Zacchaeus

Written by Joel on November 5th, 2010

Unique arrangement to a familiar children’s song.

Oct 31, 2010
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 19:1-10

Notes:

The family of God may be bigger than it may appear.

Also, it is interesting to note that scripture does not specify who is the “wee little man.” It just says he, could Jesus have been the one who is short in stature? Really doesn’t have anything to do with this sermon, but an interesting observation.

Opening: Have you ever seen someone at a family reunion you didn’t recognize and looked nothing like you but then it turned out it was really some distant counsin?

Context. Our Gospel text picks up just about where we left off last week. The readings skip ahead just a little. We skip a few parts – where Jesus says “Let the little children come to me.” The rich ruler who is called to give away all of his possessions; who goes away sad because he was very rich. Jesus also predicts his death for a third time, which is now eminent. [read 8:31b-33] “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.”

Just outside of Jericho, Jesus heals a blind man. He regained his sight and followed Jesus. He enters the city and makes this last stop before he enters Jerusalem and the prediction of his death comes true.

Zacchaeus. Jesus enters Jericho, and the story highlights one resident Zacchaeus. Scripture gives us but a snapshot of this man. He was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. To our ears, this makes him immediately suspect, on several counts. We remember in our parable last week about the Pharisee and the tax collector, and all of the baggage that goes with that profession. The excessive fees and the loyalty to the Roman occupation. But here we read Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Not just one of those tax collectors we don’t like, but chief among them. And on top of that he was rich. You may remember some of the risks associated with money through the Gospel – The rich young ruler, the beatitudes which is accompanied with the four woes; the first of which is “Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” Zacchaeus is already suspect in the eyes of the towns folk, and for us as readers of this Gospel account.

And yet, he wanted to see Jesus. Why in the world would a man such as this be interested in Christ as he was just passing through? For unknown motivations he did everything within his power just to see Jesus as he passed by – he climbed a tree.

Meeting Mick Jagger. I heard a story on NPR’s The Story last week about some body who dreamed of meeting their personal hero.

So too, in our Gospel text Jesus recognizes this man among many from the crowd, who probably had no expectation of actually meeting Jesus; a dream come true to just see him passing through.

Jesus meets Zacchaeus. Jesus sees Zacchaeus and by some prophetic ability calls him by name, and invites himself over for dinner. But of course, it seems nothing that Jesus does is without controversy. Everyone who saw this invitation grumbled and complained about Jesus going to hang out with a sinner, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man at that. But a sinner? Where do they get that? The narrative never says such a thing, neither does Jesus. Where do the people get this sinner label? Just because of how he makes a living, and that he is wealthy. Without knowing him, they condemn him.

Zacchaeus the giver. Zacchaeus turns to Jesus and talks about giving. Now here, many have traditionally understood this text to be one of redemption and Zacchaeus announcement to give half his wealth and pay back four times his wrongs as a sign of his repentance. Many translation put verse 8 as a future tense – I will give half of my possessions, I will pay back 4 times anything I have cheated. This would imply that he has seen the err of his ways and this is one way to make up for it. But looking at the Greek, these are both present tense verbs. I give half, I give back 4 times. This may imply, reading it this way, of actions that Zacchaeus is already taking. What if that has been the case all along? Zacchaeus, yes he was rich, but what if we read this not as a repentance story but of a validation story? What a surprise to the people of Jericho; all along thinking that Zacchaeus was a no good tax collector; putting him to the outskirts of society. And yet he was the very one caring for the poor and following the Law of Moses to make things right if ever he wrong anyone financially.

40 Billionaires. The giving pledge by Bill and Melinda Gates.

Son of Abraham. Jesus justified Zacchaeus, who had been written off by society as a bad guy. Jesus says this man too is a son of Abraham. Sometimes the family of God extends further and wider than many might think. Not necessarily a family that is obvious that can be seen, but Christ knows his family.


 

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