Sycamore tree (Lk 19:4-19:4)

“Thus,

Zacchaeus ran ahead.

He climbed up

A sycamore tree

To see Jesus,

Because Jesus

Was going

To pass that way.”

 

καὶ προδραμὼν εἰς τὸ ἔμπροσθεν ἀνέβη ἐπὶ συκομορέαν, ἵνα ἴδῃ αὐτόν, ὅτι ἐκείνης ἤμελλεν διέρχεσθαι.

 

Luke uniquely indicated that Zacchaeus ran ahead (καὶ προδραμὼν εἰς τὸ ἔμπροσθεν) of everyone.  He then climbed up a sycamore tree (ἀνέβη ἐπὶ συκομορέαν) in order to see Jesus (ἵνα ἴδῃ αὐτόν), because Jesus was about to pass that way (ὅτι ἐκείνης ἤμελλεν διέρχεσθαι).  Luke was the only Greek biblical writer to use the word συκομορέαν, that means a fig-mulberry tree, a sycamore fig, or a sycamore tree.  This small rich tax collector ran ahead of everybody and climbed up a tree so that he could see Jesus when he passed by, an ingenious way to get a look at the celebrity who was in town.  Luke was the only synoptic with this story of Zacchaeus.  Would you climb a tree to see a celebrity?

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Zacchaeus was small (Lk 19:3-19:3)

“Zacchaeus was trying

To see

Who Jesus was.

However,

He could not,

Due to the crowd.

Besides,

He was short

In stature.”

 

καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου, ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν.

 

Luke uniquely indicated that Zacchaeus was trying to see Jesus (καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν) and figure out who he was (τίς ἐστιν).  However, he could not (καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο), due to the crowd (ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου) around Jesus.  Besides, Zacchaeus was a short person (ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν).  This short rich tax collector, Zacchaeus, could not see Jesus because of the crowd around him.  This was and is a problem for all small people.  Luke was the only synoptic with this story of Zacchaeus.  What do you think about small people?

Zacchaeus (Lk 19:2-19:2)

“A man was there

Named Zacchaeus.

He was a chief tax collector.

He was rich.”

 

Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος, καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης, καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος

 

Only Luke uniquely talked about this man in Jericho (Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ), named Zacchaeus (ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος), who was a rich (καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος) chief tax collector or head of a customs house (καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης).  Luke was the only biblical writer to use this term ἀρχιτελώνης, that means a chief tax collector, head of a custom-house, chief tax-gatherer, or publican.  Zacchaeus was an important man in Jericho because of his wealth and his position in charge of tax collecting there.  His very name, Zacchaeus, meant righteous or upright in Hebrew.  Luke was the only synoptic with this story of Zacchaeus.  What do you think about people who work for the IRS and collect taxes?

The wrong treasure (Lk 12:21-12:21)

“Thus,

It is with those

Who store up treasures

For themselves,

But are not rich

Toward God.”

 

οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων αὑτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς Θεὸν πλουτῶν

 

Luke uniquely brought this little parable of Jesus to an end.  Jesus said this was the problem with those who store up treasures for themselves (οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων αὑτῷ), but are not rich towards God (καὶ μὴ εἰς Θεὸν πλουτῶν) in divine treasures.  Thus, this parable of the rich foolish man comes to an end.  He had stored up treasures here on earth, instead of heavenly treasures with God.  He had misplaced priorities.  His plans did not include death.  Do you have misplaced priorities?

The decree of Caesar Augustus (Lk 2:1-2:1)

“In those days,

A decree went out

From the Emperor

Caesar Augustus

That all the world

Should be registered.”

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην.

 

Luke tried to put these events within a historical perspective.  He said that in those days (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις), a decree or dogma went out (ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα) from the Emperor, Caesar Augustus (παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου), that all the world should be registered (ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην).  Could all the world be registered in a census?  Luke referred to the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who ruled the Roman empire with his famous Pax Romana, or peace everywhere, from 27 BCE to 14 CE, precisely the time of these events.  Augustus was born in 63 BCE so that he would have been 77 years old when he died.  He was sometimes called god, son of god, savior, or father.  As the adopted son of Julius Caesar, he defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra to gain sole control of the empire.  He set up an intricate set of taxes for the empire, so that there was a consent source of income.  Thus, the local tax collectors or publicans became rich, but disliked, official people in the empire.  The month of August was named after him, just as July was named after Julius Caesar.  However, there is no evidence of any call to register the whole world.  However, this would not have been inconsistent with his taxing plans, since the main reason for any registration or census would be for tax purposes.  Thus, this is possible, but unlikely.

The hungry are filled (Lk 1:53-1:53)

“God

Has filled

The hungry

With good things.

He has sent

The rich away

Empty.”

 

πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:4, that praised Yahweh for her son the prophet Samuel.  Luke had Mary elaborate on Hannah’s thought about how the mighty and the rich would stumble, but the low and the poor would succeed.  Mary said that God had filled or satisfied the needy hungry people with good things (πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν), while at the same time he had sent away (ἐξαπέστειλεν) the rich people (καὶ πλουτοῦντας) empty handed (κενούς.).  God was going to reverse the human order of rich and poor as far as food was concerned.  The rich would have nothing, but the poor would be satisfied.

The mighty and the lowly (Lk 1:52-1:52)

“God has brought down

The powerful

From their thrones.

He has lifted up

The lowly.”

 

καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς

 

This canticle of Mary was modeled on that of Hannah in 1 Samuel, chapter 2:4, that praised Yahweh for her son, the prophet Samuel.  Just like here, Hannah said that the mighty and the rich would stumble, but the lowly and the poor would succeed.  Luke indicated that Mary said that God had brought down the powerful (καθεῖλεν δυνάστας) from their thrones (ἀπὸ θρόνων), while he has lifted up the lowly (καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς).  There is almost an exact equivalency between Hannah and Mary.  Mary had mentioned nothing about lowly people until now.  Luke emphasized this theme of the poor or lowly as important throughout his gospel.