ZACCHAEUS SUNDAY 2009 Luke 19:1-10
Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector whom we learn about in Luke’s Gospel Lesson, 19:1-10, is a saint in the Orthodox Church. He is given the title of “Apostle”, though not one of the Twleve, he is ranked among those first apostles who responded to the Gospel of Christ and then taught that Good News to others. Nikephoros Xanthopoulos (d. 1335AD) wrote about Jesus inviting Himself t the Apostle Zacchaeus’ home :
Zacchaeus accepted this proposal of the Lord with all his soul, and he rushed with joy and received Him in his home and offered Him hospitality with all willingness. It was not only because he believed in Christ with all his soul that he hosted Him with particular willingness, but also because he actively repented for former sins, and he said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8)…Zacchaeus’ conversion in this manner offers us two important lessons: first, God’s compassion and the signs of sincere and active repentance, and second, the fact that correction of evil as far as one is able is an inseparable proof of sincere repentance. In this manner, the good Zaccaeus exceeded the ordinances of the Mosaic Law in his generosity, for which cause he was accounted worthy of the Lord’s blessing. (Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion)
Zacchaeus had a desire to see Christ, perhaps even wishing he could unburden his soul. However, Zacchaeus also knew he was greedy, that he had defrauded others, he was stingy, he was a thief. Therefore he did not see himself as worthy of approaching Christ. Christ on the other hand could see past the sinfulness of Zacchaeus and saw a sick and troubled heart. Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus by name and says he is compelled to stay at Zacchaeus’ house. So overjoyed at Christ’s words was Zacchaeus that he immediately blurts out his repentance – he revealed what was really on his heart. Christ thus unburdened Zacchaeus from the weight of his sin. We too who are burdened with our own selfishness, greed, need for power over others, and our lies, should take heart in Zaccheus’ experience. While he was still a sinner Zacchaeus received a call from Christ – “invite me into your life.” This is the mood and the milieu of Great Lent which will soon be upon us. BECAUSE of our sins, let us seek Christ. It is not our righteousness (or self righteousness) that brings us to Christ. It is the knowledge and realization of our own sinfulness that brings us to Him. When we realize that our life, life choices, or life style, or even our thinking have cut us off from God, alienated us from God, or put us an enmity with God, then we know that we need a way back to God. That Way is Christ. It is Jesus Christ who unites humanity, sinful humanity, to God. We cannot get back into God’s good graces without coming to Christ.
We may even be afraid of God because we know what sins we have committed – Christ calls us to Himself anyway. Come to Christ and receive the forgiveness of your sins and the healing of your heart. Never mind that you turned away from God or despised His Commandments; Christ is the way to restoration with God through having your sins forgiven.