2021_09_20 Insight Post- Kim Feld
This week's reading- Luke 19-20
I grew up going to Sunday School and Children’s Church. The story of Zacchaeus was one of my favorites – especially the song and hand motions. There was just something about a “wee little man” who climbed a sycamore tree because he wanted to see Jesus that I loved. Luke’s biography of Jesus is the only one who records this extraordinary story that reads like a divine appointment between Jesus and this chief tax collector.
Zacchaeus was likely an extremely wealthy man. As a chief tax collector, he would have been prominent, making money by overcharging his fellow Israelites. We’ve read in the other biographies how the people felt about tax collectors, and we can see it here in the response of the people to Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus. Verse 7 says, “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’” Let’s look at Zacchaeus’ response:
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
There’s so much that we could unpack with this story. Could it be that Zacchaeus was the reason Jesus was in Jericho? Was this a living example of the parables in Luke 15 – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son? Was Jesus purposeful in seeking out this one man to have a life-changing encounter with?
Then we have Zacchaeus’ radical repentance that called him to give half he had to the poor and pay anyone he had cheated four times the amount. Normal restitution was 20% (see Lev 5:16; Num 5:7), while robbery required a penalty of repaying four times the amount (see Ex 22:1; 2 Sam 12:6). This repayment would have had a lasting impact on Zacchaeus’ wealth. The most cynical among us may say that Zacchaeus responded with the emotion of the moment and wonder if his change was lasting. On the other hand, I wonder if Zacchaeus was there when Jesus was crucified and if he had a role in the early church. He’s never mentioned again, but his story leaves us with much to contemplate.
I’m asking myself these questions today: Is my life different because of an encounter with Jesus? Is there evidence of radical change in my life? As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who longs to be at work constantly within my heart. His goal is to transform me so that I look like Jesus.
17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)
Executive Director of Education and Outreach