This week’s gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary comes from Luke 19. Those of us with the unique pleasure of attending a Vacation Bible School will immediately start singing the song.
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he!”
Geez! Can you imagine if Zacchaeus was around to hear this song? To know that his awesome story of redemption has been reduced to lousy nursery rhymes!?
Perhaps it is for the best that he doesn’t know about it… Let’s keep it between us.
If you don’t know the story, check out Luke 19:1-10. But as we read through this passage a couple of things stick out to me.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, you will quickly learn that I am big on inclusion. I believe that Jesus’ work extends to the depths of our personal beings but also our social and cultural constructs and allows us to re-imagine what living in community with God and with each other might look like.
As a surprise to no one, Jesus does that same thing here with the diminutive tax collector. Also surprising no one, the crowd is upset by this. We learn that they see Zacchaeus as a sinner. Because of course they do. It seems that no matter who is involved, as soon as we draw a line between us and them, Jesus turns up on the other side.
Moving along, because that horse is getting a little tired. Let’s look at a bit of an inspirational challenge for us. As soon as Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, he does everything he can to make sure he will get to see him. Verse 4 has him sprinting forward and climbing a tree just to steal a glimpse at Jesus. Most of us would hide in the crowd, hoping not to make eye contact. We know what an encounter with Jesus might cost us. We might argue that Zacchaeus did as well, for we see how quickly he forks over a large chunk of his wealth in verse 8. No sooner than Zacchaeus takes on this new way of thinking do we see Jesus announcing that salvation has come to the house.
We might infer from little Zack’s willingness to change his whole way of thinking that he had anticipated the cost of meeting Jesus. One might understand the transformation itself to be his salvation, rather than any results from concrete action. As soon as the fellow changes his mind, he begins participating in the new creation: the kingdom of God.
Do we actively seek out opportunities to encounter Jesus? If so, how frequently do we walk away from that encounter unchanged?
In my experience, not frequently at all.