The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

6. Discipleship and the rejected king, 18:15-19:44

iv] A rich man converted - he gives much (Zacchaeus)


As he was passing through Jericho, Jesus confronted by a tax collector called Zacchaeus. In the story we are told of how Zacchaeus gets to see Jesus, v1-4, of Jesus' warm response in reaching out to this social outcast, v5-6, of the grumbling of the crowd, v7, of the generous response of Zacchaeus, v8, and of Jesus' pronouncement that Zacchaeus is a true son of Abraham, ie. he possesses the faith of Abraham, v9. A saying then places the incident within the messianic mission of the Son of Man to save the lost, v10.


In the story of Zacchaeus we are confronted with the truth that faith saves.


i] Context: See 18:15-17. The conversion of Zacchaeus is the fourth episode in a set of six dealing with the subject Discipleship and the Rejected King, 18:15-19:44. The focus of these episodes is on discipleship, a discipleship which is grounded in faith and expressed in love.


ii] Structure: This pronouncement story, The conversion of Zacchaeus, presents as follows:

Setting, v1;

Zacchaeus is determined to see Jesus, v2-4;

Jesus opts to stay with Zacchaeus, 5-6;

The crowd is not impressed, v7;

Zacchaeus' response, v8;

Jesus' pronouncement, v9:

"today salvation has come to this house,

kaqoti ("because") this man is also a son of Abraham"

Saying, v10:

"the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."


iii] Interpretation:

The context of this story plays an important part in its interpretation. We are probably in good hands if we follow Marshall who suggests that this passage rounds off a section which has teased out the substance of saving faith. Luke has revealed for us "the qualifications required for entry to the kingdom", namely, "entry on the basis of divine grace and human faith." Faith as small as a mustard seed saves; such faith is faith in Jesus, faith in his atoning sacrifice for sinners. Johnson agrees, "Jesus receives [Zacchaeus], recognizing in his cry for mercy and in his candid statement of his desire, the faith that brings salvation." So also Danker. Zacchaeus, the outcast, receives the gospel message and "shows that he is a son of Abraham", Ellis.

Of course, not all commentators agree. For Nolland, this story is part of a new section that looks at the messianic credentials of Jesus as he journeys to Jerusalem for his enthronement. Here we learn that the messiah comes to seek and save the lost, "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Bock also thinks the story is more concerned with "Jesus' initiative to save the lost." So also Stein, Fitzmyer, Creed, Caird.

The degree to which contextual themes control the interpretation of this passage is a matter of debate. If we stand with say Nolland, then we will confine our comments to the passage at hand, rather than import what may well be extraneous ideas. There is much to commend the idea that both this story and the healing of the blind man, introduce a new section focused on the actions of messiah rather than the response of disciples; "The man of destiny came not to confirm customary exclusions but precisely to seek out and save the lost sheep of Israel." Yet, if we stand with Marshall, Johnson and Danker, we will give weight to the context and recognize that, as with the blind man who was saved by faith, 18:42, this story too is about faith, a faith like Abraham's, a faith that saves even the lost - saves not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector.


iv] Synoptics:

This pronouncement story is unique to Luke. It has been argued that the story is a creative development of Mark 2:17, but this is very unlikely. Again we have a story which Luke most likely draws from the oral gospel tradition available to him. Luke is indeed a theologian and so carefully arranges the tradition available to him in order to reveal the particular teachings of Jesus which are of interest to him, but there is no evidence that he abandons the role of historian for that of a fictionist.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 19:1

Saving faith- the story of Zacchaeus and his salvation, v1-10: i] Setting, v1: Jericho was a major trading town, serving as the main customs point for all imports into Palestine from the East. It was deep in the Jordan valley, about 30 kilometers east of Jerusalem.

kai "-" - and. Coordinating use; "then he went into Jericho", Phillips.

eiselqwn (eisercomai) aor. part. "Jesus entered [Jericho]" - having entered. The participle is adverbial, temporal, "after Jesus had entered Jericho", Cassirer.

dihrceto (diercomai) imperf. "was passing through" - Durative, so he had entered Jericho and "was on his way through it", Barclay.


ii] Zacchaeus is determined to see Jesus, v2-4: Zacchaeus, as the "chief tax collector" of the area, would take a cut for himself from the taxes he raised for the Roman administration. In today's terms he was a kind of corrupt politician, very wealthy, and hated. Obviously, he had heard of Jesus, a messianic hopeful who associated with social outcasts like himself, and so he was determined to get to meet with Jesus, a determination that showed that the good news of the coming kingdom had already touched him.

kai idou "-" - and behold. Serving to focus the readers attention, even promote surprise; "and suddenly", NJB.

onomati kaloumenoV "by the name of" - by name being called. Pleonastic, a redundant duplication; "whose name was", NJB. The participle kaloumenoV is adjectival; "a man who was called Zacchaeus". The noun onamati is a dative of reference / respect; "with respect to his name."

