“Friend of Tax Collectors and Sinners”: Luke 19:1-10 as an Interpretive Key for Luke’s Jesus

Although scholars have often considered the Zacchaeus pericope (Luke 19:1-10) as a theological lens for Luke’s narrative (Harris, 2016, Green 1997), this paper expands upon this concept by presenting a unique understanding of Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ person and work throughout the narrative according to the relationship between Luke 19:1-10, Ezekiel 34, and Luke 1–2. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Luke emphasizes Jesus’ pursuit of the outcasts according to prophetic texts articulating promises of YHWH’s visitation to his flock as Shepherd (e.g. Ezek 34:11-22; Jer 31:10-14). The correspondences between the persons and events of 19:1-10 and others in Luke’s narrative (5:27-31; 15:1-7; 18:9-14; 18:18-29; 18:35-43) suggest that Zacchaeus represents the lost and outcast individuals in the Gospel (Harris, 2016). This paper will find Luke presenting Jesus as possessing the identity of YHWH Shepherd (Ezek 34), as language of Luke 1–2 anticipates.
This paper will identify the conceptual and intertextual relationship between the Zacchaeus pericope of Luke 19:1-10, the shepherd motif of Ezekiel 34, and the celebration of fulfilled promises of Luke 1–2. First, the language of seeking and saving the lost invokes Ezekiel’s description of the effects of YHWH’s visitation as Shepherd (Lk 19:10; Ezek 34:16, 22). Second, the birth narrative of Luke 1–2, replete with Old Testament language, anticipates Jesus’ activity (Green, 1997; Black, 2008). For example, σωτηρία appears in the Zacchaeus pericope for the first time since Luke 1 (19:9; 1:69, 71, 77). The eschatological nature of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus is indicated by (1) the urgency of Jesus’ call (19:5, 6; 2:11), (2) the quality of Zacchaeus’ response (19:6; 1:28, 44, 46, 58; 2:10); (3) the effects of restoration (19:9; 1:54, 74), and (4) the confrontational response of the onlookers (19:7; 1:51-53). Ezekiel 34 and Luke 1–2 serve as interpretive keys for identifying Luke’s appropriation of the eschatological YHWH Shepherd motif, in particular.
The themes of reversal, restoration, and reorientation, found in 19:1-10, are traced to the birth narrative of Luke 1–2 before finding their original referents in Israel’s Scripture. This study affects an articulation of a biblical-theological hermeneutic for understanding Luke’s Christological depiction of Jesus and his characterization of the needy and the proud respondents to Jesus’ activity. When 19:1-10 is anchored in the larger intertextual network of Israel’s Scriptures, Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ person and activity as YHWH Shepherd organically emerges.