If you are paying attention you noticed the seeming non sequitur in the title. How could anyone connect the joyful story of Zacchaeus (which many people know of from the memorable children’s song about him) with the notion that Jesus will judge those who refuse to let him reign over them? Yet if you read closely, that is exactly what the Bible does.
First, the story of Zacchaeus. It is truly a joyful account of a wretched, condemned sinner who repents, rejoices and gladly follows his Savior. Remember that for the Jews this guy was the worst of the worst. The Romans were hated, but the tax collector Zacchhaeus would have been perceived as a traitorous Jew who sided with the Romans and exploited his fellow Jews. Yet he was not beyond Jesus’ reach.
Luke 19:1–10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 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.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus was lost, Jesus sought him, Jesus saved him, Zacchaeus demonstrated a changed life. That’s great news.
But this is connected to Jesus’ next parable, the one about the ten minas. I often miss transitions like this because I treat the stories as being independent, but when listening to this on the way to work today the first line stuck out to me. Luke deliberately noted that this parable was told to the same audience. Didn’t Jesus know that it was a time for celebration rather than warning?
Luke 19:11–27 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”
Did you catch that last part? The same Jesus who saved Zacchaeus and celebrates at his house proceeds to tell a parable with a chilling ending. This King has enemies who will not let him reign over them. What happens? They are slaughtered in his presence.
Oh, and Jesus apparently expects his authentic followers to demonstrate changed lives and to help advance his kingdom. Go figure!
I’m fond of pointing out that there are 100 verses noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation. The volume isn’t what makes it true, of course. His resurrection does that. But it does mean that anyone claiming the name of Christ must hold to that explicit and supremely important teaching. But there are actually more than 100 verses, because the passage above is one of the many that aren’t even on that list. You will die either as a servant of the King or as his enemy. Choose carefully, because eternity matters.
Jesus came full of grace and truth. Grace and truth. All grace and no truth is a lie that makes people think they don’t need Jesus. All truth and no grace is a lie that crushes people and removes hope. There is great grace in that awful sinners like Zacchaeus and I can be saved by the blood of Christ. There is great truth that without Jesus we would be condemned for eternity.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.