Sunday, October 31, 2010

Desperately Eager

I wonder how we compare to Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was desperately eager to just see Jesus. He so wanted to see him that Luke says he ran on ahead of the crowd so he could find a place where he could get an unobstructed view of this traveling Rabbi.

It must have been very important for him to see Jesus if he ran. Because that would have meant that he had to lift up his robe or skirt so his clothes wouldn’t trip him up as he ran. It just wasn’t good manners to show such a lack of proper decorum. But that’s exactly what he did. He didn’t care.

Zacchaeus got what he wanted and so much more. When Jesus arrived at the spot where he was perched in the tree, he stopped and told him to hurry down because he was going to be a guest at his house. Jesus invited himself to dinner.
That didn’t bother Zacchaeus in the least. He was so excited by the fact that Jesus was coming to his house that he probably scraped his knees and elbows getting out of the tree. He never imagined in his wildest dreams that the Master would notice him, let alone come to his house. And so with great joy and delight he took him to his house.

Of course there were those in the crowd who couldn’t allow Zacchaeus this one kernel of grace. You can probably hear their voices. In fact you may have heard their voices before.

They were grumping because this scoundrel tax collector had the good fortune to have the most popular rabbi in Israel coming to his house for dinner. They were surely so jealous and envious because it would have been a great social coup to have Jesus come to your house. What’s he doing going to this crook’s house when he could be coming to my place? After all I keep all of God’s laws and he doesn’t. He doesn’t deserve to have this most important person visiting in his house. It’s just not fair! Can’t you hear the conversations? It probably wouldn’t be too much different today.

So, have you ever asked yourself, “Why did Jesus pick Zacchaeus to go visit?” Why did Luke put it in his gospel? What is the significance of this story for us? Was it all a coincidence that Jesus saw Zacchaeus up there in the tree? Was he just looking for a good place to eat or was he looking for something that would upset the learned and religious people of Jericho? Why did God choose Zacchaeus for Jesus to visit on that particular day? It doesn’t seem fair that he would go to have dinner with such a low down cheat!

What was Zacchaeus’ response to all those nasty comments about him being a crook? Stunned disbelief would be a good way to put it. “Why,” he said, “I give away half of my earnings to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”
I wonder if those who heard Zacchaeus say that believed him. He probably gave away half of his earnings without any fanfare. That’s probably why no one knew anything about it. So even though he collected more tax than was needed by the Romans what he earned and took home he gave half of it away. He must have been rich.
I don’t know any one today who does that. This is truly extravagant generosity. It was way beyond what he was required by law to give for the support of the poor. Even his peers weren’t doing as much as he was. Those who didn’t really know Zacchaeus were judging him unfairly and harshly.

Jesus saw immediately that he was truly a Son of Abraham. The religious of the day certainly wouldn’t have classified him as a good Jew. In fact they wouldn’t even think of associating with him.

Zacchaeus was being judged by others for being a tax collector. No one knew the real Zacchaeus. They didn’t know about his contributions to the poor.
How many folks have we misjudged without taking the risk to get to know them? How many have we talked about only to find out we were wrong in our assessment of them?
Was Zacchaeus a different man after Jesus ate at his house? Or were those who had misjudged him different after Jesus had dinner at his house? Who are we misjudging today? And what should we do about that?

Maybe we should invite ourselves to dinner at their house or, better yet, invite them to dinner at ours.

All of us have fallen short of God’s desire for us. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Maybe that’s the lesson for us today. Don’t worry about what our neighbors are doing or whom they are having to dinner. Maybe we should just concern ourselves with the log in our own eye before we judge our neighbor. Maybe we need extend an invitation to the Lord to come to our house for dinner. Maybe then we will receive the gift of God’s salvation and grace.

Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.

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