Luke-Acts: Luke 19

Chapter 19 is a significant chapter in Luke’s account because it’s where we find the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. Remember the “hourglass” shape of Luke-Acts and its geography and themes: starting fairly wide in Israel, then narrowing to Jerusalem, then again widening out, even to the ends of the earth.

So both geographically and thematically, chapter 19 is a key chapter. It begins near to Jerusalem, in the town of Jericho just to the east, and it ends not only inside the city, but in the religious centre within the city: the temple.

A few notes on the text:

The account of Zacchaeus is a well-known one, but a lot of times the focus is on the physical description of Zacchaeus (remember the old Sunday School song?) rather than the theological and thematic notes that are so prevalent. Many of Luke’s themes are reinforce in this short (sorry!) account:

  • Zacchaeus, as a tax collector, is a “capital-S” Sinner in the eyes of many Jewish people (19:7). Tax collectors not only collected taxes from Israelites for the hated Roman government, but they often cheated those from whom they were collecting by collecting more than was needed and keeping the surplus. Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector, but one of the chief ones (19:1).
  • Jesus seeks table fellowship with this “Sinner”, a sign of deep relationship (19:5). A scandalous move for a Jewish rabbi!
  • Zacchaeus’ change of heart seems to be prompted not by any word of rebuke from Jesus but by His presence. Of course, we don’t have the record of the whole conversation. But what is recorded for us is clear that there is genuine repentance on the part of Zacchaeus (19:9-10), and that it bears fruit in the form of his repayments.
  • Jesus restates His primary mission here in verse 10: the Son of Man—a favourite title of Jesus for Himself—came not to call after righteous people, but ones who needing finding/saving.


  • Jesus tells this parable to encourage His disciples to remain faithful no matter how much time would pass before they saw the kingdom of God ushered in in its fullness. Many were likely expecting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to be a national/political one, that the “kingdom of God” would be an earthly one when finally those Romans would be driven out and self-rule would be restored.
  • The “mina” represented about 3 months wages for a common labourer. In today’s dollars, using a full-time job at minimum wage ($15/hour), it’s a little over $7,000! So ten would be in the neighbourhood of $70,000 in today’s wages. It’s a small fraction of the “talents” in other similar parables (a talent would be about 60 times one mina, or about $420,000 in todays’ dollars), but still is a considerable amount of money.
  • As with the other parables that are similar, the point of this one is not the amount of money. Nor is it about what’s “safe” in terms of financial dealings. (One common reaction today to the third servant is to say “well at least he didn’t lose anything!”). The point is good stewardship of what has been given.
  • Notice that the citizens—not the servants—rejected the nobleman as their master (19:14). Those who are the stewards are carrying on the nobleman’s business are greeted with rejection, not of themselves, but of the nobleman. It’s a parable that rings true in Christian ministry even today!
  • The unfaithful servant is condemned not based on the financial results of his business endeavours, but on his lack of faith. He didn’t act according to the true nature of the nobleman as a generous person and his commission, but set his own sense of what was right above that.

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a pivotal event. It magnifies the tension between the earthly expectations of Jesus as an earthly Messiah/Saviour/Anointed One, and the reality that the kingdom of God is not of this world. Jesus enters as king, but not on splendid war horses and chariots, but on a humble beast of burden. Luke doesn’t mention it in the same way Matthew and John do, but this is also a fulfillment of prophecy, from Zechariah 9:9. This is the perfect description of Jesus: the humble king!

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because it “did not know the time of [its] visitation” (19:44). The visitation is the very presence of God among them in the person of Jesus. But they didn’t recognize Him as such; they didn’t believe. He weeps over its destruction because it is their blindness to true peace that will lead to it (19:41).

The cleansing of the temple is most often seen as clearing out the abuses surrounding the changing of regular money into the temple currency. It is that, but not only that. Dr. Just in his commentary again explains it well:

Jesus must cleanse it from thieves to make room for the one who will be crucified with thieves. In quoting Is 56:7, Luke leaves off “for all the nations” (cf. Mk 11:7, which includes it). For Luke, the locale for the presence of God has already shifted from the temple to the person of Jesus. This temple built with human hands is a place of prayer for Israel. But the place where all nations will gather is in the body of Christ, the new Israel, where Jesus will be present when his kingdom is proclaimed in the Breaking of the Bread. The OT clearly prophesied that the cleansing of the temple was a sign that the end was at hand (Zech 14:21; Mal 3:1 ff.; Ezekiel 40–48, which is the background of the description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21–22).

Arthur A. Just Jr., Luke 9:51–24:53, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1997), 751.

After the temple is cleansed, Jesus enters to teach. God indeed has returned to His promised dwelling place, but only for now. Jesus is the One who is the true temple, and the one built with human hands is now giving way to Him. As He is teaching, Luke gives us an interesting phrase at the end of the chapter, that the people were “hanging on his words”. That’s how the ESV translates it, and an even more literal translation opens it up even further: “..all the people were hanging upon him, listening”. They were paying close attention to Jesus by hearing His words. Of course, Jesus is the Word, and so to “hang on His words” is indeed to “hang on Him”.