|1Then Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2And there was a man named Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, who was very wealthy. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but could not see over the crowd because he was small in stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Him, since Jesus was about to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to that place, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6So Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed Him joyfully. 7And all who saw this began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinful man!” 8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Berean Study Bible: www.biblehub.com) This is the Gospel of Christ.|
Zacchaeus, was a Jew, his name mean pure. Jericho (Place of fragrance) is well known to us the city destroyed by God under Joshua when they marched around it seven times. By Jesus’s day it was a wealthy city and the plain full of palm trees gave a sweet aroma to the area and brought in plenty of money. Jericho was on route to Jerusalem and near the ford where the Jordon was crossed. It is also on this road that Jesus places the story of the Good Samaritan.
Names and places are important in the Biblical story.
The people hated Zacchaeus for what he did. Tax collectors were not paid by the Romans they were just required to bring in the Roman tax and free to raise for themselves as well. They were hated for serving the Romans, and for their ill gained wealth.
But when Jesus looks at Zacchaeus he sees what God created and what Zacchaeus has become and reaches out. Jesus identifies Zacchaeus as a lost sheep, one who is part of the flock but has gone astray.
This battle rages on in our world today. We still have the Pharisaic type that are self-righteous because we have all worked out our own way of pleasing God and demand that others follow our method of being a good Christian. We divide our lives into acceptable and unacceptable behaviour which provides us with a holy space around us, we only let in those who conform and are likeminded. And we do all that, in God’s Name. We put expectations on others, and we put obstacles in others way, so that if they do not measure up, if they fall short, they won’t get to see our Jesus.
Unless we see that we are created in the image of God and that our true identity is “pure” and that we are just lost sheep, we will never truly be the type of Disciples Jesus requires. We are all walking through life in a Jericho which is fragranced with riches and provision and blessings and in fact a world that God already broke the walls down of and called people out of, but we have rebuilt life on. We are part of a world built on our sinful selfish desires and lived for our own purposes. Jericho is our home.
The image of the lost sheep is of one who has lost his way, not one who was sold into another flock. And so, because we often wander, we are the lost sheep that Jesus is calling home. Salvation (being found) is not a once off, it is a continual process of bringing us home in every wayward part of our lives,
Today God calls you to elevate yourselves above the crowd, find a position that you can look into the face of the saviour, where you can be seen and called out, and invite Jesus in.
In Zacchaeus’s response to Jesus, he shows two things. Firstly, that he admits that he was wrong and a sinner and secondly that his repentance would bear fruit. Zacchaeus having been re-established in the fold would do what was required of a believer, he would practice restorative justice.
When we are saved by Jesus it is not enough for us just to sin no more, change our behaviour going forward. We need to restore relationship and make right with the world around us. In our punitive justice system of today we follow a system where we require people to suffer, but not pay back for their wrong doings. Restorative justice means undoing the harm we did not just being prevented from doing more.
In our own lives let us not adopt a punitive approach and simply accept the salvation of God in a “sin no more” fashion. May our salvation bring about right action. May we bear fruit in keeping with repentance as Matthew 3: 8 says. In the New Living Translation it say ‘Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.’
May today be a restorative day. I assure you of my prayers as you jostle in the crowd, climb trees, and have fellowship meals through which you experience the love of God and his mercy and then extend that to restoring relationship with others.
Let us pray.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you call us to salvation. Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you. Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other; Truth shall spring up from the earth and righteousness shall look down from heaven. We have received your love and pray now for the strength to live a life of restorative justice, sharing our peace and provision with the world, that all may know your salvation.