Reformation Sunday The Gospel of Luke 19:1-10 Jesus 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.”
Let us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, you did not spare your only Son, but gave him up for us all to be our Savior, and along with him you have graciously given us all things. We thank you for your precious, saving gospel, and we pray that you would help us to believe in the name of our Savior faithfully and steadfastly, for he alone is our righteousness and wisdom, our comfort and peace, so that we may stand on the day of his appearing; through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, our Lord. Amen.
Today Jesus also calls out to us: “Come down from your tree and take me to your home. I wish to spend time with you!” Will we immediately “come down from our tree” and respond to Jesus’ call? Or will we sit there for a while trying to decide what to do? Today Jesus will invite Himself into our home! The question for us is: Will we allow him into our hearts? Our home? Or will we ignore his request? Zacchaeus was not attempting to be found; he desired to see. In fact, by positioning himself in the tree, he diminished the possibility of having a direct encounter with Jesus. That suggests that Zacchaeus may have even wanted to be hidden from view; he wanted to be a spectator or remote observer. At the very least, we can determine that being acknowledged himself was not his priority. He just wants to see Jesus. Like Zacchaeus, we can easily become lost and aware that we have made materialism a priority. The key to our salvation is how we respond to this realization. Permanent salvation requires prayer, processing regret, and restitution. We must also actively seek forgiveness, enter an examination of self and love God and neighbor. The most challenging transition is a cleaning process of expressing gratitude for Christ’s help. Perhaps the most significant attitude we can take toward Jesus is to humbly proclaim our Zacchaeus story to others in deeds and actions. Doesn’t it strike you as a tad coincidental that, just when Zacchaeus was ripe for conversion, Jesus happens to be passing through? Jesus just happens to be in the neighborhood at the right moment for Zacchaeus to catch sight of his forgiving face. But for some reason, Zacchaeus was interested in seeing and hearing Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was transformative; it gave him a new commitment to economic justice. his story challenges us today to consider how slanted and unjust our society’s economic system is and the role we play in any injustices. In recent years, the rich have grown richer, and the poor and not-so-poor have grown poorer. Churches are places where all economic classes are represented and are in dialogue. Churches are also places where Jesus’ teachings of loving our neighbors should lead to a desire for economic justice for everyone in our society. Surely then, churches should be a good place to consider how we can be inspired by Zacchaeus to put God’s call for economic justice into actions that lead to fairness as well as increased political and economic stability in our societies. It wasn’t coincidence at all. It is one more sign of God’s excellent timing. Of course, when God consistently seeks us out in every time and every place, there are bound to be times when God or Jesus “shows up” just at the right time. Jesus looks up to an embodied person and sees the face of God. “Zacchaeus gets a new face. He discovers his own face in the face of Jesus. And his face is filled with joy”. Jesus calls him by his name, and he quickly comes down. Jesus doesn’t preach repentance but invites Zacchaeus to experience God’s unconditional love. This invitation sparks Zacchaeus’s repentance. Zacchaeus has been accepted. He has “come into contact with his own dignity” We all like Zacchaeus, the shy man who did not want to attract any attention yet ended up getting far beyond his expectations. Jesus could see what he really desired in the depths of his heart and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house. All who saw this began to grumble, but Jesus faced this criticism by proclaiming that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house. Try to imagine yourself present in this scene: would you be like the hesitant Zacchaeus, like the complaining crowd or like the merciful and strong Jesus? How many of us participate in systems of oppression and refuse to confront them because of the benefits we receive? How often do we reject the possibility of reform out of fear of how we might be impacted by the resulting change? How many of us enter our worship spaces satisfied to observe Jesus from a distance and never seek a more intimate and meaningful encounter…because we just know that the closer we get to Jesus, the closer Jesus gets to us?
A song many of us learned in Sunday School. Zacchaeus was a wee little man And a wee little man was he He climbed up in a sycamore tree For the Lord he wanted to see
And when the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree And said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down! For I’m going to your house today! For I’m going to your house today!’
Zacchaeus was a wee little man But a happy man was he For he had seen the Lord that day And a happy man was he; And a very happy man was he