Luk 19:1 And entering he walked through Jericho.
S. Luke continues the account of the journey to Jerusalem. I have spoken of this in the preceding chapter, verse 35.
Luk 19:2 And behold, there was a man named Zacheus, who was the chief of the publicans: and he was rich.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans. Christ gave sight to the blind man near Jericho; soon after, in Jericho itself, He converted Zacchæus, for no place, no road, no moment of time was idle to Christ, but all were made notable by divine mercies, benefits, and miracles, that He might teach us to do the same. “Zacchmus.” This name is as it were an omen of his future righteousness and purification, for Zacchæus in Hebrew is the same as just, pure, clear. The chiefs of the publicans had many publicans, that is collectors of the taxes, under them. These taxes the Romans and Tiberius had imposed on the Jews against their will. Hence the publicans were hated by the Jews and accounted infamous, being called Parisim, that is, robbers. The chief was called Gabba; whence the word Gabella, the publicans being called Gabbaim. Angelus Caninus on Hebrew words in New Testament.
And he was rich. The chiefs of the publicans were not appointed unless they were rich, that they might advance money to the Roman ruler when he wanted it, and supply, in a great degree, the deficiencies of the publicans under him. S. Luke adds this to show better the grace of Christ and the virtue of Zacchæus, since he left his great wealth for the calling and love of Christ, and distributed it among the poor.
Luk 19:3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was: and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature.
And he sought to see Jesus. He took pains to see Jesus in person as he had heard of His reputation, from the fame of His virtues and miracles. For we wish to see great men and to know them in person. But Zacchæus, beside his natural wish, was impelled by one above nature, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He desired to see Jesus that he might be absolved of his sins by Him, and be justified and made holy. “He wished,” says S. Chrysostom in his Homily on Zacchaeus, “to know by sight one whom he had known before in imagination, to see the face of Him whom he had seen before in mind, to look upon Him as present whom he had never seen do any works; that the love of Christ which he had conceived in his heart might be gratified to the full by the sight of his eyes.”
And he could not. But he was exalted in mind. Many of the heroes and saints were men of small stature, as I have shown in Zec_4:0 and Ecclus. 11:3, on the words, “The bee is small among flying things, but her fruit is the chief of sweetest things.” It is in minimis that the supreme majesty of God, His glory, strength, and greatness, most clearly shine forth. “The crowd,” says S. Cyril, “is the confusion of a multitude, which we must climb above, if we wish to see Christ.”
Luk 19:4 And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, that he might see him: for he was to pass that way.
And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree. Mystically, the sycamore is the cross of Christ and His doctrine, which to the Gentiles and men of this world is mere folly, but to Zacchæus and the faithful is the wisdom of God, and the power of God. 1 Cor. i. 24. S. Gregory, lib. xxvii. Moral.: in fine, “Let us leave the wisdom that is hurtful, that we may gain that which is to our profit, &c. The dwarf Zacchæus submitted himself to the sycamore tree and saw the Lord; for they who choose humbly the folly of the world, these wisely contemplate the wisdom of God. A multitude hinders our slowness to see God, for the tumults of worldly cares so press upon the infirmity of the human mind that it cannot contemplate the light of truth. We are wise to ascend the sycamore if we retain in our minds, with forethought, that foolishness which is received from God.”
Theophylact speaks as follows: “We climb the fig-tree; that is, we ascend above the allurements of pleasure, which is signified by the fig-tree—we mount up by Penitence, but we come down through Humility.”
Luk 19:5 And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, he saw him and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down: for this day I must abide in thy house.
And when Jesus came to the place. Christ compensates the zeal of Zacchæus to see Him by His full Exhibition and Presence. Christ inspired Zacchæus with this ardour that He might perfect him by entering his house. Christ indeed went thither that He might arouse this feeling, and by it be received by Zacchæus as his guest, and bring blessing and salvation to his whole house. For, although the Saviour of the world, He came to sanctify sinners. “Jesus had not heard the voice of Zacchæus inviting him,” said S. Ambrose, “but He had seen his feeling.”
