Jesus’s Teachings – Luke 19 vs 1-10

Readings for this week October 5 – 9
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Day 1 – Zacchaeus the Unpopular

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:1-2
The story of Zacchaeus is well known: the short man who couldn’t see over the crowd so he climbed a tree, only to be picked out by Jesus as the host for a get together at his (Zacchaeus’s) house. Later, Zacchaeus finds salvation and offers to more than pay back what he has stolen over the years. This is a famous, heart-warming story that many of us would have read in Sunday school.
But let’s take a moment to look at Zacchaeus from the point of view of his neighbours. No one would have liked him (look ahead to verse 7 to see a sample of the people’s attitude towards Zacchaeus). He would be deeply resented and hated. He wasn’t just a tax collector, he was a chief tax collector – he was in charge of other tax collectors, so not only would he have earned money from the people he directly collected tax from, he would also have taken a cut from all the tax collectors working under him. His wealth would have been very substantial, and probably rather obvious to all his neighbours, as they watched his house get bigger, his clothes get nicer – and all with money he had taken from them.
The whimsical familiarity of the story should not blind us to the fact that this is another episode in which Luke highlights two of the key themes of his Gospel: Jesus deliberately seeking association with sinners – the hated, the ostracised and marginalised and, as will soon become apparent, the problem of wealth and what to do about it.

Question to Consider
Think of your neighbours and those living near you. How do you view them? Are there any that seem like a Zacchaeus? How do you think they see you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, show me those I may be treating like a Zacchaeus. Help me see them as you do, help me show them the love and acceptance that you have shown me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


 

Day 2 – A Better Viewpoint

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:3-4
Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus, but wants to know who he is, and so he climbs a tree to get a better view. That’s it. That’s all Luke tells us. Had Zacchaeus heard stories of Jesus and, now that he was in town, was keen to find out more? Was he in the midst of some sort of spiritual crisis and thought Jesus could help him? Or was he just responding to the noise and clamour of the crowd, and wanted to see out of curiosity? Who knows?
Luke keeps it simple, because this is a simple story of an encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus. We know who Jesus is, and in a couple of short, succinct verses, Luke has told us who Zacchaeus is. The why of the encounter isn’t important for Luke. It’s the fact that the encounter is taking place that counts for him.
For whatever reason, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus and see what was going on. That was enough. There was no deeper motive than that. There are as many reasons for possibly approaching Jesus – or ways of showing interest in “what’s going on over there?” – As there are people. Whether it’s a rich young man with a burning question; a woman with a long-time health issue; a centurion with a sick servant; or a curious chief tax collector – Jesus was open to all of them, not prejudging their reasons for coming to him, not basing his assessment of them on their needs, and not turning them away because they were the wrong sort of people.

Question to Consider
What reasons do people have for coming to God? What past reasons have you had for approaching God?

Prayer
Loving God, thank you that we can approach you from any angle, for any reason, for no reason, in a state of calm, or in a state of anxiety. You are the ever-approachable God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


 

Day 3 – Seizing the Opportunity to Meet

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:5-6
It is interesting to note that Luke doesn’t tell us that Zacchaeus sought out Jesus. Zacchaeus simply wanted to get a better view. The rest was up to Jesus. Zacchaeus has said nothing. Jesus is the one who has seen him and called out to him. Actually, he’s done more than this – he’s invited himself around for tea! And Jesus has used the imperative “must” – “I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus may just be a crooked tax man who climbed a tree to get a good view, but Jesus, once he sees him in the tree, has a definite idea of what could come out of an encounter like this. Jesus assesses the situation and, seeing an opportunity for conversation and communion with Zacchaeus, takes the necessary steps to bring a deeper encounter about.
How does Jesus know his name? We have no idea. If he knows his name, does Jesus know that Zacchaeus is a chief tax collector too? How would knowing a detail like that change the situation, if indeed it would? It seems that, whether Jesus knows these details or not, he simply wants to meet with Zacchaeus.
And Zacchaeus “welcomed him gladly.”  We don’t know what, if anything, Zacchaeus was expecting to happen. But when singled out by Jesus, he came straight down and joyously welcomed Jesus into his home. It simply didn’t seem to matter how much each man knew about the other, they were both open to meeting and sharing together.

Question to Consider
How do we make sure we are awake and alive to moments like this? How do we stay alert to the possibility of God-given encounters like this?

Prayer
Almighty God, help me not to miss those moments when there is an opportunity to meet someone, to speak into their lives, to show your love to someone, however unexpected or unlooked for the moment might be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


 

Day 4 – Extravagant Repentance for the Community’s Good

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:7-8
One of the interesting things about this little episode with Zacchaeus is that Luke does not present any direct teaching from Jesus. Zacchaeus is not shown responding to anything that Jesus has said or revealed to him or anyone else present. Luke gives no details of the talk around the table over dinner; no parable is recorded. But this encounter with Jesus has precipitated a complete turnaround in Zacchaeus.
The repentance shown here by Zacchaeus is not simply the repentance of a changed heart, a turning back from one path to another. The Judaic concept of repentance involves atoning, making amends, restoring that which was lost. And that is what Zacchaeus does. His lavish offer of paying back – many times over – what he has defrauded from people, and giving away have of his property signals his repentance. He’s not selling everything he has and giving it all away to the poor, and Jesus hasn’t asked him to. Jesus also hasn’t said “Come follow me,” and expected Zacchaeus to drop everything and join him on the road. Zacchaeus stays where he is. He’s not a peripatetic follower. He’s going to stay where he is, living the life of a Jesus-follower amongst the very people he had firstly exploited and ripped off, but now has offered to generously reimburse and give away much of his wealth to.
In this encounter one life was changed, but a community was transformed. One person’s life-changing decision can have a big impact on the community they are a part of.

Question to Consider
Why is repentance also a community matter and not just a God matter?

Prayer
Merciful Lord, thank you the offer of returning to you – that we can continually return to you when we stray. And thank you that a return to you is also a return to community and fellowship with others too. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


 

Day 5 – A Son of Abraham Whether You Like it or Not

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 19:9-10
A major transformation has taken place in the life of Zacchaeus. Its repercussions are already impacting on the community, and Jesus is about to add one more shocking detail into the mix. Just in case Zacchaeus’s neighbours didn’t have enough reason to be annoyed at Jesus’s decision to associate with Zacchaeus, even to the extent of going to his house, Jesus now gives even further offense, by naming the repentant Zacchaeus as a ‘son of Abraham,’ a phrase almost guaranteed to offend all the people already grumbling against him.
The people in the crowd would consider themselves to be sons of Abraham, good, solid faithful, sinless sons of Abraham – and now Jesus was saying the thieving, hated, ritually unclean criminal Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham too. Outrageous! Who is Jesus to say who is and is not a son of Abraham and a member of God’s chosen people? Especially when he’s picking the wrong sort of people!
But there’s more for them to get annoyed about. If, as verse 10 implies again, Jesus is including the wrong sort of people in the ‘in’ crowd, he’s also hinting that it’s possible that people who already see themselves as sons of Abraham the good, God-fearing people – could theoretically be ‘lost’ and in need of salvation too. Which is even more offensive! The wrong people are being made right and the supposedly right people might not be right after all. Jesus seems to be turning everything upside down.

Question to Consider
Why would what Jesus said be particularly offensive to the crowd? Why did Jesus say it? Why do people get so upset about who is in and who is out?

Prayer
Holy Father, your upside down kingdom has a place in it for everyone. Accepting you as king also means accepting that you are the one – the only one – who sets the entry requirements. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)