Events in Jericho
Bartimaeus (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43)
Matthew and Mark’s accounts state that this event takes place as Jesus was leaving Jericho. Luke’s account says it took place as he was coming near Jericho. This causes some difficulties at first glance and it is a passage that some reference to claim that the Bible contains contradictions. However, the difference arises due to the fact that at this time there were two Jerichos. Herod had built a new Jericho about two miles from the original city, on the side closer to Jerusalem. The new city was mostly occupied by the Gentiles while the older city was occupied by the Jews. Thus this event takes place as Jesus leaves the ancient city of Jericho and as he is approaching the new city of Jericho.
Matthew’s account tells us that there were two blind men involved, while Mark and Luke’s accounts only one blind man. Mark’s account tells us precisely who the blind man is: Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. His name is a bit striking as the meaning of Bartimaeus is “son of Timaeus.” The difference in number is not contradictory. Neither Mark nor Luke state that there was only one man. The fact that they focused on one man doesn’t preclude that there were actually two involved.
The men were sitting at the side of the road begging. There was a large crowd with Jesus and the blind men realized something important was happening. Hearing that it was Jesus who was going by, they began crying out loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people who were out in front of Jesus tried to quiet the men down, but they shout out all the more. These men knew who Jesus was, they knew his lineage, and they knew that he could cure blindness. By calling Jesus the Son of David, they were confessing their belief that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus stopped in front of them and asked what they wanted him to do for them. Those in the crowd told the men that Jesus was calling for them. Mark mentions that Bartimaeus cast aside his outer cloak, which would have slowed him down and thus hints that Bartimaeus, though blind hurried to Jesus’ voice. They stated that they wanted to regain their sight. This tells us that they once had seen, but had lost there sight sometime in the past. Jesus told them to receive their sight. They were made well because of their faith.
They demonstrated faith by calling Jesus the Messiah, by asking for mercy from him, by preserving to call upon Jesus despite the opposition, and by running to Jesus when called. Bartimaeus and the other man began following Jesus and giving glory to God. The people who witness this miracle also gave glory to God.
Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10)
Jesus continued through the new Jericho and the multitude continued to follow him. A rich tax collector, named Zaccheus, wanted to see Jesus but because he was short, he couldn’t see above the crowd. He ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up into a sycamore tree.
When Jesus reached the spot, he called up to Zaccheus by name. He told him to hurry down because he was going to stay at his house that day. This is the only incident we have recorded where Jesus invites himself to someone’s house. Interestingly, Jesus said it was something he “must” do.
Zaccheus was ecstatic. He hope to be able to catch a glimpse of the Messiah and here the Messiah was coming to spend time in his home. Others, though, who saw this murmured that Jesus was going to visit a sinner. It could have been that envy at Zaccheus’ good fortune prompted this response. That Zaccheus was an agent of the Roman government made the matter worse in their sight.
Zacchaeus stood up in his own defense. He declared that this day he would give half of his wealth to the poor. Remember that he was a wealthy man. He is not stating he would be doing this on an on-going basis. In addition, he states that if he had defrauded anyone, he would restore their money four-fold. The law required various fines for different types of theft (Exodus 22:1-4; Numbers 5:7). The amount he set was higher than what the Law of Moses required. This is not an admission that Zacchaeus had purposely defrauded anyone. If he made his wealth by fraud, he would not have enough money to pay all that he had just promised.
Jesus praises Zaccheus, stating that salvation has come to his house and that he has confirmed himself as being a true descendent of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). This was the purpose of Jesus coming into the world (Matthew 18:11).
Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27)
Once again, Luke introduces a parable of Jesus by telling us why it was told. Those following Jesus thought he would be establishing his kingdom shortly since he was heading to Jerusalem. This parable was to prepare people for what would truly happen. The people had dreams of great deeds, honors, and rich blessings coming upon them when the kingdom was established. Like James and John, they hoped for positions with the kingdom.
The parable starts out with a nobleman leaving to a distant country to receive possession of a kingdom. He would eventually return afterwards. Before leaving he gives to ten servants a mina each with a command to invest the money until he returned. A mina is equal to 60 shekels (a day’s wage) and 1/60 of a talent. Thus a mina is roughly what a laborer makes in two months. We are also told that some who were a part of his country did not want him as their ruler. They sent a delegation to the distant country to protest his appointment.
The nobleman in this parable is Jesus. He is again warning people that he would shortly be leaving to the distant country of Heaven in order to receive his kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14; I Corinthians 15:25-26; Hebrews 2:8). The servants are Christians who have been given the same amount with which to work. They were told to do business with what they were given until Jesus returns. The use of the number 10 is to represent a complete or whole set – in this case, all Christians. The citizens who rejected Jesus were the Jews. They were already members of God’s kingdom, but they did not want Jesus as their leader (John 1:11). It brings to mind what the Jews said of Jesus as he was being crucified (John 19:15, 21).
The concept of going elsewhere to receive a kingdom was familiar to Jesusí audience. The Roman Empire was in control of the world. While they allowed some of their territories to have self-rule, those rulers had to be approved by the Roman government. Herod the Great was a friend of Caesar and gained a political appointment to rule over Palestine. His son was removed from power because of protests to Rome by the Jews over his cruel methods of ruling.
After receiving the kingdom, the nobleman returns and asks for an accounting from his servants. One man took his one mina and made ten more from it. For that he was awarded authority over ten cities. Another man took his one mina and made five more from it. For that he was awarded authority over five cities. But one man feared the lord and kept the mina hidden in a handkerchief. For this he was punished.
Though each servant was given the same opportunity, the amount made reflected the skills of each man. Though the amount invested was relatively small, it became proof of the ability of each individual. Thus the most profitable received the most responsibility (II Corinthians 4:17). Notice that each servant attributed the increase to the Lord’s investment and not to their own abilities (I Corinthians 15:10).
The man who returned his Lord’s mina had disobeyed the Lord’s command to do business with money. By his own statement he acknowledged that the Lord was expecting profit from his investment, yet he returned to him none. He even hints that it is his Lord’s fault because he was such a severe man. Yet the Lord’s generous gifts to the two prior servants show that this charge was not true. The Lord points out that at a minimum he could have placed the mina in a bank to draw interest while he was gone.
The man’s mina was taken from him and given to the man with ten minas. This surprises those listening. After all, the man had the most minas; why should he receive more. But if you think of it from the point of view of an investment, it makes very good sense. If you were going to invest money, do you do it with the one who has shown he is able to get a ten-fold increase or the one who gained a five-fold increase? Thus the one who has shown the greatest ability will be given more responsibility; a point that has been made before (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18).
Finally those who had rejected Jesus as their king were commanded to appear before him to be killed. This is probably an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem.