Sunday Gathered Worship, October 30, 2016
By Elizabeth Dede
Things happen fast in this story.
Jesus plans to pass through Jericho. He’s not going to stop for a sermon, or do some healing. He’s got another destination in mind.
Zaccheus gets wind of Jesus’ trip through town, and because he is small, he runs ahead to climb up in a tree to see the Lord. I remember when I was a little kid, we had a big tree in our backyard, and I could climb up to the top and look all the way across the tops of the houses to the next neighborhood over the highway. It was exciting to be up that high. Now I’m afraid of heights. I get sick just watching movies about mountain climbing. But Zaccheus didn’t have any fear of heights. He ran ahead and climbed up that tree.
I don’t much care for sycamore trees. They’re kind of trashy. They have big leaves, and they’re the last to get their leaves in the spring. In the fall, they are the first to turn brown and drop their big old leaves. They make a mess. But I’m thankful for sycamore trees because we might not have this story without them. What if there hadn’t been a tree for Zaccheus to climb? He would have stood up on his toes, stretching and straining, but he wouldn’t have seen the Lord.
The interns and I did some reading about the South African term Ubuntu, which means I see you, and I am seen by you. This was used after apartheid in the Truth and Reconciliation to help people find the humanity in each other, even after terrible atrocities had been committed.
Zaccheus climbs up in the sycamore tree, and he sees Jesus, but the story doesn’t end there. He is also seen by Jesus. Jesus tells him to come down quickly. The pace of the story is rapid. Zaccheus doesn’t take his time. He quickly comes down. He must have wondered why Jesus singled him out. After all, the only thing that made him unique was how despised he was. He was a tax collector. He must have had a “Who me?” and a “Why me?” moment.
I hope Zaccheus had his house in order because Jesus tells him that he must stay with him. You never know when you might have guests.
And so, off they go to Zaccheus’ house. He is joyful. You can feel his excitement in this story. But as happens in all stories, there are other characters who don’t share the joy. They grumble and complain. You’d think by this time that they would have figured out that Jesus came for people like Zaccheus. He isn’t your everyday, run-of- the-mill preacher.
Zaccheus isn’t afraid, or cowed, by these grouches. He is moved by Jesus’ acceptance of him and seeks reconciliation with all those whom he has wronged. And since he was a tax collector, that was probably a lot of people. It makes you wonder if he had anything left by the time he had paid off all those people. But I don’t think he would have cared. He found the Lord. He had been in a hurry, and he found what made for Justice and Peace in his life.
It seems that perhaps because of Zaccheus’ enthusiasm, Jesus welcomes him into the family. He is no longer the outcast. Salvation comes to him. He is a son of Abraham.
So let us be in a hurry to see Jesus. And as we are welcomed into the family, let us also be in a hurry to seek reconciliation, to make it right, to find peace and joy in our lives.