And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. — Luke 19:8
While restitution is not a requirement for salvation, it certainly is a result of salvation. Genuine conversion puts in the heart of a newly saved individual the desire to make right any wrong actions of the past, and that includes making restoration whenever possible.
The testimony of Stan Frank, a brother in the Portland congregation, illustrates this. He said, “When God saved my soul, I told Him I would go back and straighten up my life, and I did. I asked the ministers to pray for me and for the letters I would be writing. I have responses today from people I made restitution to — letters of forgiveness.
“I had worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and stole from them for years. After I was saved I made trip after trip back there until one time someone said, ‘Not again! You are bringing back more things?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am bringing back to the railroad everything that is marked U.P.R.R.’
“I was bothered for over three years about something I had taken but couldn’t find. I looked high and low — in the garage, in all the cupboards, in the attic, and in the basement — but could not locate the item. One day my son-in-law came over needing a large cardboard box. I said, ‘I don’t know if we have a large one, but let’s look out in the garage.’ High overhead I found a box I thought was empty, and when we took it down, there was the item. Thank God, I took it back to the railroad! Today I have the peace of God in my heart. It’s a good feeling down on the inside when you know you are right with God and your fellowman. I have a clear record today and I praise God for it.”
Today’s text records the conversion of the tax collector Zacchaeus, who was well known as a wicked and oppressive man. Like Stan Frank, Zacchaeus’ immediate response to salvation was a desire to make restitution — to voluntarily restore anything he had taken wrongfully from others. In our focus verse, he declared to the Lord, “The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). He was so remorseful over his defrauding of people that he was determined not only to square up accounts, but to repay with generous interest all dishonest gain!
Notice that Zacchaeus’ inward transformation was verified by outward action. We too must demonstrate our changed hearts by our changed behavior. As believers, we should deal honestly with the world. We should repay our debts and make amends for harm we have caused. If we do not remember all the misdeeds we need to make right, God will gently remind us. And more than that, He will go before us as we make those restitutions.
Today, if there are things in your past that you have not straightened out, follow Zacchaeus’ example and take care of them! When those wrongdoings are made right, you will rejoice in the peace that comes with knowing that your conscience is clear before both God and man.
Today’s text covers events in Jesus’ life just prior to His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, less than two weeks before His trial and crucifixion. Four significant events occur in this portion of Scripture. At the conclusion of chapter 18, Jesus foretold for the third time His coming suffering and death (Luke 18:31-34), and healed a blind man (verse 35-43). Chapter 19 begins with the account of Zacchaeus’ conversion (Luke 19:1-10), and continues with Jesus’ parable of the ten servants (verses 11-27).
In verses 31-34 of chapter 18, Jesus called His disciples aside and spoke to them again regarding His coming death. Although the sacrifice of the Messiah had been foretold in detail by the prophets (for example, see Psalm 16:10; 22:16-18; 41:9; and Isaiah 53:4-7), Christ’s followers seemingly could not comprehend what He meant. This may have been because His words contradicted everything they presumed about the kingdom of the Messiah.
The healing of Bartimaeus, who was blind, recorded in verses 35-43, is also described in Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-52. Beggars of that time often positioned themselves along roads leading into cities, because the extensive foot traffic in those areas made their pleas for assistance more likely to be profitable. Luke and Matthew describe the location of the miracle differently; Luke says it took place as Jesus and the disciples “drew nigh” to Jericho, and Matthew says it was “as they departed” from Jericho. This seeming contradiction may be related to the fact that there were two Jerichos: Old Jericho and New Jericho. Possibly the healing took place between the two locations. Matthew also describes two blind men being healed, so it may be that one healing took place near Old Jericho and the other by New Jericho. Mark is the only writer who identifies the blind beggar as Bartimaeus.
The conversion of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is recorded only in Luke. This event also took place near Jericho, which was a prosperous trade city during the time of Christ. It is located in the Jordan valley, about seventeen miles from Jerusalem. The sycamore tree which Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus may have been a type of fig tree with leaves like a mulberry, which has low, horizontal limbs and thick foliage.
Tax collectors were regarded with hatred and disdain in the time of Christ. The Romans levied heavy taxes upon the people they conquered, and Jewish citizens who worked for Rome in overseeing the collection were considered traitors by their fellow Jews. Added to that, it was well known that tax collectors often used their position of authority to extort the people, demanding payment far beyond Rome’s requirements, and then pocketing the extra.
Zacchaeus’ purpose to restore fourfold possibly was based on Exodus 22:1, which says that a man who stole a sheep and slaughtered or sold it must pay the owner back with four sheep. However, fourfold restitution was not required by Jesus — Zacchaeus’ offer was entirely voluntary. As a further demonstration of his changed heart, he purposed to give away half of his wealth to the poor.
In verses 11-27 of chapter 19, Jesus gave the parable of the ten servants. The reason for the parable is stated in verse 11: Jesus recognized that His disciples and followers mistakenly believed that He would shortly set up His kingdom.
The pounds mentioned in this parable represented a very small amount of money in the currency of that era. The instruction given by the nobleman to his ten servants was to “occupy till I come” (verse 13). The word translated occupy literally means “gain by trading.” The nobleman apparently had a two-fold goal: he wanted his servants to increase his wealth, and he intended to determine by this method their fitness to assume positions of responsibility in his affairs.
The attitude of the servant who failed in his duty is evidenced by his disrespectful reference to the nobleman as an “austere man” (verse 21). The word translated austere means “harsh, oppressive, or severe.” The servant also implied that his master was dishonest, saying, “Thou takest up that which thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.” The unfaithful servant was punished because of disobedience and unfulfilled stewardship.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI. The instruction of the Son of Man
D. Instructions concerning the Kingdom of God
3. Instructions concerning the coming of the Kingdom
e. Further instructions for the twelve (18:31 — 19:27)
(1) Concerning His passion (18:31-35)
(2) Concerning faith (18:36-43)
(3) Concerning His goals (19:1-10)
(4) Concerning their duty (19:11-27)
Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus Christ provides an illustration of the fact that genuine conversion creates within the heart a desire to make restitution.