Curious? Dissatisfied? Hungry? Desperate?

Who told Bartimaeus?

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

Bartimaeus shouted. Not an accepted member of the community, he was a blind beggar, thus considered unclean, unworthy, and not permitted to enter the Temple. People in the crowd rebuked him, trying to shut him up, but he kept on shouting — and he wasn’t just yelling, he was declaring something, something important: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Questions:

  • How did he know about Jesus?
  • How did he know who Jesus actually was?
  • Why did he want to get Jesus’s attention?

Well, he was persistent. He got Jesus’s attention. He didn’t ask him for money, he asked for healing so he could earn his own money, and he got it. (Then he became a follower of Jesus. Neat.)

Who told Zacchaeus?

“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.

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. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

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 19:1-10)

“Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man…”  Remember that children’s song? He was a rich man, a powerful man with a powerful position, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him completely. He wanted to see this Jesus, to figure out who he was. Unfortunately, he was also an unpopular man, a Jewish man who worked for the Romans. Also unfortunately, he was a short man, and no-one would move out of the way and give him space to see. Undeterred, he did an undignified thing: he climbed up into a tree.

Questions:

  • How did he know it was Jesus coming his way?
  • How did he know Jesus was worth looking at?
  • Did he want something from Jesus?

He was persistent. Not dignified, but persistent. And so he did get to see Jesus, and Jesus also saw him! He didn’t ask Jesus for more power, a better position, or anything… instead he repented of the unjust way he’d been doing his job. He needed salvation, and he got it.

Who told the Syrophoenician Woman?

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24-30)

Although this woman’s name isn’t mentioned, her nationality is: Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia (part of Lebanon or Syria today). She was not a Jew. Jesus had come into her territory, however, and pretty soon word got out that he was there. She sought him out, determined to find help for her demon-oppressed daughter.

Questions:

  • How did she know Jesus even existed?
  • How did she know he could help her daughter?
  • When he seemed to refuse, why didn’t she just apologize for bothering him and go home?

She was stubbornly persistent. Not on her behalf, but on behalf of her daughter who desperately needed deliverance. And she got it.

Who told the Woman in the Pharisee’s House?

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

This woman’s name isn’t mentioned either, but her status in the community is: Sinner. The assumption is that she was probably a prostitute. From her boldness to enter Simon’s house while he had dinner guests, she was probably not just known to Simon, but familiar to him. Perhaps one of her clients? Who knows.

But she wasn’t just bold; she owned an alabaster box of perfume, an expensive item to be carrying around. Some scholars have proposed that it was her life savings, although Luke doesn’t make that clear.

In any case, she didn’t just walk in, she fell down at Jesus’s feet, cried over them, washing his feet with her tears. Then she dried them with her hair, finally anointing them with the perfume. Can you imagine what her hair looked like after that? Or what the room smelled like after that?

Strangely enough, Simon didn’t have her thrown out. He didn’t even rebuke her himself. No, he began to criticize Jesus in his mind, who of course knew exactly what he was thinking.

Questions:

  • How did the woman know who Jesus was?
  • Who told her that Jesus was in Simon’s house?
  • What gave her the courage to invite herself in?
  • What gave her the humility to attend to Jesus’s dirty feet in an act of loving worship, when no servant had bothered to wash them?

She was persistent, throughout this encounter. She was already forgiven, because she already loved the Lord — she wanted to give him the best she had, and she wanted to do it publicly, in the position of a servant. She had needed salvation, and she had got it.

As you can see, I have questions and some possible answers of my own, but to me the most important point is this:

Somebody had told each one of them about Jesus.  Who he was, where he was, what he could do for them.

Whether they were just curious, or dissatisfied and hungry for more in their life, or desperate for help, somebody had told them about Jesus. A  neighbor. A friend or a relative. Maybe even a stranger in the crowd – somebody told them about Jesus. After they heard, they sought Jesus out and they found him.

It’s not the job of the preacher, the teacher, the prophet or the evangelist, only. Telling is every believer’s job. Somebody told us, didn’t they?

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Zacchaeus, a poor rich man

JerichoToJerusalem“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho…” Remember that song? I learned it in Sunday School many years ago. This article isn’t about Joshua, though, it’s about someone who lived and worked in Jericho at the time of Christ, perhaps the richest man in town. Chief tax collector, Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus is an interesting character. Reading Luke 19:1-10, this short passage about Jesus meeting Zacchaeus struck me as worthy of more study. It looked to me like Jesus may have gone to Jericho just to meet this little man, sort of like he went to Samaria to meet the woman at the well. After all, he told Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house today.” And when the crowd complained about that, Jesus commented “The son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

As I investigated Zacchaeus and Jericho a bit further, I had several questions. Here are some of the answers I found.

What does his name mean? It’s derived from a word meaning “pure,” which he certainly wasn’t before Jesus got hold of him. I wonder if people made jokes about his name…

What was his job? Chief tax collector; he probably supervised several other tax collectors and all of them worked for Rome. Their own income came from overcharging the people – they pocketed the difference. He may have been acquainted with Jesus’ disciple Matthew (Levi), who had the same job.

