October 30, 2016
Introduction: As a young man with grand illusions of grandeur I recall wanting to emulate Francis of Assisi. Seeing the movie Brother Son and Sister Moon and the portrayal of Francis and how he served the poor and saw God in the world all around him, I could not help but be drawn to this incredible way of life. As the years went by I slowly forgot this calling as I became focused on my family and trying to make a living. As we look back on our lives do we have regrets? Things we have done or failed to do that we now wish we could have accomplished?
I) On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus goes through Jericho. On his way through this town a man named Zacchaeus, a toll collector decides he needs to see Jesus. He is unable to do so because he is a small man, so he climbs a sycamore tree to have a chance to see him. What is his motive to go and want to see Jesus, and perhaps look even a little childish in doing so, what grown man climbs a tree? Especially one who has wealth and would appear at least outwardly to have no need for anything.
II) Zacchaeus while up a tree, literally, is called to by Jesus and told to come on down! He does so and Jesus invites himself over to his house for dinner and perhaps even to spend the night. This does not ingratiate either Zacchaeus or Jesus to those around them; since the people are quick to condemn Jesus for going over to a sinner’s house.
III) After he has come down the tree and is facing Jesus, and has joyfully received him, the crowd begins to murmur against him because after all he is known to be a sinner. Zacchaeus immediately sets about defending himself. He tells Jesus that he gives half his goods to the poor and if he inadvertently defrauds anyone he gives restitution four times for that which was taken wrongly. Note Exodus 22:1 and Leviticus 6:5 as examples of the laws that would have been relevant to what Zacchaeus is pointing out that he does to make sure he has treated others fairly. What is interesting at this point in Luke’s account is to note what happened just before Jesus meets Zacchaeus. A ruler comes and asks him what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him he must obey the Ten Commandments and the ruler says he has done so since his youth. So Jesus tells him to sell what he has, give it to the poor and come follow him. This leaves the rich magistrate sad for he is unwilling to do this. Which ultimately leads to Jesus’ statement about how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Now we come to the rich tax collector, how is it salvation has come to him and not to the rich ruler. Could it be the rich tax collector was more aware of and willing to admit his sin?