Summary: As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be about His business and that business is the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Back in Luke 9:51, we’re told that Jesus had set His eyes toward Jerusalem, and He was on His way. A crowd of people traveled with Him through all the stories that Jesus has been telling on this journey. They’re following Him to Jerusalem, and now they’re almost there.
They are at Jericho, which is maybe thirty-six hundred feet below but only fifteen of twenty miles away from Jerusalem. So even though it’s all uphill, they are very close to Jerusalem. They have just gone into Jericho and have seen Him stop the procession. He pointed to a little guy up in a tree, and He said, "Zaccheus come down. I’m going to have lunch with you today."
Those who didn’t know about Zaccheus soon learned that he was very wealthy and hated man because he was a Jewish tax collector for the Roman government. After he had spent some time with Jesus, he went outside, probably in his courtyard, to all the crowd waiting for Jesus and said, "I’m going to give half of all I own to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I’m going to give them back four times as much as I took from them."
Then Jesus came, stood beside him (probably put His arm around him), and said, "Do you realize what has happened? This man’s been saved. Salvation has come to this house today." Then He said something in Luke 19:10 that we absolutely need to hear: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The people traveling with Jesus really needed to hear that because they thought He had another agenda. They were following Him because of that presumed agenda, and they were excited because He was getting close to Jerusalem. They thought, "In Jerusalem, He’s going to set up the kingdom. It’s all going to come to a head. We’re going to be winners. We’re never going to have a problem again in our lives. Everything is going to be wonderful and it’s going to be heaven on earth."
So look at Luke 19:11: "And while they were listening to these things, He went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately."
Two million people were converging on Jerusalem. It was time for the Passover when everybody came together. What a perfect time for Jesus to come and reclaim the throne of David. What a perfect time to come and take that spiked Roman boot off of their Jewish necks, making them free again. They thought that was what He was going to do, and they were looking forward to this wonderful time of freedom with no more worries, problems or difficulties.
Jesus knew what was going to happen, and He knew it would tear them up. Here, these people were saying, "We have been following the Messiah. We know He’s the Messiah. No one has ever spoken like this. The teachings obviously come from the heart and mind of God. We have seen Him heal the incurable. We have seen the look of gratitude in the eyes of people when He has changed their lives. We have seen Him walk into the realm of death and bring people back alive. Now He’s on the way to take over the throne and make us free again."
Jesus knew they were going to an apparent defeat. He knew there would be days of treachery, deceit, brutality, injustice, painful agony, death, resurrection, and heaven. One of the crucial truths of the Word of God is that heaven is always on the other side of the cross. You’ve got to go through the cross to get there.
So He had to somehow prepare them. What would He do? How would He let them know they were not going to the wonder of a new kingdom but to a tough time where they would be called to work until the kingdom really comes?
A Kingdom Story
He tells them a story. This is, of course, a very important story that He’s about to tell, and we’re all to hear it. He said, "There’s this nobleman who went away to claim his right to be king."
They understood that. Jericho had that kind of history. Just a few years before, Archelaus had gone from Jericho to Rome to ask that he be put in charge of the kingdom around Jericho. Everybody had to travel to Rome to get their right to be king in that day. At the same time, a delegation of people from Jericho went to Rome alongside of him, and they were protesting his right to be king. They gathered eight thousand Jews in Rome and kept him from getting that kingship.