Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 19:1-10
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 26–Sunday Between October 30 and November 5 Inclusive)
analysis by Mike Hoy

1He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zaccheaus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look half of my possessions, Lord I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Taxing Work
However one slices it, Zaccheus had a difficult job. It was difficult to get money not simply from people who despised you for taking it (and profiting from it), but doing it for a cause which the people hated (Roman domination). Maybe a constant factor of life is that whatever you do (or say), there is probably somebody out there who hates you for it–which can make working an up-hill battle, perhaps a place where one would prefer to remain lost in the crowd.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Short
In addition to Zaccheus’ dreaded occupation, however, was the fact that he was “short”–and not simply physically, but theologically, spiritually short. There is no getting out of the hole he finds himself in life. He (and we) find ourselves in the crowded pathways of life as people who are short-sighted, short of breath, maybe even short-tempered–all signs of our being spiritually “short”–in short, hopeless.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Sinner
The fuller dimensions of our hopelessness, with Zaccheus, is in the stinging criticism from the grumbling crowd. However much it is directed against Jesus, it is also directed to those of us like Zaccheus: being “one who is a sinner.” There is nothing illicit about this criticism. In fact, it is the ultimate truth about our malady–that we are people who are bankrupt in our relationship with others and with God.

PROGNOSIS: Collected, Corrected

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Seeking, Saving Son of Man
Jesus’ self-described identity is being One who comes “to seek and to save the lost.” Zaccheus-type people qualify as those who benefit from Jesus’ job-description. Such seeking and saving on Jesus’ part brings him also into rebuke (and eventual death) at the hands of those advocates of God’s law–and rightly so. Yet even these results do not stop our Lord from the investment of his time and energy (and life) in “seeking and saving” us.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Dwelling
What converts the heart of Zaccheus is that first word of recognition that comes to him from his new Lord. “I must stay at your home today” means that Jesus does not hold back from dwelling in our midst, and in our hearts. This elevates the faithful Zaccheus above all his shortness, raising him to new heights of having “salvation today” and being “also a son of Abraham”–giving him (and us) far-reaching vision, a breath of life, joy–in all, hope.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Paying Back Huge Dividends
Zaccheus’ new-found treasure is Jesus who leads him to look for ways to pay out huge dividends. We should not interpret this “amending of sinful life” as something he has to do. But it is something he gets to do. As those whom our Lord spares no expense to purchase back into his kingdom, we stand out in the crowd not by standing apart from its vengeance, but getting our hands dirty with the “poor” and the “defrauded” who also have had their share of hate–and long for a new Zaccheus-ambassador of Christ.


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