November 4, 2001

Luke 19:1-10

... Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way -- he was a short man and couldn't see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home." Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, "What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?"

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, "Master, I give away half my income to the poor -- and if I'm caught cheating, I pay four times the damages."

Jesus said, "Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost."

<The Message >


1. How serious do we have to be about the Bible before we can take it lightly?

A wee little man (are we really only talking stature before others here?) climbs a tree. The tree currently known by tradition as the tree Zacchaeus climbed would take an agile person. Can you imagine that the tree wasn't already occupied by kids who also wanted to see what was going on and couldn't. For Zacchaeus to make it up in the tree he would both need an assisting boost and chase some kids away. I'm sure his riches came in handy at getting him this special stadium box seat.

Jesus, seeing him glittering in his finery, calls out, "Let's go home." Another perk for Zacchaeus. We can tell that from the response of the crowd.

But when Jesus and Zacchaeus come eye-to-eye there is a transformation in Zacchaeus. That which looked like a good deal for Zacchaeus and a bad deal for the crowd turned around. How like Jesus.

The rich man becomes honest! (Is it just my imagination or do corners have to be cut and justified for one to become as rich as Zacchaeus?) Salvation is connected with honesty. How's your salvation/honesty quotient these days?

2. One of the things we are seldom honest about with ourselves, is how much it takes to live on. What keeps sneaking between ourselves and a clear view of "enough" are those pesky details about comfort.

If the world were condensed into 100 people in a small burg, like Jericho, the breakdown might look like this:
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 North and South Americans
  8 Africans
30 white
70 nonwhite
  6 people would possess 59% of the world's wealth, and all would be from the U.S.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer malnutrition
  1 would have a college education
  1 would own a computer
(based on work by Dr. Phillip Harter of Stanford University School of Medicine)

Addressing the U.S. churches, we might be seen as the Zacchaeus in the tree of our day. Before someone objects, this image does not justify acts of terror. It does, however, set the groundwork for changing our relationship to wealth and the rest of the world.

3. The Christian Community Bible comments:

"...The favour Jesus does to [Zacchaeus] compels [Zacchaeus] to manifest the human and good qualities suppressed in his conscience.


"The people are indignant and in that they imitate the Pharisees, they believe that the prophet Jesus should share their cause and even their resentments. But, Jesus is not a demagogue; the crowd's lack of understanding does not matter to him any more than that of the Pharisees. Once again, Jesus shows his power; he destroys evil by saving the sinner."

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