Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem – where he knows what awaits him – and he passes through the town of Jericho. At the time Jesus travelled through the town, Jericho was known for its olives and balsam (fragrance), roses and palm trees.
Other historical sources suggest that Jericho was a base for approximately 12 thousand priests and Levites in service of the temple. After all, Jericho is a moderate distance from Jerusalem: 46 kilometres.
It was however somewhat dangerous, as Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan alluded to. As it stands, in 2018, the best years of Jericho lie in the past. The population is approximately 18 thousand at the most recent census, with only 1% being Christian. The primary sources of income are actually banana groves and tourism. Interestingly, there are two sycamore trees at different locations in Jericho which are reputed to be related to the tree which Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus.
In Jesus’ day, climbing a tree was beneath the dignity of a man in society. However Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus more than he was concerned about what people thought of him. In fact, he had two strikes against him: he was short (think Danny De Vito) and this coupled with his status as a chief tax collector (and being hated as such) meant that people probably saw him as a malignant dwarf.
Jesus invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home but it strikes me that Zacchaeus did not refuse. The Master knocked on the door, but he also opened the door and shared a meal with Christ.
The religious professionals and the broader community were not happy with the move, but we see that Zacchaeus was transformed. Jesus discerned things better (as usual) than conventional wisdom in a community. Zacchaeus freely offered half of his wealth (which was probably significant) and offered restitution for the cheating he had done before.
From Jericho, all that remained before Jesus reached Jerusalem were the speed bumps of Bethpage and Bethany and the people assumed that Jesus’ ministry would take on political importance, that he would raise an army of followers and free them from Rome. He told them a parable to sort out the misconceptions and illustrate what the rule of the Messiah was to look like.
A Nobleman prepares to go to a distant land to be made king.
Jesus didn’t just make this scenario up out of thin air. Apparently, the parable echoes a historical incident where Archelaus, the son of Herod, upon the death of Herod travelled to Rome to seek the Emperor’s approval of him succeeding his father. This was essential as Herod ruled by Rome’s consent. The Jews sent a delegation to Rome to urge that Archelaus not be made king. In any event, Augustus named him as ethnarch, not king, emphasizing his dependence on Rome.
In Jesus’ parable, the Nobleman gives money to ten servants to invest. When he returns from being made king, he asks for a report. The point is not the money, it’s that the servants take what the Master has given and they do something with it. It’s not about money, but about character as a servant.
As believers we are Christodoulos (servants of Christ). We have all been given something, something we can use in the Kingdom.
In the parable, the Nobleman-made-king deals with his servants first and then deals decisively with the rebellion against him by those who should be his subjects.
The reward for being a good servant is more responsibility.
On arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple from the traders and money-changers. If the religious professionals didn’t have a reason to hate Jesus until then, they did after that. He then returns and engages with the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the Law.
They all tried to get him to incriminate himself, asking leading questions. Should the Children of Israel pay taxes to Caesar? If he answered in the affirmative, he would be a betrayer of the people for recognising Rome, if in the negative, they would snitch on him to Rome to say that he was a rebel.
Whose image and inscription was on the coin? Augustus Caesar. National and civil duties were owed to Caesar. The people after all were using his coin in their trading and Rome ruled over that province. But Jesus also delineated what people owed God. The people of God are dual citizens.
I pay taxes and fulfill the requirements of the state as far as I’m aware and able. I’m a South African, but I’m also a citizen of the Kingdom. On South African currency is the crest of the government and the visage of Mandela. In my soul however is the inscription of the King of heaven. This is true for all Believers.
The Sadducees asked Jesus a leading question using their favourite talking point in that they didn’t believe in a resurrection. They used a ridiculous hypothetical of a woman who had been married to seven brothers from oldest to youngest who all died, leaving her a widow.
Seven brides for seven brothers is a charming musical. One bride for seven brothers is a sad country song devised by scowling Sadducees to illustrate a point in error.
Whose wife of the seven would she be after the resurrection? None of the above, as Jesus explained, because they did not understand the nature of the world to come.
Jesus then quotes Moses who addressed the God of ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. At the time of Moses, Abe, Ike and Jake were long gone, but as Moses observed, to God they were alive. Even the Sadducees were impressed with the answer.