Quotes That Make Me Think
"Zaccheus," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.
"What a strange mixture of passions must Zaccheus have now felt, hearing one speak, as knowing both his name and his heart!"
"Maybe justice is our way of tracking each other, our way of defining each other, of keeping count, of keeping score, of following who's in and who's out, who's up and who's down. If this is so, if God's love regularly trumps God's justice ? and I believe Jesus dies precisely to show us that it is ? then we're operating with flawed categories."
"Zacchaeus and the Reformation," David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2010.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus climbs up into the tree trying to see Jesus. He wants to see and know who Jesus is. Previously the blind man (18.38), who could not see, indeed recognizes and knows who Jesus is – the Son of David. The blind see the Messiah; they are healed and follow Jesus. So you and I are meant to pause here, only sentences away, and wonder if Zacchaeus, who can see but is blind to who Jesus is, will gain his sight as well. Will his faith make him well?
Jesus, who is seeking the blind and lost, stops under the sycamore tree and tells Zacchaeus that he is coming to his home. Jesus has come and wishes to “remain,” to dwell with Zacchaeus. This is his opportunity to see who Jesus is. This is the moment when Zacchaeus will have the opportunity to welcome the living word of God into his house, and the home of his heart.
The crowd grumbles. They are upset because Zacchaeus is clearly a sinner and a tax collector. Tax collectors are of course beloved by the minority for whom they work and generally despised by the majority from whom they take the tax. In those days the tax collector collected some seven layers of taxes from the day laborer. They also collected from the overall total some money for themselves upon which to live.
But Zacchaeus is not an ordinary tax collector. He has climbed up into this tree because he has already seen and known that amendment of life is essential in the reign of God. He tells Jesus that he has already been giving away half of his possessions to the poor. And if he has cheated someone he is already making restitution. He is fulfilling the law from Exodus 22.1. Zacchaeus has faith. He is being made well before he ever meets Jesus.
Salvation happens because Zacchaeus is living the life foretold in the Lazarus parable. He is a wealthy person but is making a difference in the lives of others.
This is not simply a moral tale though. It is a story of the reign of God coming and making inroads throughout the community. We are clear in the teachings over the past weeks that piety alone does not mean that individuals will: a) welcome the Lord b) change their lives c) live out through action the will of God. Many will be saved, many will glorify God and many will welcome the Gospel of Jesus, the Living Word into the home of their hearts.
We end our parable today knowing the answer to the question from 18.26: Who then can be saved? A blind beggar and a rich tax collector can be saved.
For you and I, we must ask ourselves the perennial Lukan question: Are we faithful but not acting? Jesus seeks us out hoping to find us living out our faith in the world with him through the changing of people’s lives as in the story of Zacchaeus; or proclaiming and glorifying God as in the story of the blind man, which precedes today’s pericope.
There is that wonderful story of the man who stood up just before the offertory at Christ Church and proclaimed: I am Jesus. The Dean turned to the clergy on his right and said, “What should we do?” The answer: “Look busy.”
Jesus challenges us in Luke’s Gospel to see the Living Word of God, the Son of Man, in the person of Jesus, and to not only look busy but be busy in the kingdom work to which we have been invited.