ZakcaioV "Zacchaeus" - From the Hebrew of Zechariah, a good Jewish name.

arcitelwnhV "chief tax collector" - Zacchaeus was the head government official in Jericho for the collection of revenue and probably most other government business. He would have purchased this rite, even tendered for it. Our equivalent, head of the department of taxation, does not fit since Zacchaeus was regarded by his fellow Jews as a traitor, in the pay of Rome. As part of the tax component, a percentage went to the tax collector, set at his discretion, heightening the people's hate of the profession. We may be better served if we call him "a powerful corrupt politician."

polousioV adj. "wealthy" - rich. How hard is it for a person who has wealth to enter the kingdom of God? cf. 18:24. Obviously not hard for a person who has faith.


ezhtei (zhtew) imperf. "he wanted" - he was seeking. Do we put the weight on his seeking of Jesus, or on Jesus' seeking of him? The imperfect is durative, so "he was trying to see Jesus", Barclay, possibly "eager to see", Fitzmyer.

idein (eidon) aor. inf. "to see [Jesus]" - The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "he wanted", although with cognitive verbs an infinitive may be classified as forming an independent statement of perception, here expressing what Zacchaeus wanted. Is it just "see" or "meet with"?

tiV estin "who [Jesus] was" - who he is. Possibly "what Jesus was like", Moffatt, although better, "trying to see [among the crowd] which was Jesus", TNT.

ouk hdunato (dunamai) imperf. pas. "he could not" - he was not able. Not able [to see]. "But he could not see him", NAB.

apo + gen. "because [of the crowd]" - On rare occasions this preposition expresses cause / reason, as NIV, but the more common sense of source / origin is still possibly indended, ie., from his position in the crowd Zacchaeus was not able to see Jesus because he was short, cf. Culy.

oJti "but" - since, that is. Here expressing cause reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why he could not see, namely, "as (because) he was so small in stature", Williams.

th/ hJlikia/ (a) dat. "a short [man]" - in height [he was little]. Dative of respect; "with respect to his height he was little." Obviously it is Zacchaeus who is short, not Jesus, as some have argued, although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Jesus being named among "the short people"! Of course, as Nolland notes, as far as the crowd is concerned, Zacchaeus' littleness is more than just height and so no one is likely to get out of his way and let him see Jesus.


prodramwn (protrecw) aor. part. "so he ran ahead" - having run ahead. The participle is adverbial, consecutive, expressing result, as NIV; he tried to see Jesus but was unable, with the result that he ran ahead and ...." Also possibly temporal, "after running on ahead", TH.

eiV to emprosqen "-" - [having run ahead] into the front. Pleonastic, redundant. Variant readings exist without this prepositional phrase.

epi + acc. "-" - into. Spacial; "up into a sycamore tree."

sukomorean (a) "sycamore-fig tree" - fig mulberry, sycamore fig. This tree looks like an Oak tree and can grow into a very large tree.

iJna + subj. "to [see him]" - Forming a purpose clause "in order to see him." "To catch sight of Jesus", Fitzmyer.

oJti "since" - because. Expressing cause / reason.

ekeinhV gen. pro. "that way" - [he was about to pass] that. "Way" understood. Genitive of space; "he was about to pass through that way", Wallace.


iii] Jesus opts to stay with Zacchaeus, v5-6: Jesus brilliantly reads human nature and he certainly reads Zacchaeus. Here was Rome's local representative willing to degrade himself by climbing a tree to get to meet with Jesus. Zacchaeus' obvious acceptance of Jesus, his faith in Jesus, is rewarded by Jesus' acceptance of him, and as a consequence Jesus invites himself for tea.

wJV "when [Jesus reached]" - as / while [he came]. Probably a temporal sense here, as NIV.

epi + acc. "[the spot]" - to [the place]. Spacial.

anableyaV (anablepw) aor. part. "he looked up" - [Jesus] having looked up [said to him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said", as NIV.

speusaV (speudw) aor. part. "[come down] immediately" - having hurried [come down]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the command to "come down"; "quickly come down", Bock.

dei "[I] must" - it is necessary. Divine imperative? Obviously, "stay overnight."

meinai (menw) aor. inf. "stay" - [for me] to remain, abide, stay. The infinitive functions as the subject of the verb "is necessary", "to stay [in your house] is necessary [for me]" = "I must be your guest today", Phillips.

