Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
How Are Your Investments Doing?
At this point in Luke’s gospel the excitement is building. Since Chapter 9 verse 51 Jesus has “determined” to travel to Jerusalem on His way to fulfilling His rescue mission for humanity. Jesus came to rescue us from enslavement to sin, but the people thought He was coming to rescue them from enslavement to Rome. They saw the Messiah as a purely political figure who would rule with authority from Jerusalem and restore Israel to dominance in the region.
So it’s no wonder that as Jesus approaches Jerusalem by way of Jericho that many of them are thinking “Now’s the time!” Rome is about to be thrown off their backs.
On the way, Jesus has an encounter with a Jewish man who represented Rome to the people, but to Jesus he was just the type of person He had come to rescue. Then He tells a story preparing the people for two important truths: 1) that despite their preconceptions of the Messiah, He was going away for a long time and 2) how they responded to His rescue mission now, will determine what they experience when He returns.
As I mentioned last time, Jesus had come down between Galilee and Samaria, crossed over the Jordan, then crossed back over at Jericho. Jericho is a very old city—it’s ruins go back more than 10,000 years. It existed long before Israel came into that area, but represented the first big victory when God brought His people out of the land of Egypt. We read that account starting in Joshua Chapter 2.
As we look at what happens here in Luke, let’s compare that to the first conquering of Jericho.
First consider the leader. His name was Joshua, which in Greek is Jesus. Moses, who represents the Law, passed on leadership to Joshua, just as the Law must give way to grace and truth in Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The people were circumcised prior to crossing over just as Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day (Joshua 5:2). They brought the Ark of the Covenant out in the middle of the Jordan as they crossed over on dry ground, which could symbolize the baptism of Christ (Joshua 6:6). Spies went ahead and rescued a sinful woman and her family in Jericho because they changed their allegiance to Joshua, just as we’ll see today a sinful man change his allegiance from Rome to Jesus. The battle was fought with trumpet blasts, just as Jesus will return with the sound of a trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4).
We could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Jesus is the better Joshua, who created a way for us to enter the Promised Land of salvation.
2 – 10
I love the details that Luke gives us. This story is unique to Luke’s Gospel and it tells us several important things. Zacchaeus was not just a tax collector but a supervisor of other tax collectors. So he was at the top of the pyramid, collecting a cut from every one of his underlings, who routinely overcharged for taxes owed to Rome. Secondly Luke tells us that he was a short man. This detail is important because it shows us the lengths to which he will go to encounter Jesus. Neither his stature in the Jewish community nor his physical stature (both of which were very low) would stop him.
I can picture Zacchaeus jumping up and down trying to see Jesus. He spies a sycamore tree, which can grow to 40 feet high but has low spreading branches that can support weight, so even a short man could get higher.
What’s super interesting is that Jesus acts as if He had a prior engagement with this man. He walks right under the tree and says for him to get down because I’m coming over to stay at your house. Jesus uses the word “must” which suggests really a divine appointment. In a way, each of us has a divine appointment with Jesus as well.
Revelation 3:20 (HCSB) 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.
Are you ready to open the door to let Jesus stay with you, or will you pretend you are not home?
Now contrast the reception Zacchaeus gives Jesus’ invitation, compared with the people. They grumble, using a word related to the Hebrew terms used when the children of Israel complained and wanted to go back to Egypt (Exodus 16:7). They were both right and wrong. Zacchaeus was indeed a sinner: he’d robbed people. (but was no more a sinner than them). But it’s like just meeting Jesus changes something in Zacchaeus. He’s transformed and suddenly wants to let go of his riches as he clings to Jesus. He’s found the missing ingredient to life that he thought riches would bring but is found in Jesus only.
This is a good contrast as well to the rich young ruler from Chapter 18 who would not give up the thing that held him back from eternal life. Zacchaeus gladly gives his stuff away and because of it Jesus says that “salvation has come to this house.” Again, it’s not that giving away his stuff earned him salvation, it is the new relationship with Jesus that does that. The giving away of his stuff is just the result.
By the way, Zacchaeus goes way above and beyond what was required for restitution.
