Zacchaeus, Luke 19: 1 -10
The devotion brought up a point that I had not thought of before – maybe Zacchaeus came to see Jesus because he had heard that Jesus had another tax collector in his inner circle of friends. This would have been Matthew, also known as Levi, who tradition credits with writing the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ friendship with Matthew gave Zacchaeus hope – hope that he too could be befriended by Jesus, even when none of the other Jews wanted anything to do with him. Tax collectors were disowned by their countrymen – they were traitors working for Rome. Oddly enough the Romans didn’t like them either because they were Jews, the ones with the funny language, habits and traditions. Poor old Zach was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
We live in a world of opposing standards – people divided because of race, culture, religion – and it seems like it is getting worse. We are divided even within our groups and some folks act as if we have nothing in common with “them”, not even our humanity. This is not a new situation and there are ways to overcome this. Tradition tells us that when the Persians invaded and captured the cities in Israel in the 600s, they torn down churches all over the country yet one church in Bethlehem was spared. Why was this one church left untouched? Because when the Persians entered the church they saw a mural of the three wise men – their kin, their countrymen and left the church alone. That mural didn’t necessarily unite two opposing groups but it allowed them to see that at one time they had something in common and that gave them a starting point.
Who are the tax collectors of our day, the folks that are disliked or disowned because of their jobs, their religion, or their funny language and habits? Jesus calls us to befriend those that others shun, to welcome those like Zacchaeus that are purposely overlooked by the rest of society. Christianity is a radical religion – it is radical because we are called to love others – regardless of race, culture, nationality or language. Even those that do not love us. Jesus did this by making a friend, one person at a time. Who is God calling us to befriend today?