Sunday, 31 October 2010

'Zacchaeus come down'

'Zacchaeus, come down quickly for I must stay in your house today.' (Lk 19: 5)

Jesus's words to Zacchaeus, the reading for this Sunday, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Zacchaeus, the tax collector of Jericho, had risen in his station collecting taxes at Jericho which was strategically situated along various trade routes. But he was not satisfied. He was looking for something else. For an inner peace.

'Jericho was located strategically, with roads going from Jericho to Trans-Jordan in the east, Damascus in the north and Egypt in the south. As goods went through Jericho, many taxes were collected. From Jericho's balsam trees a famous balm was also made, so it became a very rich district.

Living in this rich district, Zacchaeus grew into a very short man whose ambition was to become rich. He became a tax collector for the hated Roman government, although he was hated by all the Pharisees and scribes in the district. He was treated as a heathen, excluded from all social life and made to stand with the Gentiles at a distance when he went to the temple. Despite this, Zacchaeus worked his way up and became the chief tax collector--the only person in the Bible identified as such.'*

When he heard that Jesus was to pass that way, he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. Can you imagine a portly excise commissioner running and hoisting himself up a tree in today's times? But the need to be renewed from the staleness of his existence was so great that Zacchaeus did exactly that. He knew he was short. So what. He was proactive.

One interpretation says that you are drawn to Jesus by His power- as was Zacchaeus. And Jesus came to find Zacchaeus - he knew he would be sitting on that sycamore tree. So it is no surprise that Jesus calls him by name, 'Zacchaeus, come down . . .' , even though they have never met or seen each other before.

Jesus declares that He will stay at Zacchaeus's house. Breaking established practice, Jesus has supper at his table and transforms Zacchaeus's life from that moment on.

Zacchaeus says, 'The half of my goods Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.'

'Jesus seeks out the sinners, the lost, those who are excluded, those counted out, and invites them to the heavenly banquet. Like Zacchaeus, they too are brought from the margins into the centre.

The one person everyone thought was outside, is on the inside as far as Jesus is concerned. And those who think they are on the inside are in danger of finding that they are on the outside.'#

The Zacchaeus experience is there for the asking for all of us. We need to be attentive to His calling.  To reach out to others as Jesus reaches out to us. The meaning of life is not to be found in material things but is arrived at with a constant growing in trust in His will for us.
* source: gracevalley(dot)org
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