shmeron adv. "today" - Some suggest there is an allusion here to "the day", that coming day, which for Zacchaeus has come. The position is emphatic; "today I must stay at your house", NAB.


kai "so" - and. Here consecutive, expressing result, BDF.442[2], as NIV.

speusaV (speudw) aor. part. "at once" - having hurried. The participle is adverbial, probably modal expressing the manner in which the action of the verb "came down" is accomplished; "he climbed down as quickly as he could", REB.

cairwn (cairw) pres. part. "gladly" - rejoicing. Again, the participle is modal, expressing the manner in which he welcomed him. Possibly "gladly welcomed him", CEV, or "welcomed him joyfully", TNT. The image is of an outcast joyfully accepting, and thus entering the coming kingdom. Marshall notes that Jesus' entry into Zacchaeus' home serves as a sign of forgiveness.


iv] The crowd is not impressed, v7: Their muttering is typical, cf. 5:30, 15:2.

panteV "all" - Not just the Pharisees, but all the Jews "muttered their disapproval", Phillips.

idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "[all the people] saw" - having seen. The participle is probably temporal; "when they saw this", Moffatt.

diegogguzon (diagogguzon) imperf. "began to mutter" - were complaining, grumbling, murmuring. The imperfect is probably inceptive, highlighting the commencement of the action, as NIV; "they began muttering with indignation", Weymouth.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

oJti "-" - Here introducing a dependent statement of direct speech.

katalusai "to be the guest of" - to lodge, rest. The infinitive is final, expressing the purpose of Jesus' going; "in order to lodge with him", and he a sinner.

para + dat. "-" - with. Expressing association, emphatic by position; "with a sinful man, he entered in order to lodge." Jesus "has gone to stay with a real sinner", Phillips.


v] Zacchaeus' response, v8: Zacchaeus, in response to the disapproval of his neighbors, proclaims how his faith has changed him. There is no indication that Jesus has demanded this response, rather it comes out of a changed heart; it is the evidence of "faith expressing itself through love", Gal.5:6. Zacchaeus' offer of half his wealth to the poor is overly generous, as is his willingness to repay fourfold to those from whom he has "unlawfully exacted" taxes. We are reminded that those who are forgiven much, love much.

staqeiV (iJsthmi) aor. pas. part. "stood up" - having stood, having taken his stand. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb eipen, "said"; "Zacchaeus stood and said." The standing up possibly serves to underline the importance of what Zacchaeus is about to say, or better, as a reaction to the negative response of his neighbors, thus a defense of Jesus' visit to his home, now appropriate since he is a changed man; "Zacchaeus stood his ground and said", NJB.

kurie (oV) "Lord" - lord, master, sir. "Lord" is surely intended, rather than just "sir".

didwmi pres. "I give" - I am giving. The present tense here is interesting. The action is durative, but Zacchaeus is obviously not handing money over at the present moment, so is the action progressive, ie. he has, in the past, began giving and has continued giving into the present, or is it futuristic, ie. he is asserting his intention to give in the future? Probably not "I now give", Williams, or "I am giving", Rieu, but "I am going to give", Barclay.

ta hJmisia pl. adj. "half" - the half. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, object of the verb "I give." A 50% giving regime is excessive; the Pharisees regarded 20% as generous. The adage applies here, those who are forgiven much love much.

twn uJparcontwn (uJparcw) gen. pres. part. "of [my] possessions" - that which exists. The participle serves as a substantive, with the genitive adjectival, partitive; "a half of my possessions", "my fortune", Rieu.

idou "Look" - behold, pay attention. The position is emphatic serving to emphasize what follows.

ei + ind. "if [I have cheated]" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed a reality, "if, as is the case, ..... then ......." Zacchaeus has extorted, therefore best not translated "if", but rather, "from whomsoever I have wrongfully extracted anything", Marshall.

esukofanthsa (sukofantew) aor. "I have cheated" - I slandered = defrauded. "Unlawfully exacted", Nolland.

tinoV gen. pro. "out of anything" - of a certain thing. The genitive is ablative, expressing separation.

apodidwmi pres. "I will pay back" - I am paying back. Again, the present tense is futuristic, see above, as NIV.

tetraploun adv. "four times the amount" - fourfold. Again, such theft would require the repayment of what was stolen + a fifth. Zacchaeus offers more than is required by the law - a fruit of faith.


vi] Jesus' pronouncement, v9: The messianic salvation hoped for by Israel, evidenced itself in the life and home of a corrupt man. Here was a true "son of Abraham", a spiritual son, kaqoti, "because", he showed that he possessed the faith of Abraham, Rom.2:28f. Zacchaeus put his faith in Jesus, in God's messiah, and was therefore counted a true child of Abraham, linked to Abraham through his faith rather than natural descent, or obedience to the law, cf. Rom.5 and 6.

