Yesterday we were introduced to a rich civic leader whose wealth and treasure became for him a barrier to embracing the love of the father seen in Jesus the messiah. Today we are introduced to a man who was despised by the jewish people in his region because of his traitorous activity yet is never the less embraced by Jesus. On the back of the words of Jesus that what seems impossible for humanity is possible with God (18:27), the one who appears to be ‘impossible’ is ushered into the Kingdom of God by the person of Jesus. This encounter is indeed a living breathing parable of grace and love and mercy and reveals to us in living colour, the truth of the gospel of God – impossible people are swept into the Kingdom of God.
Zacchaeus was by all accounts, an incredibly wealthy man and the decisions he had made in life were decisions directly aimed at accumulating wealth. He has chosen to place himself in a position of being despised by the people in order to embrace the wealth he wanted. This was not a situation in which he was living the life of a petty criminal because he needed food; Zacchaeus intentionally turned his back on Jewish security and friendship in order to become wealthy. But he was not satisfied for he realised that wealth and possessions did not satisfy his deeper longings. This mans idol of greed had consumed his life and arrested his affections yet he was bereft of purpose and meaning and life itself and he recognised this. In so many ways, he is very similar to the wealthy civic leader of yesterdays reading, and yet he is so very different in his response to his encounter with Jesus. This wealthy man welcomed Jesus and in so doing he welcomed the putting aside of the idol of greed and embraced the life of surrender. The words of Jesus to Zacchaeus in verse 5 provide a mini incarnation experience; “The word (the Son of God) became human and moved into the neighbourhood” as seen in John 1:14 are indeed realised afresh in the life of Zacchaeus as Jesus ‘moves into his immediate neighbourhood’. The response of Zacchaeus to the gospel of God was one of putting down his idolisation of wealth and his open embrace of the one in whom is found, the treasures of the Kingdom of God. Who or what are you embracing today?