Today we hear the story of Jesus once more with a tax collector.
This one seems to have a few twists and turns however. Jesus plans
on going through Jericho. In the first line it says that he plans on
passing through – yet he doesn't. He stays the evening with
Zacchaeus and eats with him. What happens that changes Jesus' plans?
We hear about Zacchaeus who is the chief tax collector. He knows
about Jesus and is so excited that he completely abandons all of the
natural social norms. He is so despised despite his great wealth in
the Jewish society that they won't let him through the crowd to
glimpse Jesus. They won't let him in. They won't even let him
through. So he runs ahead – which a man would never do, a rich man
especially as this opens up for all sorts of criticism. Not only
does he embrace himself to run ahead of where Jesus was going to be
but he also climbs a Sycamore tree! How much more humiliating do you
want to get for a man of his wealth and stature. He humbles himself
completely in order to see Jesus.
Jesus stops what he is doing and calls him down. He tells him
that he is going to stay at his house. This enrages the people. The
hated tax collector, the one that they think or think they know has
cheated them and works for the horrid Romans. This man that just
made a fool of himself before the entire town is the one Jesus is
choosing to eat with. Jesus puts them in an uncomfortable place.
They love and respect Jesus as a healer and teacher, yet they hate
the Romans and the tax collectors. They have to forgive Zacchaeus or
they have to reject Jesus. The grumbled.
Do you ever grumble? Do you complain? Moan? Do you get annoyed
and say some harsh things under your breath? How about grumbling
when things don’t' follow your time line? When you think things
should get done? What about when someone hurts your feelings? Your
pride? Your honor? What about people you just don't agree with? It
is a very human thing, especially when we are being challenged by
God. We grumble, we mumble, we complain.
Here is the deal though, we are called to try and be like Jesus,
so that we can live out his love with others and share the good news
of the Kingdom of God.
Notice Jesus does not shame Zacchaeus. He does not mention his
job. He does not mention what he does not like. He rejoices in
Zaccheaeus, he dines with him which means he accepted him just as he
was. He forgave him. He forced the people around him to think about
Zacchaeus differently. Jesus made a world of difference to
Zacchaeus. Jesus opened up the gates of inclusion in this small
Jewish community despite the grumbling. So how do you do the same?
How do you forgive those whom you disagree with? How do you love
those whom your community does not approve of? How do you rush to
see Jesus even if it means losing your pride and doing the hard work
of climbing a tree?