Week 5 | Wednesday
Week 5: Faith In Action
by Janet Nygren
Read: Luke 19: 1-10
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
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.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- Remember tax collectors are despised, and Zacchaeus is a wealthy, chief tax collector, so he’s at the top of the hated pyramid. What words capture Zacchaeus’ attitude toward Jesus’ visit through Jericho (verses 3-6)?
- This vignette is an interesting contrast to the “rich fool” we encountered last Friday, whom Jesus talked to just prior to the incident with the blind man. The rich ruler walked away sad because of his wealth, and Jesus declared, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!...What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 19:24, 27). How do you explain the difference you see here in Zacchaeus (v.8)?
- On another occasion, speaking to Pharisees and surrounded by tax collectors (Luke 15:1-7), Jesus described searching for, then rejoicing over the lost sheep that was found. As you consider the dinner at Zaccaeus’ house that night, just think about the celebrations!
- Zacchaeus’ generosity is the overflow of a heart that has welcomed Jesus and been utterly transformed by him. When you consider your own generosity, where does it flow from?
- Are you able to look at people like the rich ruler and Zacchaeus through the same vantage point as Jesus, or are your assessments of them different from looking through “different lenses”?
- Take time to celebrate along with Jesus the surprising transformations he accomplishes in the most unlikely people.
- Do you have stories to share of people (maybe yourself) whom you did not expect to see in the Kingdom of God? What kind of transformation did you see in the way they gave of themselves generously as a result?
Yes Janet, the song is ringing in my mind! I have been to Jericho and seen a Sycamore Tree that is 2000 years old. The tour guide says it could have been the very tree that Zacheus climbed. I love this story. It is a contrast to the rich man who was told to sell all he had. Zacheus gives away half of his wealth and more than restores what he has stolen. He no longer views money as an idol. Rather he shows generosity and uses his wealth for good! Let it be so with all of us.
This story reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the pearl merchant who, when he found a pearl of great price, immediately sold everything to get it. I have witnessed this several times in my life. We were involved in a ministry with international students in Philadelphia, and I remember one student who became a Christian. The effect on his life was immediate and dramatic. He was so filled with joy. He wasn’t rich, but he came from a family background that strongly objected to his new faith. So he pretty much had to give up his family to follow Christ. It is true that sometimes the most unlikely people, from my perspective, respond to the gospel with joy. This story is a reminder not to pre-judge people but just be a faithful witness to the people I encounter.
I'm struck by the joy and celebration at the sudden turning of people who embrace Jesus so fully. It reminds me of a former girlfriend of my son's, who was part of our lives for a couple of years. I think our family was significant in introducing her to Jesus, though I wasn't fully aware of the impact at the time. It wasn't until after they had parted ways that she came to fully embrace Jesus, but she is a leader in student ministry now and continues to have a huge impact that brings joy to her life and others. It makes me smile every time I hear updates!
The rich young man was interested in seeing Jesus, but Zaccheus was invested in seeing Jesus. I think that's the biggest difference. Zaccheus head already put in the work to climb that tree--imagine how strange that might have been, a man who was likely not so young climbing a tree (since he was not just a tax collector, like Matthew, but a chief tax collector).
The rest of the story tells us that Zaccheus did not let Jesus or the community down, as he cut debts to amounts manageable for people to actually repay him. This is really ironic in a land where people who claim the name of Jesus are loudly supporting the type of usury once considered a hallmark of sinners, instating that everyone pay not only what they owe but also the exorbitant interest explicitly forbidden in Scripture.
When I was 17 I worked at a McDonald’s in Portland while I was in college. Our manager was the meanest lady I’ve ever been around. I remember thinking that she would never ever become a Christian. A couple of years later after I stopped working at McDonald’s I stopped by there. Believe it or not she was still working as a manager, but she said to me: « I have become a Christian and I’m on my husband and I are on our way to Italy to be missionaries. » I could not believe my ears, but went home rejoicing, and learning a lesson!!