Another of my favorite stories – Zacchaeus. Another fond memory for me because of another song (by the same composer as the Wedding Banquet and the Ten Lepers) – catchy tunes designed to teach bible stories to kids. And yet, apart from the name and a couple of lines of music, I really don’t remember the story beyond that “he climbed a tree and Jesus said ‘Zacchaeus come down’”.
Such is the power of music, and why it’s so widely used to teach kids – the tune sticks with you (has anyone ever learned their ABC’s without singing the tune?). So reading the actual story in the bible for the first time, I didn’t really get the point of it and looked up an apologist commentary. There I found some interesting trivia:
“Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector, but a chief tax collector – and the Jews hated men like him. This was not only due to their natural dislike of taxes, but more… due to the practice known as tax farming; the collector made his profit on whatever extra he could get away with charging his victims. A tax collector was highly motivated to make the taxes as high as possible. When the tax collectors came to John the Baptist, asking how they could get right with God, he told them collect no more than what is appointed for you (Luke 3:13). If you were a tax collector and you were rich, you were a rogue.”
Anyway, apart from that, I learned that apologists glean the following from this tale: Jesus calls us by name and invites himself into our homes; like Zacchaeus, we should be happy to receive Jesus; Zacchaeus models to everyone how to receive Jesus – humble yourself, invite him into your life, and receive him regardless of what others might say; Zacchaeus became a joyful giver; he had been a sinner until he found Jesus. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you buy into any of this.
Next, the parable of the ten servants. It’s patently obvious to anyone who read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 that this is the same tale in a different guise. It’s all dressed up, but the main elements are the same, and I covered them last time. Only now instead of just an ordinary guy going on a trip, Jesus relates the story to himself. We’re supposed to infer that he is the master/king who is ‘going away’ and that we are supposed to be the faithful and trustworthy servants who mind the fort until his return. Luke tosses in a few more servants, and the bit about the people who rejected the ‘king’. They will be executed for their treason – much the same, I supposed, as those who reject Jesus will be condemned to hell in Matthew’s version. Nothing nice about this parable.
Now we get to Jesus triumphant entry in Jerusalem. Luke’s version seems closer to Mark’s than Matthew’s, but really, there’s no significant difference between any of them until v 39 and 40, which Luke added. To prove what, exactly? As he nears Jerusalem, he weeps for its impending doom. Easy enough to predict, since the gospels weren’t written until after its destruction… Just sayin’. At v 45, Jesus clears the temple. Luke’s version of the story is short, but no important details are changed.
opens with the story about the elders challenging Jesus – from Mark 11 and Matt 21. No real difference – these stories are very repetitive. The next one is the one about the evil farmers. Interesting that Luke has toned down the gratuitous violence a bit – in his version, none of the owner’s servants are actually killed by the farm workers (v 10-13). But the rest is unchanged. Ho-hum. Moving right along, we get to the ‘render unto Caesar’ passage. Other than a few words of clarification (like specifying that the spies are looking for something they can report to the Roman governor), Luke’s version of that is no different either.
Now we arrive at the riddle about resurrection – who will the widow be married to in the afterlife? And again, other than a few extra words of description/clarification in v 34-36 (Jesus says marriage is for people here on earth, and introduces the phrase ‘children of god’), Luke’s version is the same as the two previous ones. More ho-hum. Then the question about whose son is the Messiah – also the same. And the chapter concludes with the ‘beware the teachers of religious law’ speech – lifted word for word from Mark 12. So basically, in this whole chapter, there was nothing really new or worth noting.