Zacchaeus: Receiving the Gift of Christ

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”  So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.  But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”  Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;  for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.    (Luke 19:1-10)

St. Nicolai Velimirović, quoting the Gospel of St Matthew writes:

“And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully.  How could [Zacchaeus] not have made haste to the voice that raised the dead to life, stilled the winds, calmed the madmen and dissolved the hard hearts of sinners in tears?  How could he not receive Him whom he had desired only to steal a look from afar?  How could he not rejoice with inexpressible joy when he saw Him in his house, in which none but notorious sinners had dared to set foot?  But this is how the Lord loves when He loves.  This is how He gives when He gives.  He filled the despairing fishermen’ nets to overflowing with fish, so that the net broke; He fed thousands of hungry men in the desert, so that many baskets of fragments were left; He gave not only physical well-being but also spiritual health to the sick who begged for help; He did not forgive some of the sins of the sinner and retain others, but forgave them all.  On all sides kingly acts, kingly mercy and kingly abundance in giving!  So it was on this occasion:  Zacchaeus sought only to see Him, and He did not just allow Himself to be seen, but first called to him and then went in under his roof.  This is how the Lord behaved.  See now the behavior of ordinary, sinful men, puffed up in their own regard and self-esteem:

As a doctor does not visit the healthy but the sick, so the Lord visits those with the sickness of sin. Not those with the health of righteousness.  It is not said in the Gospel that the Lord, on this occasion, visited any righteous man in Jericho, but He made haste to visit the house of sinful Zacchaeus.  Does not every sensible doctor behave in this way when he goes into a hospital?  Does he not go straight to the beds of the most gravely ill?  The whole world represents a great hospital, full to overflowing with sick men and women infected with sin.”      (Bishop Nicolai Velimirović, Homilies, Volume 2, pgs 339-340)

Pretty as a Picture

As far as photography goes, I’m a drive by shooter.   Whenever I drive by something that captures my attention, I shoot a picture.  (Truthfully I’m more a walk by shooter, but that’s not quite as catchy as a phrase).  Consequently a lot of my photos are the result of luck – being in the right place at the right time, rather than being the result of careful planning.  The pictures rely on my having a camera with me, and being prepared to take the shot when opportunity arises. 

One bird I’ve wanted to capture on camera is the Northern Flicker.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why I wanted to photograph this woodpecker, but over the last 2 years or so since I bought myself a camera, I’ve never seen one when I had my camera with me on my hikes in local or state parks. 

Then today, just pretty as a picture one male yellow-shafted Northern Flicker landed right in front of me:

Male Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker

It was most fortuitous that at that very moment I had my camera with me and was ready to snap the photo.  Now it happened that I didn’t have my favorite camera – my Nikon D-90 – with me, but had my backup Nikon D-60.  I did have my favorite lens on the camera – a Tamron 18-270mm.   So lots of factors came together serendipitously and voila, I had captured the Northern Flicker on camera. 

There is snow falling in the picture.  The Flicker is sitting on my deckrail.  I guess if I wasn’t going to successfully hunt down the Flicker, it had to come to me.

Here is he sitting pretty in the woods behind my house:

A beautiful bird, I must admit.

So God createdevery winged bird according to its kind.

And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21).

Zacchaeus (1993)

Sermon notes from  January 31, 1993

We have all heard the story of Zacchaeus many times. The wee little man who wanted to see Jesus. We all know that it is a lesson to each of us to seek out Christ the Lord and He will find us, where ever we are.

Today, I also want to speak to you about the lesson of Zacchaeus from the point of view of Jesus the Son of God. For it was Jesus who saw Zacchaeus sitting in the tree, and it was Jesus who spoke first to Zacchaeus. The significance of these factors is important for those of us in this mission parish. Because, we are now the body of Christ in the world. We are the Lord’s hands, and feet and eyes. And we, my friends, must keep our eyes open for others like Zacchaeus who are seeking Jesus or who want to take a peek at Jesus. There still are many such people out there behind the crowds, some who are almost too small to notice, some who have climbed into some obscure place or tree because they think that will give them a better vantage point to see Christ or His Church. There are such people out there, and we as the body of Christ, and as eyes of Christ, must seek them out and call them into the fellowship of the Church.