Christ therefore not only offered Himself to be seen by Zacchæus, who wished to see Him, but He also gave Himself to be possessed by him, and therefore chose to remain in his house, rather than in the house of any one else.
Moraliter. Let us learn to desire Christ and His inner conversation and grace, for Christ will soon offer Himself to us, and fulfil our desire, and as much as is that desire will be His conversation; for Wisdom, that is Christ, will meet him who fears and longs for God. “As a mother shall she meet him, with the bread of understanding shall she feed him, and give him the water of wisdom to drink.” Ecclus. 15:2-3. And Ecclus 24:19-20., “Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits. For my memorial is sweeter than honey,” and Joh 7:37-38.
Zacchæus, then, saw Christ with the eyes and sight of his body, and still more with those of his mind, by which Christ enlightened his soul to discern that he was the Saviour who would forgive the sins of those who repent, and give them salvation, that is, righteousness, grace, and glory. The countenance of Jesus therefore is not fruitless, and of no effect, but efficacious and operative. For by this alone He attracts men to His love, changes them, and brings them to salvation. Hence, says S. Cyril, “Jesus saw the mind of Zacchæus striving very earnestly after a holy life.”
For this day I must abide at thy house. “Zacchæus,” says Titus, wished only for the sight of Jesus, but He who knows how to do more than we ask, gave him what was beyond his expectation; for Christ of His great bounty exceeds the prayers and powers of the petitioners.” “Christ promised,” says S. Chrysostom in his homily on Zacchæus, “that He would come to his house, whose soul and its desires He already possessed.”
Luk 19:6 And he made haste and came down and received him with joy.
And He made haste, and came down—see the prompt obedience of Zacchæus, which deserved salvation—and received Him with joy. Zacchæus received Christ into his house, and Christ in return bestowed on him salvation. “Zacchæus rejoiced,” says Euthymius, “because he had not only seen Christ, according to his wish, but because he had also been called by Him, and had received Him as his guest, a thing he had never hoped for.”
Luk 19:7 And when all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner.
And when all saw it, they murmured. (“All”—the Pharisees, and the Jews their parasites, who hated the publicans.) They murmured, saying that he was gone, &c.
The publicans were held by the Jews to be impious, unjust, wicked, and they often were such. Some think that “sinner” here means that Zacchæus was a Gentile and idolater. Such is the opinion of Tertullian, SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, Bede, and from them Maldonatus. And that Zacchæus speaks of a restitution of things exacted so unjustly, which was of a natural law, and not ordered by Moses. S. Chrysostom, in his sermon on Zacchæus, says, “He was a son of Abraham by faith, not by birth; by merit, not by descent; by devotion, not by race.” But the contrary is equally probable, perhaps more so, namely, that Zacchæus was a Jew, not a Gentile. 1. Because, ver. 9, he is called a son of Abraham. 2. Because Christ only conversed with Jews, for He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Hence He is called by S. Paul “minister of the circumcision,” Rom_15:8.3. Because Zacchæus is a Hebrew name. 4. Because the Jews would not have been silent on the matter but would have brought it against Jesus that he held communion with the Gentiles when the Messiah was promised to the Jews alone.
Luk 19:8 But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.
But Zacchæus standing, said to the Lord. We cannot, doubt that Christ as soon as He entered the house of Zacchæus began, according to His custom, to teach and exhort both Zacchæus himself and those of his household, to faith and repentance, and, if they repented, to promise them grace, righteousness, and salvation. He would also urge upon them contempt of riches and the world, and the acceptance of poverty and evangelical perfection, by following Him and giving their goods to the poor, that they might receive treasure in heaven, and a hundredfold in this life. S. Luke, for the sake of brevity, says nothing of this; but from what follows, and from what he had frequently said before, especially Luk 18:22, of the custom of Christ to teach and preach, He leaves it to be understood. For by these words of Christ Zacchæus was plainly converted to faith, repentance, poverty, and contempt of riches and the world. He said,
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I gave to the poor. He therefore did not keep one half for himself, but gave back to others what they had been unjustly defrauded of. For he adds, “If I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.” “I give,” “I restore,” that is, I am resolved from this time, and firmly determine to give and restore according to Thy doctrine and exhortation. On account of this efficacious resolution of the penitent Zacchæus, Christ added as a reward, “This day is salvation come to this house.” So S. Ambrose, Bede, Euthymius, Tertullian in his fourth book against Marcion, Fulgentius in his epistle to Galla. It is a Hebraism, similar to that of Pharaoh, Exod 5:10: “I give you not straw,” that is, I decree and command that straw is not given to you. Matt 26:18: “I will keep the Passover at thy house,” that is, I will, I determine to keep it. S. Cyprian, however, in his tract On Works and Almsgiving, has explained the words “give” and “restore,” by the perfect tense: “I have given, I have restored,” as if Zacchæus had been converted previously by other discourses of Christ which he had heard.