What was his position then in the community? Wealth, influence with Rome, reputation as an astute businessman, since he’d been elevated to “chief” tax collector, employees and servants, influence and/or friendship with other Jews who had a vested interest in seeing that Rome stayed happy. We aren’t told if he had a wife and children. He was despised by the ordinary citizens since he cooperated with their enemy and took advantage of his own people.

Ethics / morals? On a par with his job, no doubt. He knew the Jewish law but going by his own words he didn’t really keep it. He really couldn’t keep the law and his job, and we know which one he kept.

sycamore-tree-panoTraditional Tree of Zacchaeus in Jericho, said to be approximately 2000 years old.

Spiritual condition? Hungry for something more. Zacchaeus was aware that Jesus was in town. Perhaps he’d heard gossip from underlings or house servants, but somehow he’d heard about Jesus. His curiosity wasn’t the only thing that took him into the street. No businessman would climb a tree in public! What would people think? Of course, he didn’t really care what the ordinary people thought. He had everything any man could want and wasn’t happy with it. He wanted to see this Jesus person.

Being short, Zacchaeus couldn’t see over the people in front of him, but the crowd didn’t respect him enough to give him space. They wouldn’t let him get close enough to the street. I think Zacchaeus was desperate to see Jesus. What were people saying about Jesus? He raised the dead! He healed the sick! He turned water into wine!

Who wouldn’t want to see a man like that? But I don’t think many would climb a tree to do it, unless they were desperate.

What did it cost Zacchaeus? Everything he had. After his meeting with Jesus, he couldn’t be a tax collector any longer. And he himself promised to do more than the current religious leaders required, he promised restitution more in line with the actual law, even better than the actual law. He had to have counted the cost. If he meant it, he would have been giving back a great deal of money and cutting off his livelihood and his relationship with the Romans. But what he gained was worth it; eternal life, starting now.

Where and what kind of place was Jericho? For this, I went to the internet and did a little research. I knew some of the Old Testament stories about things that happened there, and Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan takes place near Jericho. It was a prominent city in the days of Joshua before the “walls came a-tumbling down,” put under a curse by God and deserted for all practical purposes.

JerichoHerodWinterPalace3By the time of Jesus the city had been rebuilt and was prominent again. Herod even had a palace there, overlooking the city. Thieves and robbers had a wonderful time of plying their criminal trade along the steep and dangerous route down from Jerusalem. Fascinating story about Zacchaeus, and a fascinating town he lived in.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the place, keep reading. The following notes came from an internet Bible study site:

“Jericho is located near the southern end of the Jordan Valley about eight hundred twenty-five feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea and about two hundred feet above the surface of the Dead Sea. The area around it is watered by springs and small streams, and since 7000 B.C. Jericho has been an oasis and a population center in the otherwise mostly barren valley. Some scholars think Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, and it was called the city of palm trees in Judges 1.16. Intersecting there since historic times have been a major road that comes down the Jordan Valley, one that crosses the Jordan River (five miles east of Jericho), and one that leads up through the steep, barren hills to Jerusalem, which is fifteen miles to the southwest and more than two thousand feet higher than Jericho.

Jericho had high walls and protective towers in ancient times, as it did when Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan River on their way to occupy what became their land. But the city was built of sun-dried mud bricks, so it was often invaded and captured by enemies. These ancient bricks have mostly washed away, and so archaeologists are not sure which part of the city was standing when Joshua captured it (Josh 6).

Elijah went through Jericho and met fifty prophets, who followed him to the Jordan River just before he was taken up to heaven (2 Kgs 4.4–12). Elisha began his work as a prophet in Jericho (2 Kgs 4.13–22). When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586/587 B.C., King Zedekiah tried to run away, but the Babylonians caught him and put out his eyes on the plains near Jericho (Jer 52.1–11). After the Jews were allowed by the Persians to come back from Babylonia to their land, a number of those whose families were originally from Jericho returned (Ezra 2.34), and some of the workers who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem came from Jericho (Neh 3.2).

The Romans made Herod king of the Jews in 37 B.C., and he then built a winter palace for himself and a Roman-style city just northwest of ancient Jericho. Water was brought in from the Jordan River by an irrigation system. Herod’s new Jericho included a city center, a theater, and a stadium, and the city was surrounded by groves of evergreen and palm trees with flower gardens, fountains, and pools. It was the winter residence for Herod, his staff, and a large group of servants and supporters.

East of Jericho along the Jordan River was the place where John the Baptist stayed to baptize those who heard his message and were preparing themselves for the coming of God’s new kingdom. Jesus was also baptized there (Luke 3.1–22), and later he visited Jericho—apparently the old city, not the palace of Herod. In Jericho Jesus healed a blind man (Luke 18.35–43), and he met and stayed with Zacchaeus, the rich chief tax collector for the Romans (Luke 19.1–10). Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan tells a story that takes place on the steep and rocky road that led down from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke 10.25–37).”

Also see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho
http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx