Where in our world today do we see the sort of faith or desperation displayed by Zacchaeus: hungry just to glimpse love and mercy and willing to be ridiculed for displaying the need? “He was trying to see who Jesus was...” Is that not also our cause?
Apparently Zacchaeus' wealth didn't count for much when it came to getting a front-row seat. Despite (or maybe because of) his being a representative of the Roman government, the crowd does not part so that Zacchaeus can see Jesus. The cultural mores of the time expected men of position to always maintain their dignity in public. They did not hitch up their robes, expose their knees and run through the town. But Luke tells us that love impelled the father of the prodigal son (chap. 15) to do all those things. Nor did men of status climb trees. Can you imagine the laughter and taunts of the crowd when they saw such a spectacle? But Zacchaeus would not be deterred; he lets nothing stand in the way of his seeing Jesus. – Joseph McHugh
One of the fascinating aspects of this story is that Zacchaeus asks nothing of Jesus. His goal is just to see this man he's been hearing about. He figures if he scurries up a tree, then when Jesus passes by, he'll get his look. Just a look; that's all he's after. But what prompts him to only want to look? . . . [H]e couldn't imagine a holy man such as Jesus was reported to be to paying any attention to him at all. The very religious were those most likely to shun him and deal with him only because the Roman law required it. – Jerry L. Harber
The prophet denounces a shallow religion that knows all the proper forms and rituals but is lacking sincerity of heart and purity of life. We can actually hear the disgust the LORD feels: “I have had enough of burnt offerings”. . . “incense is an abomination to me” . . . “I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.” And the reason for the LORD's loathing is the chasm, the great abyss between what the rituals represent and what the lives of the worshipers truly reveal. Offering “many prayers” (v 15) will not gain the LORD's attention when the hands of those who pray are full of blood. Rather, the Lord requires both the cessation of sin—“Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good”—and the living of virtuous lives—“Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” – Joseph McHugh
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
When Paul talked about Jesus coming into a life, he said, the result would be to produce such a change that the person had to be described as a new creature. . . It would be a noticeable difference to all who knew this person, but perhaps even more important, it would be noticeable to the person to whom it happened. This is the mark of restoration—that like Zacchaeus, we behave differently.
So here we are today, looking for Jesus, much as Zacchaeus did. And here we will encounter him and he will invite us to sup with him. What will we do in response to that affirmation and acceptance? Will we surprise anyone? – Jerry L. Harber
Jerry L. Harber, a retired United Methodist pastor, has served as campus minister at Univ. of Tennessee, faculty member at Memphis Theological Seminary, couples counselor, and clergy staff of Church of the Holy Communion, Episcopal, in Memphis, Tennessee.
Joseph McHugh is a freelance writer from New Jersey, and a former weekly newspaper columnist writing on lectionary readings whose writing includes a revision of Rev. Melvin L Farrell’s Getting to Know the Bible (ACTA Publications, 2003).
Homily Service 40, no. 12 (2007): 21-33.