (v. 7).  What marked Zacchaeus as a recipient of the kingdom was not just the fact that he was an Israelite, but his repentance; he said: “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord!  And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!” (v. 8)
  2. Jerusalem rejected Jesus’ message (19.11-44).  As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, His followers seemed to think that the kingdom would somehow mystically appear when the Messiah stepped into the city limits.  To temper their gleeful expectations, Jesus told them a parable about waiting for His return—and the necessity of faithfulness in the meantime (vv. 11-27//Matt 25.14-30).  The persuasive point of the parable was clear enough: the disciples should diligently employ their knowledge of the kingdom—for which they would be aptly rewarded when the kingdom arrived in full.  While the crowd, at the angst of the Pharisees, went on to welcome Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (vv. 28-40//Matt 21.1-9//Mark 11.1-10//Luke 19.28-40), His tears made clear that the fullness of the kingdom would not arrive until a later time (vv. 41-44).  Jerusalem, long the center of spiritual life for the children of Abraham (cf. 2 Samuel 6; 1 Kings 8-9; 2 Kings 24-25; Nehemiah 1), was now rejected by none other than Messiah Himself, who sentenced the city to yet another phase of destruction saying: “you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (v. 44)
  3. Jesus rejected the practices and teaching He discovered at the temple (19.49-20.47).  If Jerusalem was in fact the capital of Israelite life, then the temple was the center of all (cf. 1 Kings 8-9; Jeremiah 7; Ezra 1).  When Jesus came near to it (19.45-46//Matt.21.10-17//Mark 11.11), He “began to throw out those who were selling, and He said, ‘It is written, My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!’” (19.46).  Although Jesus rejected the works of the temple, He yet used it as the central place to teach—and confront the Pharisees.  One day, while there “proclaiming the good news” (20.1), an entourage of Jewish elite inquired of Jesus’ authority to clear the temple and teach with such captivating appeal (20.1-8//Matt 21.23-27//Mark 11.27-33).  Jesus responded to their question with a question; He said: “Tell Me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (20.4).  Unwilling to respond to the message of the Kingdom—and yet fearful of the people, who believed John to be a prophet—the delegation was speechless, prompting Jesus to reply in kind.  Jesus played on their fear of the crowds, telling them the Parable of a Vineyard Owner (20.9-19//Matt 21.33-46//Mark 12.1-12).  In Jesus’ interpretation of Ps 118.22, the stone was no longer Israel, but Himself; if the Pharisees rejected Messiah, their fate would be sealed.  While the chief priests, scribes and elders questioned Jesus about paying taxes (20.20-26//Matt 22.15-22//Mark 12.13-17), and the Sadducees attempted to cast doubt on Him by asking about the resurrection (20.27-40//Matt 22.23-33//Mark 12.18-27), neither group found an opening in Jesus’ logic.  Luke notes that after their (unsuccessful) attempts to interrogate Jesus, “They no longer dared to ask Him anything” (20.40).  Perhaps the crowd was further amazed when Jesus turned the tables and asked His interrogators how Messiah could be both David’s son and David’s Lord; the Jewish elite wanted the central place in the temple—as evidenced by their long robes, places of honor, and selfish behavior—the place that rightfully belonged only to David’s Son and Lord (20.41-44//Matt 22.41-46//Mark 12.35-37)

Luke 19-20 records Jesus arrival in Jerusalem, anticipated in Luke’s Gospel since 9.51, “When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  The memorable story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.1-10 tool place as Jesus “was passing through” Jericho en route to the city of David (19.1).  Jesus’ encounter with the tax collector serves as a foil for the remainder of chs 19-20; here was a sinful Jew who curiously sought out the Messiah and repented, while the leaders of Jerusalem were hardened in unbelief and wished to do away with Jesus.  In this pericope themes of the storyline of Scripture cohere, especially that the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant is enjoyed only through repentance and faith in Christ.  In Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus, it is apparent that the Abrahamic covenant did not provide him the blessing of salvation.  Only through Christ could Zacchaeus be forgiven and receive the blessing of Abraham; here it is obvious that the tax collector’s sinfulness carried greater weight than his ‘Jewishness.’  Abrahamic faith in Christ was the only means of salvation.  As the storyline of Scripture progresses it becomes increasingly clear that through repentance and faith in Christ even Gentile sinners can receive the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant—as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

“So then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness,’ so understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons.  Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’  So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith” (Gal 3.6-9; cf. Gen 15.6)

*For a complete list of references, please see