Today's Lectionary Text
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Since childhood this story has put a smile on my face. When I was a child, I was amused by the idea of a short man climbing a tree. But the reason I smile has changed over time.
Zacchaeus was wealthy, resulting in social standing. Despite this he was so excited about Jesus, he acted in an entirely undignified way. He climbed a tree to see Jesus. I can only imagine how Zacchaeus felt when Jesus spoke to him … Excited that Jesus would spend time with him?... Embarrassed that he was up in a tree?... Fearful that Jesus might judge him?
The people weren’t happy about Jesus spending time with Zacchaeus since he was in league with Rome, and apparently took more from some of them than the actual taxes due. He was a “sinner.” What could Jesus be thinking!?
But because Jesus spent time with him, this traitor, this sinner undertook to make things right by giving half of his wealth to the poor and repaying those he’d cheated. Or to put it another way, he sincerely repented of his past acts.
Then Jesus spoke words of reconciliation, words of hope and words of promise to Zacchaeus. He accepted Zacchaeus and affirmed him. After years of being treated as a traitor and a sinner, Zacchaeus felt Jesus’ acceptance. What a powerful emotional moment that must have been.
When’s the last time we did something undignified out of our excitement and love for Jesus? When’s the last time we invited a “sinner” into our home or offered to spend time with them?
Yes, this story puts a smile on my face because I identify with Zacchaeus as one in need of a loving Savior who accepts me with all my faults, who reaffirms his relationship with me, who calls me to treat others in the same way, and who extends this same invitation to everyone, warts and all.
Ewing UM-PC-Orchard-Page UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Jesus who loves us, help us to set aside our pride, to embrace our excitement about you and to express that excitement in our actions, even when those actions may not be ‘dignified.’ Warm our hearts toward those we view as “the other.” Grant us love to seek to spend time with them, to accept them and to affirm them, that they may respond to your loving invitation of restoration and relationship; through Jesus our Savior. Amen.
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