And if I have wronged any man, &c. The Greek is ε̉συκοφάντησα, that is, accused falsely of fraud, calumny, or any other like offence. Zacchæus owns to the crime of defrauding, but in a slight degree: for when, for the sum defrauded he restored fourfold out of his own half of his property, it follows that he gained only an eighth part of his wealth by fraud; so that, if he had eight thousand gold pieces, only one thousand was gained thus, the other seven being his own, either by inheritance, or some other just manner.
Observe the sudden and miraculous conversion of Zacchæus, through the grace of Christ, so that he not only repented at once, but also resolved to put away all the wealth to which he had previously clung, for he set apart half for the poor and half for restitution. Thus he instantly embraced the precept of evangelical poverty, that he might forsake all things, and, as a poor man, follow the work of his hands. “Hear a wonderful thing,” says S. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Zacchæus, “He had not yet learnt, and he obeyed. The Saviour by the rays of His righteousness, put to flight the darkness of Zacchæus’ wickedness.” And Bede, “Behold, the camel has laid down his burden, and passed through the eye of the needle—that is, he gave up the love of riches, and received the blessing of the Lord’s adoption. This is the folly which is wisdom, and which the publican chose from the sycamore as the fruit of life; restoring what he had seized, giving up his own, despising things seen.” And Theophylact, “Behold his alacrity; he began to sow not sparingly, nor did he give a few things but his whole life.” And S. Bernard (Serm. x, on Festival of all Saints), addressing his own Religious: “Zacchæus, whose praise is in the Gospel, gave the half of his goods to the poor, but I see here many Zacchæuses, who have left themselves nothing of all their property. Who shall write a gospel of these Zacchæuses, nay, of these Peters—who shall say in faith, ‘Lord, behold, we have left all things and followed Thee?’ But it is written in the everlasting gospel; it is written and signed in the book of life, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’” “I restore,” that is, I determine and firmly resolve to restore; nor can we doubt that he acted at once upon this resolve, and carried it out into actual practice.
Fourfold. It was not by the law of nature, nor by that of Moses, that Zacchæus bound himself to restore fourfold; as both only oblige him to restore the original sum. He resolved to perform this great and superabundant act of restitution and justice of his fervent charity and repentance. This is in conformity with the law of Exodus xxii. 1, which orders that a man who has stolen a sheep, should be condemned by the judge to restore fourfold. Zacchæus said this, not from boasting and ostentation, but partly from the fervour with which he had been inspired by Christ and the Holy Ghost, partly to refute the calumny of the scribes, who objected to Christ, that He associated with a sinner. For he shows that he was now no longer a sinner, but repentant and just—nay, more just than the just and holy.
In trope, S. Chrysostom (Hom. lxxviii) teaches us that we must adorn the house of our souls with almsgiving and righteousness, like Zacchæus, if we desire to receive Christ as a guest.
Luk 19:9 Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.
And Jesus said to him. In answer to his words, but so that he might, appear to direct His face and voice not so much to him, as to the disciples and the multitude who stood by. There is a like enallage in Rom 10:2; Psa 3:3, and elsewhere.
