JESUS HEALS BLIND MEN AT JERICHO
TAX COLLECTOR ZACCHAEUS REPENTS
Jesus and those traveling with him arrive at Jericho, which is about a day’s journey from Jerusalem. In a sense, Jericho is a double city, the older city being about a mile (1.6 km) from the newer Roman city. As Jesus and the crowds make their way out of one of these cities and approach the other, two blind beggars hear the commotion. One of them is named Bartimaeus.
On hearing that Jesus is passing by, Bartimaeus and his companion begin shouting: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:30) Some in the crowd sternly tell them to be quiet, but the two cry out even louder. Hearing the disturbance, Jesus stops. He asks those with him to call whoever is shouting. They go to the beggars and say to one of them: “Take courage! Get up; he is calling you.” (Mark 10:49) Excitedly, 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. Both blind men plead: “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” (Matthew 20:32, 33) Moved with pity, Jesus touches their eyes and, particularly to one of them, says: “Go. Your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:52) The two blind beggars receive sight, and doubtless both begin glorifying God. Seeing what has happened, the people also give praise to God. The formerly blind men now begin to follow Jesus.
There are tremendous crowds around Jesus as he passes through Jericho. Everyone wants to see the one who has healed the blind men. The people press in on Jesus from every direction; hence, some cannot even get a glimpse of him. That is true of Zacchaeus. He is chief over the tax collectors in and around Jericho. Because he is short, he cannot see what is going on. So Zacchaeus runs ahead and climbs a sycamore (or, fig-mulberry) tree along the route that Jesus is taking. From up there, Zacchaeus gets a good view of everything. As Jesus draws near and sees Zacchaeus up in the tree, he says: “Zacchaeus, hurry and get down, for today I must stay in your house.” (Luke 19:5) Zacchaeus climbs down and hurries home to welcome his distinguished visitor.
When the people see what is happening, they begin to grumble. They feel that it is not right for Jesus to be the guest of a man whom they view as a sinner. Zacchaeus has become rich by dishonestly extorting money while he is collecting taxes.
As Jesus enters Zacchaeus’ home, the people complain: “He went as a guest to the house of a man who is a sinner.” However, Jesus sees in Zacchaeus the potential for repentance. And Jesus is not disappointed. Zacchaeus stands up and tells him: “Look! The half of my belongings, Lord, I am giving to the poor, and whatever I extorted from anyone, I am restoring four times over.”
What a fine way for Zacchaeus to prove that his repentance is genuine! He can likely calculate from his tax records just how much he had received from various Jews, and he vows to make a fourfold restoration. That is even more than God’s law requires. (Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 6:2-5) Moreover, Zacchaeus promises to take half of his belongings and give them to the poor.
Jesus is pleased with this evidence of Zacchaeus’ repentance and tells him: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Recently, Jesus has focused on the situation of ‘the lost’ with his illustration about the lost son. (Luke 15:11-24) Now he has provided a real-life example of someone who was as good as lost but who has been found. The religious leaders and their followers may complain about Jesus and criticize him for giving attention to ones like Zacchaeus. Still, Jesus continues to look for and restore these lost sons of Abraham.