Four stories, including one parable, that all feature a king arriving unexpectedly to groups of people:
Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector had a major advantage in life: he was very rich; and a major disadvantage: he was very small. He chose to do the Romans’ dirty work for them – for a fee, of course! His job made him hugely unpopular, and his height earned him ridicule. It also earned him a ‘front seat’ view of Jesus who walked right below Zacchaeus, was prompted by his Father to single him out for special treatment, and who invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. The King had come to town!
Zacchaeus was proud of his honoured guest, but suddenly ashamed of his own behaviour; so he did what he could with the things in his power – for the first time, being generous with money! A four-fold repayment was what the Law required for theft, but nothing compelled him to give away half his possessions to the poor. The man’s heart had totally changed, and Jesus recognised this: “Today salvation has come to this house…” (v9). It was Jesus who had declared previous that “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also” (Luke 12:34) – and Jesus who interpreted Zacchaeus’ generous actions as the response of a saved person. Would other people come to a similar conclusion with us?
In the following parable, a king returns home after a long journey to find out how well his various servants have put his money to work. He certainly expects an appreciable return on his investments. Each man has been loaned the same amount: around £5,000 in today’s money. The most successful servant has multiplied the loan to £55,000 and receives a big promotion by being put in charge of ten cities; the next most successful achieves £30,000 and is rewarded with five cities. The final man has done nothing except to hide the master’s money and then to return it to him unused. He knows that his master expects a profit but, out of fear, all he can do is to prevent it being stolen. This is a parable about the best use of our time and the multiplying effect of the gospel. We have the choice of taking a risk, investing our time in winning others for Christ, and effectively multiplying ourselves many times over. Or, out of fear, we can just hide and try to hand back what we have.
Next, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. This mode of transport was actually a sign of a royal arrival, but also a peaceful visit. Even before Jesus had completed his journey, he wept over the rebellious city and its citizens, knowing that they were about the reject him and knowing what would befall them in the future as punishment: “…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (v44). Later that same crowd were to scream “His blood is on us and on our children” (Matt 27:25), and that declaration has echoed chillingly down the centuries ever since (John 1:11). Jesus wept, and so should we! Many people have only one opportunity in life to recognise the true Christ, and they need to take that opportunity with both hands!
Finally, Jesus enters his own Father’s House, the Temple. The outer courtyard was reserved as a place of prayer for the Gentiles, so that everyone could approach the Lord, whoever they were. But the Jewish money-changers and sellers of sacrificial animals had largely taken it over for their own trade. The King made this pronouncement: “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations” (v46 and Isaiah 56:7). God no longer requires a building to live in, but we are now his household. Is the church community a household of prayer for all nations? It is part of our true calling and our most precious service!