November 3, 2019 Onboard the MS Koningsdam
Wisdom 11, 22 – 12,1 + Psalm 145 + 2 Thessalonians 1, 11 – 2,2 + Luke 19, 1-10
Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector provides one of the most well-loved stories in the Bible. It a story with many layers from which we can all explore the will of God. It is an Incarnational story that in figurative language reveals what God intended by sending his Son. He came to stay in our house, here on earth, here in human flesh. It is a story of the salvation Jesus brings as he seeks the lost and the most despised by this world, but yet loved by God. It is a conversion story, the best kind of conversion, it begins with a conversion of heart, a change of life, a change of values, which is always better than an intellectual conversion This is also a story/lesson about wealth, a topic frequently raised in Luke’s Gospel. It affirms that there is nothing wrong or bad about being rich. What matters is how one became that way, and what is done with it.
As we sail today headed toward Spain and then ultimately toward home for some of us, those words of Jesus to Zacchaeus are comforting and challenging. “I have come to stay in your house today.” It is both a reminder of what God is doing through his Son, and a reminder of the conversion to which we are called. Zacchaeus ceased to be a spectator that day, by the grace of God and presence of Jesus Christ. At first, he wanted to see, and he got more than he wanted. He got to see the great, patient mercy of God. As he climbs down from that tree, a new man, he is no longer a spectator, but now a participant in the work of Jesus Christ. He had been a man who took from others. Now he is a man who gives to others. He does way more than what might have been required or expected. He gives half of what he has away, and then repays four times over what he took. There is extravagance here that is only matched by the extravagance of God’s love and mercy.
While the crowd can only murmur and judge seeing this man by his past, it is not so with God who created us all good. That goodness never goes away. It’s always there somewhere and just needs to be rediscovered. The old German writer and statesman, Goethe, left us with a description of what God is doing here and a suggestion of how we might continue the work of God. He said: “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become”. We have to learn from Jesus how to see people.