Tax collectors during Jesus’ time are generally known for their corrupt practices and their relationship with the Roman empire. This is not the kind of person that one might naturally put in close proximity with Jesus. Yet, here is Zacchaeus, a tax collector, intent on seeing Jesus. Zacchaeus finds the notion of Jesus’ presence in Jericho so pressing that he will not allow the crowd to get in his way. He wants to see Jesus for himself; he wants to bear witness to Jesus’ presence. The problem is that Zacchaeus is short, and despite his wealth, he can not buy access to Jesus.
Zacchaeus reminds me that hearing about Jesus secondhand often is not good enough. Accounts of Jesus’ work, mission, and presence are magnificent, but they cannot replace a close encounter with him. I would love it if Jesus would just come to me all the time. Sometimes Jesus does come to us; he meets us in our pain, our woundedness, our strength, and our joy. However, as disciples, we also have a responsibility to doggedly pursue Jesus’ presence. We are called to bear witness to Jesus as he moves. Nothing about our status, bank accounts, intelligence, or allegiances will grant us access to Jesus; only our pursuit.
It seems peculiar that the author tells us that Zacchaeus is short, except that Zacchaeus “ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree.” Sycamore trees are huge. I have to imagine that it would not have been easy for Zacchaeus to climb. I suppose that he ran ahead to give himself sufficient time to get to a place where he could see Jesus passing.
And somehow Jesus sees him! He sees him, invites himself into Zacchaeus’s home, and Zacchaeus is happy to welcome him. We often make excuses for why we can’t rush to Jesus, but this text reminds us that we have everything we need to make our way to Jesus. And Jesus sees us. Jesus invites himself into our presence. All we have to do is welcome him.
God, help us to run to Jesus knowing he will recognize us and welcome us. Amen.
This week includes All Saints Day, when we remember those who have come before and handed down the faith to us, especially through trials. Habakkuk reminds us that our predecessors sometimes suffered discouragement, but the righteous have always lived by faith. The psalmist also has experienced hard times, but he knows that God’s commandments are true and lead to life. The Thessalonians have experienced persecution as well; yet through their strength their faith and love continue to grow to the glory of Christ. May the same be said of us and our church communities! The famous story of Zacchaeus illustrates that the crowd of faithful witnesses that we celebrate on All Saints Day includes those who have been lost—outsiders—for Jesus comes to seek and save the lost.
Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. How can you wait actively for God’s response to your prayers and complaints? How will you enact God’s response when it comes?
Read Psalm 119:137-144. How do you persist in following God’s commandments in the face of injustice and corruption?
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. The work of the church has never been easy. How does your faith community work to exude God’s love in a time when many reject or feel rejected by church institutions?
Read Luke 19:1-10. When have you run to Jesus? How can you share your experience so others pursue Jesus as well?
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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