The Lord Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. We must keep our eyes open for such lost. The lost are not always found in the most obvious or convenient places. Our eyes must be open to see them where ever they are.

The lost may not be people we want to associate with. Remember that the good people who followed Jesus, were shocked that Jesus would associate with the likes of Zacchaeus. For Zacchaeus was a thieving tax collector. Zacchaeus was a traitor to his nation for he chose to collect taxes for the Roman conquerors. Not only did he collect taxes to give to Rome, but by his own admission he forced his fellow Jews to pay higher taxes than normal so that he could get rich. Zacchaeus was repugnant in the eyes of his people. But that is not how Christ saw him. Christ saw him as the lost sheep, seeking mercy and love. And Christ extended love to him.

We my friends are to do the same, to see those who are looking for Christ, even if they are undesirable, and then to invite them into the fellowship of faith. If they come, it is because God has called them, not because we chose them.

There is an old Jewish story about Moses that says when Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, a young lamb escaped and ran away. Moses was tired and angry from a hard day of work, yet he had to give chase to the run away lamb. The lamb ran through the rocky wilderness terrain until it came to a pool of water where it stopped to drink. When Moses got to the pool, he looked at the lamb and said, “I did not know that you ran away because you were thirst: now you must be tired.” So he picked up the lamb, put it on his shoulder and walked back to the rest of the flock. God then said to Moses, “Because you have shown mercy in leading the flock of mortal man, you shall surely lead MY flock, Israel.”

God has called us to seek the lost sheep. God has called to seek the sheep that have run away. God has called us to seek sinners, blasphemers, agnostics and atheists and to invite them into HIS church.

Our Lord Jesus said to us, (John 15:16) “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and your fruit should remain.” As biblical scholar A.B. Bruce noted, Jesus expects more of us than that we not lose heart in the face of the world which rejects Him. He expects us to make our mark on history, to be His body and to carry out His objectives in the world. (Bruce, Training of the 12, p. 411).

Remember Zacchaeus. Remember Moses the good shepherd, and Jesus who lays down His life for His sheep. We are expected to go into the world and preach the Gospel and to bear the fruit of growth for God. As you think about these words and as we plan our evangelism as a parish, hear the words of St. John Chrysostom on evangelism:

“Do not neglect your brethren, therefore, nor consider only your own concerns; instead, let each of you be anxious to snatch your neighbor from the jaws of the devil and those illicit spectacles, and lead him to church, showing  him in all restraint and gentleness both the extreme risk of harm and also the extent of the good things to be gained here.  Do this not merely once or twice but ceaselessly.  I mean, even if today he doesn’t heed your words, he will heed them in future; if not in future, in due course seeing your insistence he will perhaps feel ashamed, will come to respect your care for him and desist from those harmful pursuits.  Never say, once, twice, three times, again and again I told him and got nowhere.  Don’t stop telling him; the more you persist, the more your reward will be increased as well.  Don’t you see how much longsuffering we enjoy from the God of all, and how day after day we fail to heed his commands without his desisting from caring for us but rather supplying us with everything, making the sun to rise, giving us rain from heaven and everything else?  Let us, in exactly the same way, take great pains in regard to our brethren and take issue with that evil demon so as to render his wiles ineffectual.  After all, if everyone attending here managed to gain one person, consider how much the Church would receive great satisfaction in the vast numbers of its children and the devil would be dismayed to see his net cast idly and to no purpose.  If in fact you do this, you too will hear on the dread day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in possession of many.'”   (HOMILIES ON GENESIS 18-45, pp 404-405)