So today in our bible reading we return to a familiar story, meet familiar characters, and hear the familiar words of Jesus. In this passage we find love, mercy, forgiveness and encouragement as we turn our hearts towards Easter.
The blind man (Bartimaeus) was probably on the roadside begging because Passover was near and there would have been many pilgrims on the road. Hearing that Jesus was nearby he cried out for mercy. He kept calling out even though the crowd told him to be quiet. Jesus heard him and gave him sight. Zacchaeus is well known to us, because his story is often told at Sunday school. The chief tax collector climbing a tree because he was too short to see over the crowd is comical. Jesus saw him and spoke with him. This caused Zacchaeus to change his life, to give to the poor and to repay those he had cheated.
The crowd considered Zacchaeus to be a sinner who had become rich by exploiting his power for dishonest gain, and then they judged Jesus for associating with such a sinner. But Jesus made it clear his mission was to reach people like Zacchaeus saying, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:10) If Jesus can save the roadside beggar and the wealthy tax collector then he can save all in between, including you and me. Jesus does not think you are insignificant, he will not pass you by.
The grumbling of the crowd and the history of Jericho gave Jesus an opportunity to teach using a parable. Herod the Great died in Jericho in 4 BC, Archelaus, his son was one of the heirs apparent. However, he was unpopular. When Archelaus visited Rome to have the Emperor declare him king, he faced opposition from his subjects. Instead of being made king he was only made the equivalent of a governor. The parable of the minas has similarities to this historic event.
A minas was worth about three months wages. In the parable, the king who was going to a far country gave ten servants one minas each with the instructions to put it to work. Some of his subjects hated him and opposed his claim to the throne. But then, having been made king he returned to judge his servants and his subjects. The servant who had invested well was rewarded far and above what anyone would have expected and was made governor of ten cities. The wicked servant who hadn’t bothered to even invest the money was punished and lost all. The subjects who had opposed the king were judged and executed for their treasonous rejection of the King.
Jesus told this story to help his disciples understand the delay in his return and that people would oppose him. During his absence his disciples were to make wise use of the gifts he had given them so that when he returned, they would have something to show for their efforts.
In these stories we learn that Jesus responds to all who call on him and is merciful to them. As we await the return of Jesus, we should make wise use of the gifts he has given us.
Think about the reasons why Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem and what he was willing to give so you could be forgiven.
Have you called out to Jesus for mercy? If not do so now because he has come to seek and save the lost.
Consider how you are using the gifts he has entrusted to you.
Rev John Malcolm