Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Luke 19:1-10  (NRSV)
He 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.”

We all know the story of Zacchaeus --- most of us learned it as children.

Do you remember?

Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see;
And as the Savior passed that way,
He looked up in the tree,
(and he said)
Zacchaeus you come down
For I’m going to your house today.
For I’m going to your house today.

According to the story ----
          why does Zacchaeus climb the sycamore tree?

He climbs so that he can bet a better view of Jesus because he wants to see him

·         He is intrigued by Jesus
·         He wants to meet Jesus.

He is the hero of our story
          Doing whatever he can see who this Jesus is

He doesn't seem to really know who Jesus is --- he just wants to check him out

But what if we were to hear the story in a different way?

What if, instead of Zacchaeus being the hero of the story ---
          What if Zacchaeus was the villain?

Listen to this version of Zacchaeus according to the RSV (Revised Steve Version)

Jesus came to Jericho and was walking through on his way to Jerusalem

There was a man who lived there --- his name was Zacchaeus and he was filthy rich because he was the chief tax collector.

He had come to check out who this Jesus was, but as he drew closer to the parade route, the crowds saw him and grew angry. 
He had cheated them, stolen their money and was in cahoots with the Romans.

The crowd began chasing Zacchaeus and as he was running away he saw a sycamore tree and he climbed up it to get away from the angry crowd.

Just then Jesus walked by.

Jesus stopped at the tree, turned to Zacchaeus and said to him: “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.”

Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him.

All the people who had chased Zacchaeus, became angry and indignant.  And they said among themselves:
          “What business does Jesus have getting cozy with this crook?”

What if we heard the story told that way?
Very different isn’t it!

Why do I think that way of telling the story is possible?

For a number of reasons.

Think about who Zacchaeus was?

Luke tells us that he was Chief Tax collector and that he was Rich

A "chief tax collector" was an entrepreneur who was under contract with Rome to collect taxes, tolls, tariffs, and custom fees in a designated area.

The way it worked --- this "chief tax collector" would pay Rome a contracted amount in advance, and then collect whatever taxes they wished from the people and whatever was above what he gave to Rome, was his to keep.

It was a very profitable profession --- as our story tells us.

But as you can image --- a tax collector was not one who would be loved, or even respected by the people.

The assumption was that they were dishonest and they were hated by other Jews because they were seen to be collaborators with the Romans who were busy oppressing the Jewish people.

So instead of being the hero of the story --- Zacchaeus becomes the villain.
          And that changes everything

Zacchaeus, when we read the story this way is an outsider --- outcast and not welcome in the Jewish understanding of the kingdom

And think about what Jesus does.

Instead of Zacchaeus inviting Jesus into his home ---- Jesus invites himself.

We have all been there haven't we?

We are planning a nice family dinner, and as you are busy in the kitchen getting everything ready, your child comes in and says: "Hey mom, Zach scan stay for dinner, can't he? Pleaseeeee!"

And at that moment --- what choice do we really have?
          Throw poor Zach out on the street?

Zacchaeus, for whatever reason --- either to escape the mob, or to get a better view of Jesus --- is approached by Jesus who calls out to him and simply invites himself over for dinner.

Jesus chose him --- Jesus chose Zacchaeus!

Let's go back for a second.
          Who is Zacchaeus?


Yet it is to Zacchaeus' house that Jesus invites himself


Jesus models something that you and I seem too often forget
That if we want to make a difference in somebody's life we have to get to know them and listen to their story.

And that is exactly what Jesus does.

Jesus goes to Zacchaeus home so that he can get to know him

Jesus sees Zacchaeus not as a sinner --- but as a "child of Abraham" (which really means a child of God)

What Jesus models for us is the United Methodist model of

But boy that is tough

More often than not, we say that our doors are open --- but not open with open hearts and minds.

People are welcome as long as they are like us

The problem is --- we are in a time of cultural change and we are not comfortable with some of those changes.

I am not comfortable with many of these changes.

And so when that happens, many of us begin talking around the issues, rather than talking with each other.

Let me try to illustrate.

Over the last few weeks, The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission met as did Leadership Networks' The Nines (Culture Crash: When Church and Culture Collide) and a group of Bishops from the United Methodist Church.

All of these forums were wrestling over the issue of human sexuality.

Not much has come out of any of these forums except maybe one thing. 
At all three --- the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender) people were talked about --- but they were not a part of the conversation.

They all forgot the lesson that Jesus teaches us this morning.
Jesus wants us to sit down with those that we disagree with (or don’t understand) and get to know them

But, you understand, as long as we don't get to know each other --- it is easy to objectify them and not see them as children of God.

And I don't care what the issue is
·         sexuality
·         divorce
·         race
·         financial inequities
·         different faith groups

As long as we keep them at arm's length we never have to deal with the realities of who they are and what their struggles are.
          We can stereotype and make grand pronouncements

But Jesus this morning tells us to reach out and get to know each other.

It is easy to claim to love people we don't know
It is easy to mentally wrestle with the issues

The hard part is the open door --- to love, grow and interact

We are a people who claim that we have         

It is time we start living it

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