In our story this morning, Jesus once more turns our world upside down. He confronts us with our assumptions about who is good and who is evil. And he demonstrates for us the trick we so often play in our minds before we decide how we are to treat one another. Like the crowd that murmured about Zacchaeus, it is easy for us to be blinded by our prejudice of “those people”, whoever “those people” may be, and find ourselves accusing the very people we perhaps should be emulating. By showing hospitality in receiving Jesus into his home that day Zacchaeus came to live up to his name which actually can be translated as “pure”, or “innocent”-something which Jesus knew all along.
As I think about this parable told by Jesus to his disciples and some who challenged him, a couple of observations stand out. To begin with our justification is not obtained by charitable giving or the practice of a strict spiritual discipline. In fact, justification is not achieved at all it is a gift that is received from God who reaches out in mercy to us sinners.
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ (Luke 17:11 – 13)
“Trust what you have – what you have been given,” Francis said reminding his devotees that Jesus promised his followers, “You have faith enough to uproot trees.” Those who have faith have also amazing power, power enough to move mountains.
Jesus demonstrates this love in preaching, teaching, and healing wherever he goes. We know that God’s assessments of our situations are frequently reversals of our own. His way are not our ways. The Epistle of First Timothy notes that the desire to be rich, the love of money, not money itself, is the root of many evils and that “in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains”. (1 Tim. 6: 10). Jesus notes later in Luke that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. The way we relate to money and use it in our lives is of crucial importance to our faith.