A CAMEL? A NEEDLE’S EYE?
Lord, truly You are no respecter of persons.
Read LUKE 19:1–10
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
New International Version (NIV)
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“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)
Jesus, the new Joshua, is in Jericho, not to overthrow it (cf., Joshua 6), but to save its lost. This specifies our mission: shalom for poor and rich alike. Reading previous passages, one gets the impression that Luke has little hope for the rich. However, in Luke 18:35 – 19:10 we see that Jesus loves and calls rich and poor alike. A camel can get through a needle’s eye (Luke 18:25)! As chief tax-collector, Zacchaeus is prospering wildly through his tax scam. Such collectors were infamous for taking their own cut on top of Rome’s requirements. Unsurprisingly, they were despised as traitors and robbers. They were also seen as sinners (7). For Jesus, they are no worse than the rest of us.
Zacchaeus, short of stature, climbs a tree in order to see Jesus. Jesus spots him and invites himself to stay with Zacchaeus. What we see here is the Master’s desire to dwell with us all – he sees us and knocks on our hearts’ doors. Zacchaeus responds correctly to Jesus’ invitation – he hurries down and welcomes Jesus joyfully. Moreover, he resolves to give half his wealth to the poor (such as Bartimaeus – see Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35) and pay four times what he has taken illegitimately. This is stunning, since only 20 per cent restitution plus repayment was required (Leviticus 5:16)! He subsequently welcomes Jesus into his home.
At mealtime Jesus announces Zacchaeus’ salvation – praise God! A lost man and his family have entered the kingdom. His welcome of Jesus implies repentance, and his social concern testifies to his changed heart. Despite his reprehensible form of employment, he remains a son of Abraham, forever a member of God’s people. At this point, Jesus issues the most succinct qualification of his mission in the Gospels: “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (10, TNIV). Filled with the Spirit, this is our mission – let’s do it!
Can you think of a modern day example of Zachaeus? Perhaps someone in your circle of acquaintances?
God, give me a heart like Zacchaeus. Open my eyes to see the lost, the Zacchaeus amidst the trees of life. Give me the courage to reach out to them.