Jesus is Calling
Daily Reading: (Luke 19:1-4):
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.”
The year was about 33 A.D. The text tells us that “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.’’ Jesus is going to celebrate Passover knowing He will be crucified as our Passover Lamb. Christ’s applied blood to a person’s life causes God’s judgment to pass over them as He has given His life (Romans 6:23).
The site of Luke 19 is Jericho which is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem near the Jordan River. It’s known as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It’s also the first city that the Israelites conquered when they arrived in Canaan after their escape from Egypt some 1,400 years earlier. Jericho was known as an oasis city. The Bible describes Jericho as the “city of Palm Trees.” (Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16; 3:13; 2 Chronicles 28:15). This means that Jericho catered to the rich and powerful. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy” (Luke 19:1-2). As in many wealthy places, on the outskirts will often be poor people who are attracted to the wealth of the city and the chance that encountering its inhabitants will profit them too.
The chapter before (Luke 18) tells us that Jesus doesn’t ignore the pleas of the beggars and He doesn’t ignore the needs of the rich either. “As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him,“What do you want me to do for you” (Luke 18:35-41a)?
While Luke doesn’t tell us this man’s name, we learn who he is in Mark 10:46. “A blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging” (Mark 10:46).
Bartimaeus is an interesting name, and I don’t believe this is this man’s real name. Instead, I believe it was a cruel nickname. It wouldn’t be uncommon to be named “the son of your father”. In this case, “son of Timaeus”. Bar is the Aramaic word for “son” and that is how you would get the name Bartimaeus. The reason I have changed my mind about this actually being his name is because Bartimaeus is a hybrid word taken from the Aramaic and Greek languages together. It was highly unusual to be a given name like this at this time.
This hybrid word from Aramaic bar = “son,” and the Greek word timaios = “honorable.”
But I don’t think they are calling this beggar an honorable son either. I believe what they are doing is using the deviation, bar-tim’ai = “son of the unclean,” an allegorical meaning based of the belief that the Gentiles are spiritually blind.
So, the message of what the people called this blind beggar is not only is he blind physically, he is “Bartimaeus” the unclean and blind spiritual Gentile.
There is a connection to Bartimaeus and to the next man we meet in the story Zacchaeus. Jesus, the very grace of God, meets with the poorest of the poor in Bartimaeus and the richest of the rich, Zacchaeus. Both men were outcasts in society. The reason Jesus comes for them, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
“He (Zacchaeus) wanted to see who Jesus was but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.” Climbing a tree would have been humiliating for a grown man to do and only would have highlighted his shortness. Some people see their disabilities, challenges, and weakness, as an insurmountable obstacle. “I am too short, I am too sick, I am too far gone, I am already defeated, denied, broke, hurt, etc..” While others will see their lack, as a prime opportunity to receive an abundant supply of God’s grace, Jesus is here!
If you were a Jew living at this time, you didn’t wake up one day and have a burning desire to become a tax collector. I would like to sell out my countrymen be a traitor by over taxing them for the Roman occupiers. His family (mom and dad) must have been ashamed of the career he went into and what he had become. The reason Zacchaeus most likely became a tax collector was because his shortness already made him feel like an outcast in society (Luke 19:3). If this is how people are going to treat me, let’s see how they like it when I take their money and I become rich.
“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly” (Luke 19:5-6). Sharing a meal had significant implications in the ancient world. Sharing a meal together is one of the primary ways relationships are established, deepened. Why would you want to do this with a tax collector?
“All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (Luke 19:7). They weren’t wrong. Zacchaeus is a sinner, but that is exactly what they are too. Because they don’t recognize their own need they are unable to receive anything from Jesus.
Zacchaeus will recognize Jesus as Messiah and also as his High Priest (Luke 19:8). Because of this “Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10). Jesus’ statement reveals His mission and why His salvation is offered to all, the poorest of the poor (Bartimaeus), and the richest in resources (Zacchaeus).