2nd Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Today’s Gospel scene is like a closing act of a play. We are about to transition from Jesus’ ministry on the road to Jerusalem and enter with Jesus into Jerusalem. The story of Zacchaeus is one of the final stories as we close this chapter.
The name Zacchaeus is an abbreviation of Zechariah, meaning “the righteous one.” Zacchaeus’ name mocks him in the eyes of his people.
Tax collectors were hated in Jesus’ time because they were notorious for cheating poor people to fatten their own pockets. These were Jews in bed with Israel’s Roman oppressors and corrupt Jewish leadership.
Chief tax collectors were even more hated because they oversaw large groups of men who used extortion tactics to strong arm the locals into paying stiff taxes to keep Rome happy.
Jesus didn’t intend to stay in Jericho, he was only passing through. But in seeing into Zacchaeus’ heart Jesus decided to stay the night. He had a point to make to the crowd about mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus even was so bold as to invite himself over for dinner with Zacchaeus. “We might think of this as presumptuous and rude. But Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Here he was, a social outcast being offered the opportunity to host one of the most famous men in the country.”
Salvation is for all. Yes, even people we consider to be great sinners. This is the wisdom of Jesus.
So, what lessons does Jesus want us to learn from this tale?
I see five we can take away and apply to our daily lives:
1 1. Love is the most powerful force in the world because it changes people’s lives. And Jesus always led with love and calls us to do the same.
2 2. No one is beyond God’s redemption and repentance, even those we believe to be great sinners.
3. Repentance is the way every sinner gets right with God. But that repentance is between God and that person. Not between us and that person. It’s none of our business.
4 4. We disciples can’t be overly concerned about ruining our reputations when interacting with so-called “sinners.”
5 5. As a Disciples of Jesus we must never be so enamored with money that we become blinded to the poor and marginalized in this world. Instead, we must be enamored with Jesus and His righteousness.
“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”