This day is salvation come to this house. “Condemnation,” says Euthymius, “which used to inhabit there, from its avarice having been turned out.” The Arabic has “This day is salvation come to the dwellers in this house.” “To this house.” From this it appears that when Zacchæus believed and was converted, all his household followed his example, and believed in Christ, repented, and were justified and sanctified. Moreover, Zacchæus after his conversion, and the Resurrection and Ascension, became an attendant of S. Peter, and was ordained by him Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine. S. Clim. Recognitions, lib. i. 3.
because he also is a son of Abraham. Because he followed the faith, righteousness, and holiness of Abraham. For by suffering, says Bede, he left his goods to the poor, as Abraham left his country and his father’s house. It is said “he also,” to show that not only the just but those also who repent of injustice, pertain to the sons of promise. So Tertullian (Bk. iv. against Marcion), Cyprian, and others cited above. S. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Zacchæus, vol. ii.: “Zacchæus made an offering of all he had, reserving part of his patrimony for the restitution of what he had gained by fraud. Abraham offered his son to the Lord, Zacchæus his substance. Abraham gave his heir, Zacchæus his inheritance. Abraham displayed his only pledge for an offering, Zacchæus sacrificed the substance of his property. Thus Zacchæus is rightly termed the son of Abraham, for he followed the course of his father’s glory.
Again, Zacchæus was a son of Abraham, because he was a Jew, and a descendant of Abraham. As if Christ, when the Pharisees murmured at His consorting with Zacchæus, a publican, had answered them, “You have no cause to murmur, for Zacchæus is an Israelite, and in his ancestor and father Abraham he has the closest right to the Messiah and salvation. Thus he has no right to be neglected by Me, who am that Messiah, because he is a publican; but because he is a penitent, he ought to receive my adoption and blessing.”
Bede, in allegory and trope, thus applies each part of this history to the faithful and holy: “Zacchæus, that is, pure and justified, signifies a faithful people of the Gentiles who, when depressed by temporal occupations, and of no account, wished to see Christ enter Jericho; that is to share in the faith which Christ brought to the world. The multitude is the habit of vices, which, when it opposed him, he overthrew by relinquishing earthly things, and ascending the tree of the cross. The sycamore is a tall tree, and hence it is called lofty, and the foolish fig, σύκη—μώζα. It is indeed derided by the unbelieving as a foolish cross, but it sustains the believer as a fig. The man of small stature climbs it, when the humble cries out, ‘far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of Christ.’ The Lord therefore comes, that is, through His preachers, to the people of the nations. He sees, that is He chooses, through grace. He remains in the house of the dwarf Zacchæus, that is, He rests in the hearts of humble nations. Zacchæus descends from the sycamore, for although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we do not know Him now. Although He died through infirmity, yet He is alive now from the power of God.” The Church rightly reads this gospel of Zacchæus at the consecration of churches. Firstly, because Christ says in it, “This day is salvation come to this house”—words that are rightly applied to the churches when they are consecrated. For the dedication is, as it were, the salvation of the church. The church is consecrated to the salvation of many who are to be justified in it by preaching, prayer, contrition, confession, and absolution. Again, Christ says, “To-day I must abide in thy house.” In like manner Christ abides in a consecrated church, through the venerable sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. For by consecration a church is made the abode and home of Christ. Thirdly, the material is a type of the spiritual Church, that is, of the faithful soul, in which Christ more especially desires to abide, for He wished to dwell in the soul, even more than in the house of Zacchæus, according to the words, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you. Glorify God therefore in your body.” 1 Cor 6:19, 20.
Luk 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save. It is not wonderful that Christ converted and saved Zacchæus, and publicans and sinners, for, to this He had been sent by the Father, and to this He Himself had come into the world. As, then, the skill of the physician is shown in healing inveterate, hopeless, and desperate diseases, so the supreme virtue of Christ, the Arch-physician, shone out in curing those diseases of the soul, which by nature are incurable, like avarice in publicans. Thus He drew Zacchæus, the publican, not only to despise avarice and all wealth, but to embrace evangelical poverty. In the same way He called the publican and made him an Apostle. The history of Peter the Publican or Telonarius, who gave up all his wealth, and caused himself to be sold for a slave, and the money to be given to the poor, is a further case in point.