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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jesus and Zacchaeus

(Note: This is a brief comment I shared with Danijel Berkovic concerning Jesus and Zacchaeus from his article in Kairos Vol 7 No. 2 Zagreb, 2013: Jesus and Abraham.   gt)

The term son of Abraham as used by Jesus may well have been a technical term for genuine Jewishness and religious identification. However, the mere application of the label, even by Jesus, could well have been dismissed by the Jews, especially in the matter of Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was as much maligned then as he is slandered from many pulpits, today. The man was a Jewish tax collector in the service of Rome. Yes, he was considered a traitor by the Jews. He was unconditionally assumed to be a robber, as tax collectors in general, who helped themselves by exacting tax fees for Rome, but also for themselves. Thereby, tax collectors like Zacchaeus became rich.

There is good reason to believe Zacchaeus is a lesson for the Jews and the saints in Christ on their blind biased judgments. I have often posed the same question to children and to adults: Why was Zacchaeus able to see Jesus? Invariably, the response is the same from both; because he climbed up on a sycamore tree.

How is it adults have gained no more insight than children despite having more years in the faith, generally? One reason is they are merely parroting what has been told and re-told about Zacchaeus over the centuries.

Did Zacchaeus see Jesus because he climbed up on a sycamore tree or could it be that his entire interaction with Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy about the blessed who are pure in heart for they shall see God? Could it be that Zacchaeus saw Jesus because as was the root of his name (pure) so too was his heart? Where Zacchaeus might have hoped to just catch a glimpse of Jesus it was Jesus (God) who saw him and invited himself to the home of Zacchaeus.

Once Zacchaeus was before Jesus, in the presence of God, he extended an invitation to anyone whom he might have defrauded to step forward and he would compensate them fourfold. There are no takers to Zacchaeus’ offer. He could unabashedly make such an offer because he knew in the integrity of his heart and a righteousness of God he was not as he was and continues to be maligned. Jesus saw what Zacchaeus knew about himself, but what many of us can see.