Luke 19 - The Blind Beggar and the Tax Collector
Luke 19 – July 22
If you have been under my teaching for any length of time, you have likely heard me bemoan some of the more unfortunate chapter breaks in the Bible. Remember, the chapters and verses are helpful, but they are not inspired by God. As we are making out way through the Bible one chapter at a time, that sometimes leads us to miss out on the way these events are designed to fit together. Today is one of those examples. What I would like to do is rewind to the end of chapter 18 and show you how putting these two events together helps us to understand the greater point of both of these narratives.
Part 1: Blind Beggar Healed
This story begins as Jesus was nearing the rebuilt city of Jericho. With every step toward the city, the crowds grew larger. Everyone wanted to be near the Messiah. They anticipated that they might see something amazing from Him. Beggars would often line the outer walls of the city, hoping and waiting that those who entered would graciously donate alms to them. When this blind man was told that Jesus was the cause of the commotion he began to cry out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The title “son of David” was not just a statement of genealogy. That was a title that was reserved for the One who would come fulfill the covenant that God made with David in 2 Samuel 7 – that there would be a king who would rule on David’s throne forever. This blind man could see Jesus’ true identity better than almost anyone else He encountered during His earthly ministry. Jesus did show mercy and heal the blind man. But, pay close attention to how that story concludes. “And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”
Part 2: Zacchaeus Redeemed
The healing took place directly outside the city gates. The next part of our story begins right after Jesus walked through the gates and into the city of Jericho. Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector; he was the chief tax collector. He was the upper management of the corrupt system by which the Roman government allowed tax collectors to gouge their own countrymen. And as the text indicates, Zacchaeus had become very wealthy from dishonesty. This would have made him an absolute social outcast. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that he would have been the most hated person in the city. I don’t know about you, but when I have been too short to see over people, I have been able to maneuver my way into a crowd and finagle my way to a position in the front where I could see what I was looking for. Zacchaeus didn’t even attempt to press his way through the crowd. Instead, he climbed a nearby sycamore tree at which point we arrive at the famous part of the story. Jesus looked up to the exact place where Zacchaeus was. The tax collector was attempting to avoid being at the center of public attention, but it is Jesus who places him there. This story shows that this wicked tax collector joyfully received the Messiah who called to him. We see Zacchaeus’ life transformed to the extent that he made right every wrong that he had performed by repaying fourfold those who he had defrauded. But, I don’t think that is the main point. Notice how the crowd responded to Jesus going to eat with Zacchaeus. Verse 7 - And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
When there was a poor, blind beggar who needed help or healing, the people rejoiced in the works of Jesus. But, when someone that they hated was the beneficiary of Jesus’ love and attention, they were outraged. Jesus says that day was the very day that salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house, but the crowds were bitterly opposed to the idea that the Lord would save such a man.
What is the point of these two stories? It is my favorite verse in the entire book of Luke. 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Both the blind man and the tax collector needed salvation. Both of them humbled themselves before Christ. Both of them were saved. Jesus did not come to save a specific type or category of people in terms of socio-economic status. He came to save the lost. Rich or poor, introvert or extrovert, black or white, healthy or unhealthy, Jew or Gentile, Mets or Yankees, American, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Indian, or anyone else – Jesus came to save people out of every category. Be thankful today that Jesus has had mercy on you, that He befriended you, that He forgave you, that He sought you out, and that He saved you.