November 9, 2013
Today’s gospel: Luke 19:1-10
In encountering Jesus, Zacchaeus experienced many opposites in his life.
* He “climbed a sycamore tree” but was asked by Jesus to “come down quickly” (v.4a,5b).
* He was “a wealthy man” who as chief tax collector took from the poor, but then offered “half of (his) possessions …. to the poor” (v.2c,8a).
* He as “a chief tax collector” took in lots of revenue that made him rich, but offered to give out lots of money, that “if (he) had extorted anything from anyone (he) would repay it four times over.” (v.2b,8b).
* “He was short in stature,” referring not just to his physical height but also to his stature within the community, as he was despised and effectively considered outside of God’s people. But Jesus acknowledged his true stature as an Israelite and his reward, as he said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” (v.9).
What occasioned such positive opposites to happen in Zacchaeus’ life? It was his personal encounter with Jesus. That made all the difference.
* He “was seeking to see who Jesus was” (v.3a). He wanted to meet Christ.
* When they met, Jesus said to him, “today I must stay at your house.” (v.5c). They would get to know each other, and out of that intimate encounter, as Jesus entered his house, he would be changed. He would start to live Christ.
* Then he would give half of his possessions to the poor and repay four times over those he extorted from. Those people would of course have been shocked. Tax collectors take, not give. One who repays pays what he took, not four times over. One does not give away half his possessions, especially to the poor from whom he cannot get any benefit in return. Why would he do that? He would say it is because of his encounter with Jesus. He would then share Christ.
Why did Jesus come into the world? “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (v.10). Jesus came to save us. Jesus came especially for sinners. Jesus “came to Jericho” (v.1a) and Zacchaeus was saved. Jesus came into the world and all humankind has been saved.
How do we avail of the salvation already won by Jesus for us on the cross? Through our repentance and faith, manifested by works, such as restitution and justice to others. But just as Jesus “intended to pass through the town” (v.1b), he also passes through our lives. Though God wants all to be saved, oftentimes there is just a window of opportunity. Jesus tries to break through our lives. How do we respond?
How does all this happen? When God’s people proclaim the gospel of salvation, so that people would meet Christ, then start to live Christ, and later themselves even share Christ. When that happens, then Jesus not only comes to our home “to stay at the house of a sinner” (v.7b), but we also ultimately get to go to Jesus’ home, and stay in our dwelling in heaven forever.
So next time Jesus passes through and says to us, “come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” (v.5b), our response must be like that of Zacchaeus, who “came down quickly and received him with joy.” (v.6).
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God bless you.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)