After an infamous career working the world’s oldest city, the intersection of antiquity where imports come and exports go, where merchandize is peddled on the hoods of camels, Zacchaeus had pillaged Jericho. But even with his influence as the chief tax collector and his sprawling villa in the Jordan valley suburbs, his life of betrayal and corruption and exploitation left him short in spiritual stature.
Just as the Gerasene demoniac was restored to his sanity; Jairus’ daughter was awakened from her sleep; the hemorrhaging woman was dried of her blood; the leper was turned around in praise; the Prodigal was welcomed home. And in today’s text, a lost Zacchaeus is finally found.
In Luke’s Gospel, salvation- God’s will to make us well, to heal our hurts, to render us whole- is always primary. So what, then, does salvation require?
Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Having faith in Jesus rather than self and money.
Changing your perspective, stop looking eye-level at life.
That salvation is always relational, it comes to the entire household.
Salvation first requires knowing that it only begin outside of ourselves. That God is the grand initiator, seeking us most when we’re out on a limb. Our response is to make haste once the invitation comes, to climb down from the tree and set the table.
Dignified men only walked in the ancient world. But the movements of faith compel the reckless steps of shame, the utter folly of publically sprinting towards Jesus. The embarrassment of running through the crowd’s jeers and ruining your reputation.
Despite the separation of Church and State, salvation is inherently political. The saved soul is obligated to affiliate with the Gospel Party, to organize against the systems of oppression, to vote in every election for the conversion of our country, to sign off on legislation that destroys the Empire.
It necessitates the redemption of our wallets, where the avarice of money filled our bank accounts, paying reparations will liquidate them. Shady business deals will be brought into the light and the cheated citizens will be returned four fold. Because eternal life always has more than one beneficiary.
And salvation requires that we intimately associate ourselves with poverty. The divestment of possession, the 50% of our stuff that goes to the clothing closet and the soup kitchen and the housing project. The new life that comes from solidarity with a man born homeless in Bethlehem.
According to Tradition, after Judas betrayed, the apostles needed to elect a replacement. They went with the publican who became a prophet, the hustler who extended hospitality, the “sawed-off social disaster” named Zacchaeus. (Craddock)
Since then, Jesus has stopped beneath all of our perches places to call us by name, to invite himself over for dinner and into our hearts.