Thursday, 9 January 2020

Pentecost 21 Luke 19v1-10 Zacchaeus, Invisibility

One of the themes of Luke’s gospel is that Jesus has come to seek and save the lost. So who are the lost? Immediately before the story of Zacchaeus we have the story of the encounter between Jesus and the rich ruler, who cannot sell all he has and give to the poor and so goes away sad. 

Zacchaeus is determined to see Jesus, v2-4;
Jesus opts to stay with Zacchaeus, 5-6;
The crowd is not impressed, v7;
Zacchaeus' response, v8;
Jesus' pronouncement, v9:
"today salvation has come to this house, because this man is also a son of Abraham"
Saying, v10 "the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
  
Faith as small as a mustard seed saves; Zacchaeus, the outcast, receives the gospel message.He is one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 
  
So the story goes like this;

19:1 Setting, v1: Jericho was a major trading town, serving as the main customs point for all imports into Palestine from the East. It was deep in the Jordan valley, about 30 kilometers east of Jerusalem. Jericho was famous for its export of balsam, a spice from the sap of the balsam tree. The balm of Gilead. Jericho had an avenue of sycamore fig palms with low branches, which Jesus would have moved along. It was a tax centre being at the junction of various trade routes used by camel trains
  
v2
 Zacchaeus is determined to see Jesus, v2-4: Zacchaeus, as the "chief tax collector" of the area, would take a cut for himself from the taxes he raised for the Roman administration. In today's terms he was a kind of corrupt politician, very wealthy, and hated. He had heard of Jesus and so he was determined to meet him. 

Zacchaeus was the head government official in Jericho for the collection of revenue and other government business. He would have purchased this rite, and tendered for this contract. As part of the tax component, a percentage went to the tax collector, set at his discretion-a powerful corrupt politician.  As a chief tax collector Zacchaeus was considered unclean due to his contamination both with money and dead bodies. He would also have been seen as a Roman lackey. He was therefore regarded as religiously and socially unacceptable

He was very rich. Zacchaeus in Hebrew means pure and innocent
  
v3 He was trying to see Jesus but he couldn’t because of the crowd and because he was short!.
  
v4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig treewhich looks like an oak tree and can grow into a very large tree.
  
v5 So Jesus decides to stay with Zacchaeus. Jesus reads human nature and he certainly reads Zacchaeus. Here was Rome's local representative willing to degrade himself by climbing a tree to get to meet with Jesus. Zacchaeus is rewarded by Jesus' acceptance of him, and as a consequence Jesus invites himself for tea.
  
v6 Zacchaeus is over joyed!
  
v7 But the crowd is not impressed. Not just the Pharisees, but everyone was muttered/complaining. Jesus has gone to stay with a real sinner!
  
v8 Zacchaeus' response is to offer of half his wealth to the poor and to repay fourfold to those he has unlawfully exacted taxes. Those who are forgiven much, love much.

He stands up to make this announcement because it is important and he is standing his ground! 
A 50% giving is excessive; the Pharisees regarded 20% as generous.
He has cheated, defrauded. He offers far more than the law required. 
  
v9 God has come to this corrupt man. Here is a true "son of Abraham, a spiritual son. 
TodaySalvation has come to this house/household.
  
v10
The Son of Man seeks the lost, v10. 
Jesus work was to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel and this is central to Old Testament prophecy and to Jesus ministry, cf. Ezk.34. 
There is a sub-text of positive propaganda in Luke about tax collectors. What is at issue is humility. Jesus has come to save sinners not those who think they are righteous(18v9f)

So we know little else than that there was a Zacchaeus who became a bishop of Jerusalem shortly after Jesus death and there is a house in Jericho called Zacchaeus house! 
He was rich
interested in Jesus
and short
In staying with Zacchaeus, Jesus
changes his mind about just passing through Jericho
and breaks with religious taboos and ceremonial law
and therefore angers people
Zacchaeus responds, by welcoming him to his house.
Zacchaeus in response to the grumblers offers to make communal reparation and give half of his money to the poor and to pay back 4times over, those he defrauded, all much more than was required by Jewish law.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18) but Jesus says to Zacchaeus “Today salvation (wholeness/repair) has come to this house”. Zacchaeus had been restored to the community as a Son of Abraham. a true Jew. An outsider has become an insider.

Zacchaeus represents those who are excluded by the religious, the little people who are pushed out of the way. Who are the little people we push aside and don’t mix with because they are not respectable? Who would be Zacchaeus in our community? Who would Jesus move from the edge to the centre? Who are the invisible in our churches and in our society that God cares about and so should we? Some of the people who are invisible are among us!

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