Must  Stay At Your House Today

Scripture    Luke 19:1-10


                                  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus,

                                        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 Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome Jesus…

                                     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.”



What would you do if Jesus knocked on your door and said, "I must stay at your house today."?  Would you be excited or embarrassed? Jesus often "dropped-in" at unexpected times and he often visited the "uninvited" - the poor, the lame, the lepers, the publicans and tax collectors. Today’s Gospel is about the transformative power of one such home visit and dinner party. Jesus  was a guest at the home of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, a wealthy man, and probably despised and treated as an outcast in his own community. Why would Jesus single him out for the honor of staying at his home? 



Once again, we see Jesus operating outside the expected norm. Jesus reached out to publicans. Jesus spotted the person in need. Jesus recognized when a person was ready to receive the gift of awareness. Jesus was entering the town of Jericho and happened to look up and see Zacchaeus perched on the limb of a sycamore tree by the side of the road. In a kind of snapshot moment, Jesus says to himself... I see you. I caught that look in your eye. I sense your sincerity and humility. Just because you are here today - waiting for hope and healing and a new life – I want to spend more time with you. He shouted out to him, ” Zacchaeus, hurry, and come down, for I must stay at your house today!”



The interior attitude of Zacchaeus indicates something more than curiosity. He is ripe for change and his heart is open and receptive to the person of Jesus. His small stature and the press of the crowd effectively would have shut off Zacchaeus' view, so that he could not see Jesus. But there was something else that blocked his way. According to the Judaism of that time, his tax collector career would have excluded him from membership in the People of God who were to benefit from the Messiah's coming. The Pharisees had categorically excluded all publicans. It could be that Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus' calling the publican, Matthew, to be in his band of apostles. Perhaps the story had spread around town about Jesus paying a compliment to the penitent publican in that parable of the Pharisee and the publican. These might well have been stimulants prompting his eagerness to come out and see for himself this Jesus of Nazareth as he passed through Jericho. I wonder if he too was hoping, wondering - if he could be welcomed and saved by encountering this Jesus?



One has to admit that this is perhaps one of the most humorous passages in sacred scripture. The petite Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore tree and waiting to catch a glimpse of this Jesus through the branches. Trying to be discreet, he  lies low, undercover of the branches, and at a safe distance from the crowds. He waits in privacy to check out this holy man, Jesus of Nazareth. This seeking and hiding forms the scene for an unexpected personal encounter with life-changing consequences! That a man of this chief publican's dignity would have resorted to such a maneuver suggests his foresight, energy, determination, and ingenuity. It might be well for us to examine how much effort and energy we put into seeking more knowledge of Jesus. To what extent do we apply ourselves in our spiritual journey? Are we willing to go out on some limbs to explore, to stretch our perceptions and expect possibilities of even more inclusiveness.   



And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at your house.”  And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. Jesus reveals his remarkable intuitive knowledge of the heart of Zacchaeus. He knew not only the name of the man in the sycamore tree, but the state of his heart. The name, Zacchaeus actually means “the pure or innocent one.” He knew he needed God's merciful love and in his brief personal encounter with Jesus he found more than he imagined possible. Once in his home, grace flows. His conversion of heart moves into action. He shows the depth of his repentance by deciding to give half of his goods to the poor and to use the other half for making restitution for any fraud or wrongful action he may have committed against anyone. Zacchaeus' testimony included more than words. His change of heart resulted in a change of life, a change that the whole community would experience as genuine. Having welcomed Jesus into his home, everything seemed to realign with “the kingdom” values and he readily detached himself from his goods. They are no longer ‘the treasure’ to be prized! 



But the onlookers faced their own ignorance. When they saw Jesus make this move towards Zacchaeus, they all murmured, saying, “He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.” The moment Jesus ran counter to their prejudices, all else was forgotten. That great multitude, clamoring for the kingdom of God to start, did not have the slightest conception of what God's kingdom truly would be. What kind of grumbling do we still carry on with today when the Gospel challenges us to step outside our comfortable pew and our neat and tidy parameters of who’s in and who’s out; who fits and belongs; and who is ostracized, acclaimed an outsider. Have we even begun to grasp that there are no barriers and no dualities in God's kingdom? 



“Today has salvation come to this house."  Zacchaeus' financial resolution had just been made. But it was not just his giving money away that saved this man and his whole household, It was his joyful reception of Jesus into his home and heart. Zacchaeus was a man of rugged honesty, piety, and devotion.  He was a son of Abraham, in spirit as well as by descent. Formerly, the Jews had denied the right of a publican to be considered a son of Abraham. Jesus has come saying, “I have come to seek and save that which was lost.” All of humanity alike are lost and without hope until we shall joyfully receive the experience of being loved unconditionally by God. In the New Testament, this word "lost" simply means “in the wrong place" (Barclay). We are living and acting 'in the wrong place' when we make those exclusions and limitations that our false, illusory self tries to righteously maintain as truth. Jesus came to proclaim a universal salvation. May we all "Hurry and come down, today" out of our haughty perches and know-it-all attitudes and safe hiding places. Surprise us, O God. Shout out the GOOD news. Guide us back 'home' to live from our true, authetic selves.



Jesus is always ready to make his home with us. Do you make room for him in your heart and in your home? "Lord, come and stay with me.  Fill my home with your presence and fill my heart with your praise.  Help me to show kindness and mercy to all, even those who cause me harm. Enter my home today! 



Carrying Grace         Abide in me as I abide in you. Remain in My Love. 




#3 arletteh 2010-10-30 23:19
Zacchaeus’(and our) spirit ! Yes, the greening life is in our spirits, even when we hit the low points; even when all else around us seems barren. The road ahead is ever upward, for Jesus draws us up to himself, his risen Self!

#2 arletteh 2010-10-30 23:12
I read that Luke crafts his writings very well: Jesus and his disciples are on the road to Jerusalem. In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the disciples are passing through Jericho. It is a very steep, barren climb to Jerusalem Interesting that it is from Jericho, this very low place that Zacchaeus comes. In relation to his own people, Zacchaeus is the lowest and most despised of men. He must have been interested in Jesus, for he wanted to see Jesus . Jesus, too knew him, for he calls Zacchaeus by name! Zacchaeus is so much like a child: free, uninhibited, curious, quick and is even small like a child. His spirit is in the long run, open, and that is his salvation! That childlike spirit is his true self. Jesus sees it and restores him to it. What joy there must have been in both Jesus’ and Zacchaeus’ hearts, at the “kairos’ moment of conversion! And what joy in heaven at the lost now found! Like the verdant oasis that is Jericho in the midst of the wilderness is the little mustard seed in Zacchaeus’(and our) spirit ! Yes, the greening life is in our spirits, even when we hit the low points; even when all else around us seems barren. The road ahead is ever upward, for Jesus draws us up to himself, his risen Self!
#1 debbiec 2010-10-30 12:48
Perhpas--to move away from the negative--it is not so much the depth of his "repentence" as it is the depth of his "conversion" that makes the story of Zacchaeus so joyful! Jesus lived a life of inclusion and rather than make people feel unworthy, he did just the opposite. Just a thought!

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