Today’s reading is Luke 19:1-10.
“And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’”
These were the comments of those who saw Jesus go to the house of Zacchaeus to spend time and have a meal with him. While none of us are probably to overly fond of IRS agents (professionally at least) and probably wouldn’t want a knock on your door from one, it’s important to understand why tax collectors were thought of in such a lowly manner in Jesus’ time. Tax collectors were traitors essentially. They were Jews who worked for the Romans who occupied the area to take tax money from their own Jewish people to give to the Roman Empire. They were paid well and may had a reputation for taking a little extra off the top for themselves (or at least were suspected of). They were outcasts for betraying their own people for money. Even their own family typically disowned them.
How often do we judge someone based on their outward appearance, their occupation, where they are from, or their family like those in Luke 19:7 did? Guilty as charged. We do not know their true heart. Jesus does. He saw it with Zacchaeus. He saw it with Matthew, also a tax collector, who he asked to be his disciple (Mathew 9:9). Many suspect that Nathaniel had been wrongly accused of something when He called him to be his disciple because Nathaniel had been sitting under the fig tree alone, some believe possibly upset, and Jesus said to him, “’Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit (John 1:47)!’” He finds the good and knows when someone is not acting or living in a manner reflective of their true self. A question for me to reflect on today, do I find the good in people like Jesus?
Another question, do I try to help bring out the good in people by loving them and letting the know about the loving and forgiving grace of Jesus? I love the quote, “Who you will be in 10 years is a result of the books you read and the people you surround yourself with.” I guess you could now add to this “the podcasts you listen to.” While I find this quote to be true, I believe at a certain matureness level in our faith and confidence in our proper behaviors, we are called to try to help others who are not making the best decisions find Jesus and lead them to head in a better direction by being around us. This is what Jesus did. Why don’t we do more of this? Is it our lack of confidence? Is it not knowing many of these folks or putting ourselves in environments to meet them? Or, do we know some but we are afraid of what others would say and think and the chastisement we would receive like Jesus received in Luke 19:7?
I’m challenged today to think about Matthew 22:36-40 to go along with our text and story today about Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Jesus tells us that after loving God, loving your neighbor as yourself is the next most important thing without giving any conditions to how that neighbor acts or whether he loves God or you back. I have to ask myself whether I’m doing this consistently and would encourage you to do the same.
Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” We must realize we are all lost without him. We all need Him.