Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Jesus Teaches at Jericho
SOON Jesus and the crowds traveling with him arrive at Jericho, which is a city about a day’s journey from Jerusalem. Apparently Jericho is a double city, the old Jewish city being about a mile [kilometer and a half] from the newer Roman city. As the crowds make their way out of the old city and approach the new one, two blind beggars hear the commotion. One of them is named Bartimaeus.
On learning that it is Jesus who is passing by, Bartimaeus and his companion begin shouting: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” When the crowd sternly tells them to be quiet, they cry out even more and with louder voices: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
Hearing the disturbance, Jesus stops. He asks those with him to call the ones doing all the shouting. These go to the blind beggars and say to one of them: “Take courage, get up, he is calling you.” With unbounded excitement, the blind man throws off his outer garment, leaps to his feet, and goes to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks the two men.
“Lord, let our eyes be opened,” they plead.
Moved with pity, Jesus touches their eyes. According to Mark’s account, Jesus says to one of them: “Go, your faith has made you well.” Immediately the blind beggars receive sight, and doubtless both of them begin glorifying God. When all the people see what has happened, they also give praise to God. Without delay, Bartimaeus and his companion begin to follow Jesus.
As Jesus passes through Jericho, the crowds are tremendous. Everyone wants to see the one who has healed the blind men. The people press in upon Jesus from every direction, and as a result, some cannot even get a glimpse of him. Among these is Zacchaeus, the chief over the tax collectors in and around Jericho. He is too short to see what is going on.
So Zacchaeus runs ahead and climbs a fig-mulberry tree along the route that Jesus is taking. From this vantage point, he can get a good view of everything. As the crowds approach, Jesus calls up into the tree: “Zacchaeus, hurry and get down, for today I must stay in your house.”
Zacchaeus climbs down with rejoicing and hurries home to get things prepared for his distinguished visitor. But when people see what is happening, they all begin grumbling. They consider it improper for Jesus to be the guest of such a man. You see, Zacchaeus became rich by dishonestly extorting money in his tax-collecting business.
Many people follow, and when Jesus enters into the home of Zacchaeus, they complain: “With a man that is a sinner he went in to lodge.” Yet Jesus sees in Zacchaeus the potential for repentance. And Jesus is not disappointed, for Zacchaeus stands up and announces: “Look! The half of my belongings, Lord, I am giving to the poor, and whatever I extorted from anyone by false accusation I am restoring fourfold.”
Zacchaeus proves that his repentance is genuine by giving half of his belongings to the poor and by using the other half to pay back those he cheated. Apparently he can calculate from his tax records just how much he owes these persons. So he vows to make a fourfold restoration, in keeping with God’s law that says: ‘In case a man should steal a sheep, he is to compensate with four of the flock for the sheep.’
Jesus is pleased with the way that Zacchaeus promises to dispense his belongings, for He says: “This day salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Recently, Jesus had illustrated the situation of ‘the lost’ with his story about the prodigal son. Now we have a real-life example of a lost one who has been found. Even though the religious leaders and those who follow them mutter and complain about Jesus’ attention to persons like Zacchaeus, Jesus continues to look for and restore these lost sons of Abraham. Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35–19:10; Exodus 22:1.
◆ Where, apparently, does Jesus meet the blind beggars, and what does he do for them?
◆ Who is Zacchaeus, and why does he climb a tree?
◆ How does Zacchaeus prove his repentance?
◆ What lesson can we learn from Jesus’ treatment of Zacchaeus?