Luke 19: 1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
Wow! Here’s Zacchaeus who’s a tax collector. And, not just any tax collector. He’s a chief tax collector. This means he was an agent of the Roman government and was a pariah among the Jewish people who felt oppressed by this foreign power that had conquered their land. Often taxes were collected ruthlessly. Sometimes people were threatened and strong-armed so as much money as possible could be collected. Tax collectors were free to take a percentage of what they collected and keep it for themselves. Being a chief tax collector made Zacchaeus an especially rich man.
And yet, he must have felt that something was missing in his life. This short, little man must have heard something about Jesus to motivate him to climb a tree in order to get a glimpse of the preacher. Most of the Jewish people would probably like to give Zacchaeus a lecture about taking shamelessly from the poor. But what does Jesus do? He invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for the night, and the people become upset that he wants to spend time with such a sinner. Jesus was becoming known for befriending those considered sinners, those who were outcasts, those who were despised.
What was the result of the encounter between the scoundrel and the son of God? Redemption! Someone who represented the worst in people was made new. He was transformed from an agent of greed and oppression to an agent of love all because Jesus treated him as a person of worth. And Zacchaeus’ life was changed forever.
During this Lenten season, may we look up, down, and all around to see who we can share the love of Christ with. Perhaps it might be someone who may not seem worthy of our time, but who may be longing for the touch of God in their lives. And, may we be open to encountering and embracing the love and grace of Jesus in ways we never expected.
Prayer: Gracious God, fill our hearts with such love that we will faithfully follow the example of Jesus. Soften our vision of what we see in those who are despised in our world. Help us know how to reach out to them and best reveal the love of Jesus. And, thank you, O God, for loving us enough to put Jesus in our hearts. Amen
Rev. Kathleen Athey