16 November 2010Luke 19:1-10
"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." (vv. 9-10)
Here is another familiar story where our familiarity may stop us
noticing again how extraordinary Jesus is, and how he brings out
the very best in people.
We may have views of tax collectors today, but they would be very mild compared to the time of this story. They were largely self-employed in that they gathered taxes on behalf of the Romans and took a percentage of that tax as their pay. This wasn't dishonest as such but it did mean that they could abuse their power. Zacchaeus might have been such a man, but that isn't clear. He was however, rich, and presumably, this was because he was both good at his job, and liberal in his percentages. Being a rich tax collector is not going to make you popular, and yet that wasn't his main problem. His real issue was that he was working for the Romans. He was a traitor and, worse still, by handling Roman money he was putting himself outside his own community because their money was tainted with an image of a Roman deity - Caesar himself.
Jesus self-invitation to tea was therefore controversial in a way that would be hard for us to imagine. It put Jesus himself into the category of the ritually unclean, it made him vulnerable to the accusation of 'mixing with the wrong sort', and by association a traitor as well. This brave acceptance of another's hospitality allowed Zacchaeus to review his life, to give away much of his wealth and check back through his books for where he has crossed the boundary between honest percentages and dishonest exploitation. This was a good start, but interestingly not the whole way to be acceptable in the eyes of the Jewish community. He doesn't hand in his Roman franchise for tax collecting, and yet Jesus still says the unthinkable, "he too is a son of Abraham". Jesus declares that far from being outside the community because of being a traitor and ritually unclean, Zacchaeus, by virtue of his generosity and willingness to behave honestly, is indeed still a member.
Where does this story resonate with your own life experience now?
Why does it matter to you that Jesus does not insist on a full 'turn around' from Zacchaeus?
In Prisons Week, is there anyone we from whom we would find it difficult to accept hospitality?
Teach me to be a generous giver of my wealth and a gracious receiver of others' kindness.