True Son of Abraham

“Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9)

The great parables of the gospels rarely show us how people respond to God’s grace. We’re not told if the injured man ever tries to thank the Good Samaritan, if the woman caught in adultery truly sins no more, what happens the morning after the Prodigal Son consumes the fatted calf. But when Zacchaeus sees Jesus, and finds acceptance he never expected, he greets the good news by resolving to take on a new kind of life.

We easily miss how shocking Jesus’ call would have been. He had already passed through Jericho, perhaps having already rejected the proper hospitality that would have been offered a visiting rabbi. He sees the little man hidden among the fig tree’s broad leaves.

Climbing trees was shameful behavior for a grown man, much less a wealthy one. Zacchaeus should have been given passage to the front of the crowd, had his crooked trade not made him one marked out for ridicule and contempt.

Could Jesus really be asking for this man’s hospitality? He was headed for Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Was he really prepared to risk defilement by feasting with the motley crew that would lower themselves to sharing Zacchaeus’ table? Would he really spend the night under the wicked man’s roof?

Jesus, of course, sees something in the frightened, wayward little man. He loves him; he offers him a generous chance for reconciliation. Not a hypocritical show, like the temple prancings Isaiah condemns in our Old Testament lesson, but a change from the roots up, a whole new start at living for God.

And Zacchaeus grabbed at that invitation, and threw his whole heart into it. “He received him joyfully,” Luke recalls, and one wonders if Zacchaeus had ever known a joyful day before. He promises lavish restitution, a new future as a just tax collector. Perhaps only humble Pharisees were thinner on the ground in first century Palestine.

Here, Jesus says, is a true son of Abraham, one who has heard the call, and given himself completely to God’s ways. Now he begins what Paul calls “the work of faith” in our epistle lesson, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [him].”

Look It Up

Read Ezek. 34:11-16. How is Jesus claiming for himself the call of Israel’s shepherd?

Think About It

Our epistle lesson reminds us that we need God’s help to fulfill our good resolutions. Do you need to ask him for deeper commitment in an aspect of your life?


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