God of abundance, you have poured out a large measure of earthly blessings: our table is richly furnished, our cup overflows, and we live in safety and security. Teach us to set our hearts on you and not these material blessings. Keep us from becoming captivated by prosperity, and grant us in wisdom to use your blessings to your glory and to the service of humankind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wee Little Man . . .
More than a Song
Jesus isn’t supposed to be with Zacchaeus. Jesus isn’t supposed to be with anyone who is unclean or not somehow “proper”. Good people weren’t supposed to associate with folks like Zacchaeus, but Jesus isn’t affected by what “they” think about his actions. Jesus isn’t a politician trying to win votes by watching the polls. Jesus doesn’t care if his dinner with Zacchaeus doesn’t look good for the crowds. Jesus only cares about his mission to love, bless and save the world and he is willing to do whatever it takes “to seek out and save the lost.”
By all accounts, Zacchaeus was lost. Zacchaeus may have been a wee little man, but his disconnectedness from his community was enormous. He was a tax collector who was working for the Romans, despite the fact that they were a conquering force occupying his homeland. On top of that, he was apparently a dishonest tax collector who was cheating and defrauding his neighbors.
He was a sinner many times over, which of course meant, he was exactly the type of person that Jesus was hoping to meet. You can read about Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus in Luke 19:1-11.
So What Does this Mean?: No Need to Hide in the Background
Now given his standing in the community, Zacchaeus may have expected Jesus to look at him in the same judgmental, disapproving way that his neighbors did. Jesus, however, looks at Zacchaeus and sees something that Zacchaeus couldn’t see in himself. Jesus looks at Zacchaeus and sees a desire to connect to God’s Word – – sees someone desperate for a new beginning. Jesus looks at Zacchaeus and sees not a sinner who needed to be condemned, but a child of God with the potential for goodness and faithfulness.
The people grumbling about Jesus’ choice of dinner companions certainly didn’t understand, but Zacchaeus did. Zacchaeus seems to understand instantly that Jesus wasn’t there to judge him, but there to love him unconditionally. Zacchaeus seems to understand almost instantly that his life was about more than making more money and accumulating more stuff. Zacchaeus seems to understood instantly that he needed to make some changes – – that he needed to look at others with the same compassion and love that Jesus was showing him.
Now please notice that in this entire life changing encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus never once raises his voice. Jesus doesn’t judge. Jesus doesn’t condemn. Jesus meets Zacchaeus where he is – – in a tree, in his house, in his brokenness and Jesus loves him unconditionally. Jesus models compassion and caring and Zacchaeus’ whole life is changed. Zacchaeus’ whole community is changed for the better. The world can be a judgmental place, but Jesus does not see us as the world sees us. Jesus sees each of us a beloved, valued child of God.
Please answer these questions in the comment section below.
1. How do you think Zacchaeus’ neighbors treated him after he began to repay people he defrauded and treat people more fairly? Do you think they were initially trusting or suspicious?
2. What is one thing you could do to extend God’s love to someone who is considered an outcast?
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ dignified our labor by sharing our toil. Guide us with your justice, so that we may never value things above people, or surrender to the love of money or lust for power. Prosper all efforts to put an end to work that brings no joy, and teach us how to seek the common good; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Opening and Closing Prayers adapted from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.