Published on Mar 26th, 2015 by wpd-office | 0

Oh yes, Zaccheus was a wee little man, at least if that is the song you learned about the story found in Luke 19:1-10! One might picture him as a short little peacock who could not see Jesus. So he climbed a tree, perhaps congratulating himself on getting the best seat in the house without being noticed.

He was not a popular man at all—a crooked tax collector who extorted money from people and used those funds to feather his own nest. Unfortunately, his case is not the only one in history where a public official or even private persons have used ill-gotten funds from others to add luxury to their own lives. However, Jesus, seeing into the tree and sensing that there was something about this thieving man that could be redeemed, stopped under the tree and ordered this high official to come down from his perch.

And wonder of wonders, Zaccheus complied with Jesus’ command. He came down, hosted Jesus at a meal, at Jesus’ self-invitation, and all the people who know the story have wondered what they talked about. Did Jesus confront Zaccheus about his unjust, crooked ways? Did the mere glance of Jesus into the eyes of Zaccheus convict him of his hurtful, selfish way he had been operating? Did they talk about the people who had been grievously injured by the extortion of huge tax bills they could not pay, and from that, losing their property? Whatever happened at that meal, though, Zaccheus made an eye-popping promise to Jesus. “Half of my wealth I will give to the poor; and I will pay back four times what I cheated to every person whom I cheated.” (Luke 19:8 NRSV) And Jesus promised him true life which he had never had before, for he had been lost and now was redeemed.

Did you ever wonder what happened to Zaccheus after that? I just heard a lovely legend from the Eastern Christians. Zaccheus grew to be an old and respected man, at peace with himself, his Lord, and the world. Every morning, he would take a walk, always the same length, and his wife wondered where he was going. One day, her curiosity led her to follow him at a distance, so that he did not see her. He approached a tree, watered it with water he had carried, cleared away any weeds and debris, and then put his arms around the tree, even seeming to murmur to it. When he returned home, his wife admitted she had followed him and asked why he did this and whether he did this every day. This was his answer: “I am caring for the tree where I learned to know the One my soul loves.”

As I heard this legend, a wonderful ending to the story of Zaccheus who may have been a little man in height, but was a giant in heart and mind and soul and love, I thought about us and our churches in the Western Plains Church of the Brethren. What if we did not give in to our differences and our temptations to judge and gossip and refuse to see one another as parts of Christ’s own body, Christ’s own family? Instead, what if we made of each of our churches “trees of life” in which each and every person learns to know the One who loves us and therefore our souls love?!

To finish our time together in this meditation, let us hear once more the scripture of love that is given us in 1 John 4. It describes how we love one another because of the One whom our souls love. “We love God because he first loved us. If a person says, ‘I love God,’ and hates a brother or sisters, that person is a liar; for if that person does not love the brother or sister whom that person has seen, how can that person love God whom that person has not seen? And this commandment we have received from God—the person who loves God ought to love one’s brother and sister also.” 1 John 4:19-21 NRSV

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Sonja Griffith
District Executive Minister

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