Jesus uses this encounter as an illustration. Zacchaeus has become a true child of Abraham; what Paul calls a child of faith (Galatians 3, Romans 4).
11 – 27
This is Jesus’ final parable in Luke’s gospel before He arrives in Jerusalem. The people think that Jesus is going to bring in God’s kingdom at this point. The story, of a nobleman going to a far country to receive a kingdom, is reminiscent of the rulers of Palestine who went to Rome to receive their authority (Herod in 40BC and Archelaus in 4BC). Because the people are not aware of the difference between His first and second coming, Jesus fills them in on important details: what you do about Jesus while He is gone will determine how you are treated when He returns.
The 10 slaves represent people who are either just associated with the master’s household, or are true servants. They receive 10 minas each, equivalent of about 100 days’ labor. They are being invited into the master’s business while he is away.
Verse 14 introduces another group of people: the people of the kingdom, here representing Israel, who rejected Jesus, and later the population in general (representing the world today) which wants nothing to do with him.
Nonetheless, the master receives his authority, just as Jesus also received authority from the Father over the universe (Acts 2:33, Matthew 28:8). He focuses on three servants upon his return, probably to make the story more compact. One has an incredible ROI of 10 times. The master commends him and in addition to keeping the money to further invest, he receives authority over ten cities. It does make me think of the Millennial reign of Christ where we will rule with Him over the earth (2 Timothy 2:12).
The second servant does well, but not quite as well as the first and receives not quite as much of a commendation nor as much authority.
Most of the story focuses on the third slave. This person represents someone who is associated with the master but in name only. In actuality they are much like the subjects who hated the master. Notice some things:
- He refuses to take part in the master’s business (“I have hidden it in a cloth”)
- He misjudges the master’s character (“you are a tough man”)
- He wants nothing to do with the Master and returns to the master that which was given him to invest (“here is your mina”)
It’s interesting to look at the response of the master. He uses the standard set by the slave against him. If he was so afraid of the master, if the master was such a cruel person, he should have at least put the money in the bank. But it’s as if he can’t wait to give it back, like it’s dirty or something.
So too are those who have been exposed to the gospel, yet reject it completely. They don’t want to join the family or the family business, they misjudge God’s character as judgmental when He is really very loving, and the gospel basically bounces off their heart.
The result is that the investment the master made in the servant is given to the one who did well with the master’s money. The crowd complains but it’s worth noting that the first servant gets to keep investing his money.
So then the application: If you reject the gospel, even what you think you have in terms of security will be taken away.
After that, the master turns his attention to the crowds who rejected him. They are “enemies” who rejected the rule of the king. They are to be slain. So too, those that reject Jesus as the Messiah, the Master, the King—will find themselves with nothing and put out of God’s Kingdom.
So what do we learn from these two sections?
In a way, Zacchaeus is like the first servant in the parable of the minas. He is sourced in this age but has no real vested interest. It’s like deep in his heart he knows the false promise, the bait-and-switch of the stuff of this age. Upon meeting the Master Jesus and invited into a relationship with Him, he jettisons the stuff of this age and finds “treasure in heaven” like Jesus promised the rich young ruler. He changed the source of his loyalties and his treasure as a child of faith.
So as Jesus is away, receiving His Kingdom and setting that day for His return—how are we responding to the invitation He gives? Are we like Zacchaeus who jump at the chance to become loyal to Jesus or are we like the third servant who wanted to push the Master as far away as possible?
The outcomes couldn’t be more stark. Jesus says that Zacchaeus became His son and got saved—welcomed into God’s family and kingdom. The third servant ended up with nothing and is cast away and aside.
Now, don’t think that your performance is what gets the reward of salvation. You become a part of the kingdom by being related to the King, not by your performance. But what are you doing with the gospel that God has invested in your life? Don’t hide it away, but take it out, put it to work in your life, see what changes it brings about.
For some, there is an overabundance of return on the investment—in a changed character and life. For others it is not so big, but noticeable just the same.
- Invest yourself in the gospel
- Look for some return on that investment
- Put your loyalties in the Master, not in this age
- Don’t misjudge God’s character, He is “gentle and humble at heart” (Matthew 11:29) and the essence of love (1 John 4:16).