November 2013 - Zacchaeus and the Crowd

The story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector, is all too familiar (see Luke 19). Zac is short, and he can’t see over the crowd to see who all the fuss is about (imagine the crowd around a celebrity today, pushing and shoving) so he climbs a tree, to see better.

The crowd don’t come out well in this story. To them, Zac is doubly bad - he’s a collaborator with the Romans, AND he got rich by defrauding people. Only other shady characters would want to be near him - so the crowd want to keep him away. You can imagine them shouldering him out, as they all try to get close to Jesus — only to have Jesus invite himself home for dinner with Zac! The crowd mumble-grumble - this isn’t the way a religious teacher should behave! He should dine with the best of us, not the worst! But Jesus insists, and the crowd has to make way.

Zac is overcome — somebody actually wants to talk to him for a change! He decides to make up with the poor and those he has taken too much tax from. Jesus declares that Zac was lost, but now is saved, and they all lived happily ever after. Well not quite all, but you know what I mean.

Where are we left? All too often, we focus on how Zac has changed in this story, and we like to think we are like him - changed for the better. But are we, perhaps, more like the crowd than like Zac? Do we, good church people, also stand shoulder to shoulder to keep the undesirable away from Jesus and out of our churches? And do we perhaps say things that are meant to do the same?

We fall well short of the mark Jesus sets if we do. And our churches are empty, in part, because we do. Being nice with people like us is not what Christianity is about. It is time to learn from Jesus again, to look around, to look beneath the surface — for Zac too is ‘one of us', and so are the people around us. You and me. No matter how different. God bless us!

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.