As Zacchaeus hurries down from his perch in the sycamore tree and welcomes Jesus to his house, everyone witnessing this scene starts murmuring. We can hear them now: “What kind of man would go to the house of a chief tax collector for dinner? Is he out of his mind? Who does Zacchaeus think he is?” Just imagine the scene.
During the time of the Roman Empire, a tax collector, or publican, was an outcast for several reasons. A type of entrepreneur, the chief tax collector contracted to collect taxes and tolls and hired local residents to assist him. He was responsible for paying the government but was also free to collect extra taxes. Such a system invited abuse and resulted not only in the tax collector’s making a profit but also in corruption, theft, and fraud becoming part of the system. Jews rejected tax collectors because in the course of their work, they came in contact with ritually unclean people.
Despite Zacchaeus’s ill-gotten wealth, tainted occupation, and undignified sitting in a tree, Jesus seeks him out of the crowd, showering him with loving attention. Jesus recognizes an outcast, whose entire family probably suffered shame, embarrassment, and rejection because of his occupation. His acknowledgment of Zacchaeus and his family’s human worth and dignity fills their need for Jesus’ redeeming grace.
Zacchaeus repents, promising to give to the poor and to make restitution to those whom he has cheated. Jesus then tells Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.” For Zacchaeus and for all of us, the day of salvation brings transformation, deliverance, and new life in Christ.
Holy and life-giving God, thank you for seeing us in the crowd and offering us the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Help us humbly to repent and follow you daily. Amen.
Habakkuk stands aghast at the “destruction and violence” all around and wonders how justice never seems to conquer. At the end of the reading, God contrasts the proud, whose spirit “is not right in them,” with the righteous who live by faith. The psalmist delights in God’s righteousness and in the commandments of God; however, he admits that “I am small and despised.” The psalmist’s “trouble and anguish” appear in Second Thessalonians also, but here the “persecutions and the af ictions” endured by the faithful serve a particular end: They stand as signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house,” which reminds us that the righteous who live by faith are not necessarily the socially or religiously acceptable.
• Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. What situations in your life and world cause you to cry out to God, “How long?”?
• Read Psalm 119:137-144. Who have you known who trusts God implicitly? How has that person’s example helped you in the past? How might you let it help you in the future?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. How will you offer Christ’s peace to someone you meet today?
• Read Luke 19:1-10. Jesus’ interaction caused Zacchaeus to trust God and straighten out his life. Where and with whom might God be leading you to share with others the heart of Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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