proV + acc. "to" - to, toward [him]. Note that Jesus' words are in 3rd. person, which implies he is not speaking directly to Zacchaeus, but more likely to those who were complaining. So, not really "to him", but about him." "Jesus said of him", Moffatt.

oJti "-" - Here introducing a dependent statement of direct speech.

shmeron adv. "today" - expressing the immediacy of salvation.

swthria (a) "salvation" - The sense being "messianic salvation" = "the kingdom of God has come near to you", 10:9, is present / bursting in upon, such that the believer is free to enter / is welcomed into.

egeneto (ginomai) aor. "has come" - came, happened. "Salvation has happened in this house", Johnson.

tw/ oikw/ (oV) dat. "to [this] house" - to [this] house, family. The dative may be taken as locative, expressing space/sphere, "salvation has come to / into this house", interest, advantage, "salvation is for this house", possessive, "salvation belongs to this house", so Culy. A very interesting feature in the NT, especially in Acts, is the extension of salvation to the repentant person's house / household = family and servants, which is possibly the sense here, but see above. To what extent salvation applies to those under the care of the repentant head of the household is unclear. Are they actually saved, or are they simply brought into a blessed environment where they are better able to respond to the gospel and/or share in kingdom blessings?

kaqoti "because" - because, for / as, as to the degree that. Causal; expressing the reason why, as NIV.

kai "[this man], too" - even [this one]. Ascensive; "even this tax-collector", Marshall.

Abraham "[is a son] of Abraham" - Treated as a genitive, adjectival, relational. He is obviously a son of Abraham by descent so what is Jesus saying? The sense is unlikely to mean that Zacchaeus aligns with Abraham morally. Possibly the point is that as a descendant of Abraham, Zacchaeus is entitled to "salvation", eg. Plummer, Bock, etc. - "because even this tax-collector is a Jew and so is entitled to salvation."; Yet, it seems more likely that Jesus is making the point that Zacchaeus possesses the faith of Abraham - "because even this tax collector is a true son of Abraham, in that he possesses the faith of Abraham, and so is entitled to salvation", cf. Stein.


vii] Saying - The Son of Man seeks the lost, v10. This independent saying of Jesus was either attached to the story during oral transmission, or placed here by Luke. It serves to tie the story to Jesus' overall messianic mission, a mission in which he seeks to gather into the kingdom those who, by their life-style, stand outside the covenant and thus apart from its promised blessings. This overall perspective is helpful, but it can divert attention from the powerful point that Jesus makes in v9, namely that salvation has come to Zacchaeus because he is a true son of Abraham, ie., he possesses the faith of Abraham. The kai in the coordinate zhthsai kai swsai, "seeks and saves", is properly epexegetic in that "seeks" = "saves"; "the Son of Man seeks the lost, that is, he saves the lost", cf. other uses of this saying: 9:56, 18:8, Matt.18:11.

gar "for" - for. Possibly expressing cause / reason, so introducing a causal clause explaining how the story of Zacchaeus fits into the overall mission of Jesus, but then the conjunction may just be serving as a stitching device and so left untranslated, so Barclay.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. Many commentators balk at this title being used here of Jesus' earthly ministry, but surely the eschatological ministry of the "coming Son of Man", the heavenly man who "comes" to the Ancient of Days and receives his kingdom, is a seeking ministry which is inaugurated in the earthly ministry of Jesus, cf. Jeremias who sees the Son of Man here as the Shepherd. Jesus favors the title "Son of Man" because it is an obscure title for the messiah. The title can just mean "man", but for Jesus it represents Daniel's "Son of Man", Dan.7:13.

zhthsai (zhtew) inf. "to seek [and to save]" - The infinitive expressing purpose, "in order to seek ......" The messiah's role of seeking the lost sheep of the house of Israel is central to Old Testament prophecy and to Jesus ministry, cf. Ezk.34. We automatically extend this role to include Gentiles, "save people who are lost", CEV. Yet, for the NT., the lost are the lost of the house of Israel, the Israel scattered and facing destruction. Israel is saved by adopting the faith of Abraham, and it is by a faith like Abraham's that Gentiles become Abraham's children and are incorporated into Israel. As noted above, "to seek out" = "to save", but the thought is clearer when fully expressed; "the Son of Man came to search for and to rescue the lost", Barclay.

to apolwloV (apollumi) perf. part. "what was lost" - the ones being destroyed. The participle serves as a substantive. The perfect tense expressing a past situation which is ongoing. "The Son of Man came to find and restore the lost", Peterson.


Luke Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]