The story of Zacchaeus is presented in the gospel reading for today. This short man who climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus is given the shock of his life. So when Jesus stops beneath the sycamore tree, he tells Zacchaeus to come down for he is coming to spend some time at his house. It is not enough for Zacchaeus to see Jesus, it is far more important that he experiences Jesus and we discover that his experience of Jesus changes his life forever. Zacchaeus as a tax-collector is not considered to be good enough to entertain a godly person like Jesus in his home but Jesus’ self-invitation says the total opposite. Jesus has come to save sinners whether we want him to or not; whether we are aware of it or not. He will put in place the greatest and only means available to humanity so that we can live beyond the prison bars of sin. When Zacchaeus comes to understand the depth of this message he can only be moved to offer restitutive justice to all whom he has robbed and this he will do fourfold. Zacchaeus’ response is profound for it follows the grumbling of those who lament that Jesus has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner. Zacchaeus places great faith in the self-invitation of Jesus as a lover of souls over and beyond his acknowledgement of his sinful ways. Expressed differently, Zacchaeus chose to believe in the power of God working in the life of Jesus; despite his sin, Zacchaeus did not hesitate to allow Jesus to come into his home and thereby into his life.
We can interpret the short stature of Zacchaeus as his inability to see properly, both physically and spiritually. This lack of enlightenment can also be applied to many of us today in some measure. When Zacchaeus climbs the sycamore tree he expresses a willingness to see the Messiah or better still, Zacchaeus wants to see what salvation looks like. When we put ourselves out of the way to encounter Jesus, worshipping and fellowshipping together; offering praise and thanksgiving; making time for bible study; making time to minister and reach out to others—all of these take us beyond just wanting to see Jesus to wanting to experience Jesus. Zacchaeus is described by Jesus as one who was lost because a son of Abraham meant that one belonged to the Jewish community of faith. Zacchaeus was not living out the faith he was brought up in as a child of Abraham and therefore needed to be found. Genesis 18:19 says in reference to Abraham, “. . . for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice . . .” When Zacchaeus offers restitutive justice to the poor and all who he has defrauded Jesus pronounces that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ home. Salvation has come not because of what Zacchaeus does in offering restitution but rather, Zacchaeus’ offer of restitution is evidence that the Good News that Jesus brings has been received by him. The restoration of Zacchaeus into a right relationship with God did not require a second marking with the sign of the covenant. Zacchaeus knew he belonged to the community of faith but his behaviour was not in keeping with his belonging. Zacchaeus’ acceptance of Jesus and his willingness to repent are therefore evidence of his response to the saving grace of God that he experienced in Jesus’ visit. The exercise of our faith does not consist in all we can do but it is trusting in what God in Jesus has done and continues to do for us; this includes trusting in what the community of faith has done and continues to do for us as well. When we have faith we trust in God’s actions and not in what we can do. We do not project our actions onto God and make them God’s actions. We cannot baptize ourselves since baptism is the work of God. Whatever God has done is well done! When God receives us into the special covenant relationship sealed with the blood of Jesus there is no need for God to repeat himself. I repeat, whatever God has done is well done!!! Our faith teaches that baptism is God’s work and repentance is the work of humanity. If we feel inadequate, friends, let us not project unto God our inadequacies but rather let us heed the call like Zacchaeus to have faith in what God has already done, to repent of our wrong actions, and also to act justly.
Family of God, today we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism, two children will become part of God’s family the church, and their spiritual journey will be nurtured within the context of the Anglican Church. It is very important that we do not lose sight of baptism as the work of God and not as the work of man. This is so important for far too long too many persons continue to rise up and ask to be baptized to satisfy themselves in their own minds that they are thus Christians as a result. Such a request from persons who have already been baptized with Christian baptism or baptism with the Holy Spirit means that such persons are caught up with themselves far more than they choose to believe in the power of God to transcend their understanding. If we truly believe in the power of our God to do what he says he can do then let us put faith first and not seek to act in a manner to try to make God do what we think will make us feel better about ourselves. This is the story of Zacchaeus.
Fr. Cassius... Parish Priest