Written by Peter Bush
Isaiah 1:10-18; Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10
Message: Given the readings for this Sunday it is probably impossible for the preacher to not give substantial space to Zacchaeus. We are drawn quickly to Zacchaeus’ actions. He goes to see Jesus, climbs a tree, puts on a meal for Jesus, says he will give to the poor. Zacchaeus appears to be the center of the story. On top of that Jesus’ words “Today salvation has come to this house” are said after Zacchaeus’ declaration about giving half his money to the poor and repaying those he defrauded. The preacher may be tempted to preach this text as a call to share with the poor, a call to social justice, and that thsoe who do those things will get right with God; and the Isaiah passage appears to lend support to such a view.
But a closer reading indicates the turning point in the story takes place not at the dinner table but much earlier when Jesus stops under the sycamore tree and says, “Zacchaeus, I am going to your house today.” Yes, Zacchaeus is in the tree wanting to see Jesus, but he is not looking for salvation, he is not expecting a relationship; he is there as a spectator. But Jesus has another agenda inviting Zacchaeus into a relationship.
Being in relationship with Jesus changes people – the Thessalonians Paul says are growing, changed by their faith in (relationship with) Jesus; Zacchaeus’ relationship with Jesus changes him from being a lost son of Abraham to being part of the family of God. Jesus’ “yes” to Zacchaeus, and to all people, is a “yes” to enter into a relationship. A relationship that will change us.
The church so often starts its speaking with a “no” — Jesus starts with a “yes” — trusting that as people enter into relationship with the living God they will be changed, finding themselves part of the family of God. We are invited to let people know of Jesus’ “yes” inviting them into reltionship.
Hymns: “Amazing Grace”, “Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man”
“In that moment Zacchaeus not only saw who Jesus was, he discovered his own long-lost identity. He was a man loved by God with an eternal love, and longed for so much that God had sent his Son on purpose to find him and to rescue him from his lostness by coming personally to his home and bringing the sense of acceptance with God into his very heart.” – David Gooding
“Repentance here isn’t just a change in heart; as in Judaism in general, repentance involves restoration, making amends.” – N.T. (Tom) Wright