Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke
Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
October 31, 2010 (Lectionary 31)
Psalm 32:1-7 (6)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144 (144)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Prayer of the Day
Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,
through your Son you invite all the world to
a meal of mercy. Grant that we may eagerly
follow his call, and bring us with all your
saints into your life of justice and joy,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Alleluia. Today salvation has come | to this house,
for the Son of Man came to seek out and to |
save the lost. Alleluia. (Luke 19:9, 10)
Ia. Context: Luke 19:1-10
This pericope seems to pick up right from where last Sunday’s
Gospel lesson left us dwelling on The humbling of the exalted and
the exaltation of the humble. Thus most commentators have
focused on both the righteousness of Zacchaeus and his simultaneous
See, for examples, Rev. Brian Stoffregen’s interesting
Exegetical notes at <>
And the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops note at
Suffice it to say that here Luke is not so much isolating
“righteousness” from material existence in a sort of Venn
Diagram that separates Verba from Orba, rather Luke
Is pointing out the particular degree of understanding or
even mis-understanding shown by Zacchaeus.
Here the wordplay on his name (“righteous”)
is a fruitful context for development, along with
the symbolic meaning of his slight stature. The late
Bishop of Stockholm (and Dean of Harvard Divinity
School) , Krister Stendahl, often remarked on the human
tendency to absorb oneself in what he called “little me.”
Stendahl saw this as a leitmotiv in any standard inter-
pretation of Resurrection theology which treats the
afterlife as an individual destiny apart from the fuller
communion of all the Saints. The implications for
ecclesiastical inclusiveness, ecumenical dialogue, and
interfaith understanding seem obvious indeed, but the
accent in Luke on the “Sunday School” figure of Zaccheus
brings us back to the interplay between the earliest Church
and the rich complexity of inter-testamental Judaism,
the theological setting in life of this passage.
1b. Test: Luke 19:1-10
Jesus and Zacchaeus
19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
1Καὶ εἰσελθὼν διήρχετο τὴν Ἰεριχώ.
2καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος, καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος.
3καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν.
4καὶ προδραμὼν εἰς τὸ ἔμπροσθεν ἀνέβη ἐπὶ συκομορέαν ἵνα ἴδῃ αὐτόν, ὅτι ἐκείνης ἤμελλεν διέρχεσθαι.
5καὶ ὡς ἦλθεν ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον, ἀναβλέψας ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ζακχαῖε, σπεύσας κατάβηθι, σήμερον γὰρ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου δεῖ με μεῖναι.
6καὶ σπεύσας κατέβη, καὶ ὑπεδέξατο αὐτὸν χαίρων.
7καὶ ἰδόντες πάντες διεγόγγυζον λέγοντες ὅτι Παρὰ ἁμαρτωλῷ ἀνδρὶ εἰσῆλθεν καταλῦσαι.
8σταθεὶς δὲ Ζακχαῖος εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον, Ἰδοὺ τὰ ἡμίσιά μου τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, κύριε, τοῖς πτωχοῖς δίδωμι, καὶ εἴ τινός τι ἐσυκοφάντησα ἀποδίδωμι τετραπλοῦν. 9εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Σήμερον σωτηρία τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ ἐγένετο, καθότι καὶ αὐτὸς υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ ἐστιν:
10ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. Analysis: Luke 19:1-10
The story of a tax collector named “ Zacchaeus ”
is unique among the four gospels. Though a rich man
(see Lk. 19:2), Zacchaeus can be contrasted with the wealthy man of Luke 18:18ff. who cannot remove himself from his material possessions to become a disciple of Jesus
According to Luke, Zacchaeus this is an examplar
of the proper approach to wealth. He pledges to
give half of his possessions to the needy (vs. 8) and
also becomes an heir of salvation (vs. 9):
Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house,
since he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
“Son of Abraham” is literally a “descendant of Abraham.”
Zacchaeus, whose repentance is shown by his
decision to amend his former living, reveals
himself as a true descendant of Abraham,
and true heir to the promises of God in the
Hebew scriptures. Underlying Luke's portrayal
of Zacchaeus as a SON of Abraham, the father of
Israel, is his recognition of the role played
by Israel in salvation history.
3. Strategy: Luke 19:1-10
A straightforward and succinct approach to this
all-too-familiar passage seems like the best approach.
But it is tempting to overlook some of the underlying
themes in Luke which might serve as “bookends”
as we approach the end of Year C. Luke’s emphasis
on the universality of the Gospel and the message of
salvation to the “ nations ” or Gentiles is a logical
starting point and one that rescues Zacchaeus from
being a caricature figure (remember the beloved
“Arch” book series for children in past years?).
Taking Zacchaeus as representative of Israelite
tradition, a remnant living once again amidst
oppression in the Roman Empire, raises the note of
irony in this text, and brings to the foreground
the counter-cultural aspect of Judeo-Christian
faith. There is a rewarding discussion of this
theme in John Dominic Crossan’s GOD & EMPIRE:
Jesus against Rome, Then and Now (Harper, 2007),
But for broader historical perspective one might
also take up Cullen Murphy’s remarkable study,
Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the
Fate of America (Houghton-Mifflin, 2007). As we
In the “First World” (and true heirs of Caesar)
reflect on our material prosperity, coupled with our
great military might, we might also consider the
connection we have with those who remain
“small” according to the ways “stature” is presently
in the eyes of a world filled with devilish nuclear weapons,
a poisoned ecology, Wiki-leaks, and other cannons loose
in the cosmos.
Crossan, J.D. GOD & EMPIRE: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now (San Francisco: Harper, 2007).
Douglas, J.D. , ed. The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (UBS IV-NRSV). (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1990).
Just, A. A., ed. LUKE. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (Douners Grove, IL: I.V.P., 2003).
Murphy, C. Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the
Fate of America (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2007).
Tunseth, S. et alia, eds. Lutheran Study Bible. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortess, 2009).
5. Hymn Suggestions:
Depending on whether your parish will observe
this Sunday as a (slightly archaic) Reformation
Sunday or as a (immoveable feast of) All Saints Sunday,
hymn selections may vary widely. Here are just a few
hymns often sung on or around this time of year:
Gathering: A Mighty Fortress – ELW 503/5
Hymn of the Day: Christ is Made the Sure Foundation – ELW 645
Offertory: Come to the Table – ELW 481
Communion: Lord Keep us Steadfast in Your Word – ELW 517
Sending: Built on a Rock the Church Doth Stand – ELW 652
Lexegete: David A. Buehler, PhD, Editor
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