Reading: Luke 19
“The people were displeased… ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord…”
A couple of things stood out to me today. One is the response of the people to Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus. I actually get it, Jesus is the Liberator, the Messiah, and yet he stops to eat with a tax collector, a Imperial collaborator, one who has sided with the Oppressor and chosen to take advantage of his own people’s oppression by exploiting them further. He’s the sort of dude a good liberal activist should Cancel. What’s Jesus doing eating with him?
And yet, Jesus sees Zacchaeus, He goes to His home, he sits with him, moves into His space, and some how through this whole experience Zacchaeus is reminded of His own humanity. Life is not about wealth, or power, he is not beholden only to himself, his eyes are opened to the harm his actions have brought to his nieghbour.
The second thing I notice is both Zacchaeus and Jesus’ responses. Jesus reaches out to Zacchaeus, he moves into his space, acknowledges his humanity, and in turn he himself is awakened. And Zacchaeus responds immediately by repenting of the manner in which he has exploited his nieghbours, and moving to redistribute the wealth he has stolen to those he has cheated directly, and to the community at large. And Jesus? Does he ask for a prayer, or for Zacchaeus to sign on to a set grouping of theological convictions, does he demand baptism, or the adoption of some strict moral code? No. He responds immediately, “Salvation has come to this home today!”
Jesus called, Zacchaeus responded, not simply internally, but outwardly, and visibly. Zacchaeus’ repentance involved a physical turning away from the God of Wealth and Prosperity, his salvation cost him something. This is not to say that he earned his salvation, not at all, but it is recognising that salvation involves repentance, a turning away from what holds one captive, a changing of allegiance from one lord to The Lord.
You cannot serve both God and money.
The wealth Zacchaeus accumulated was ill gotten, but also – perhaps in a sense – not illegal. He had the power to take more than Rome demanded, so he did, everyone did, “it’s just business”, right?
But, just because he could, just because everyone does, does that make exploiting our whānau right?
In our capatalist society we often run off the same logic “everyone’s doing it” “it’s just business” “it’s not good but, it’s how the system works”, we justify our exploitation of the whenua and our whānau, and in doing so we reject the Divines Dream for this world.
Following Jesus requires that we turn away from the narrative of greed, and unbridled selfish consumption which Capatalism has taught us. That we lay down our wealth, that we give back what we have wrongfully gained at the expense of others.
We are invited to remember our own humanity, to open our eyes to the humanity of others, to forsake the temptation to seek after wealth and prosperity, and to instead take a step upon the Way that leads to Love.