Summary: Jesus’ treatment of Zaccheus and the tax collector’s response is a model of God’s restorative justice.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE #1: Zaccheus Pays Reparations

Luke 19:1-9

Restorative Justice Series #1

Trinity United Methodist Church, Providence, RI

September 2, 2001

Rev. Anne Grant

Introduction to scripture:

Has anybody here climbed a tree recently?

It’s not something adults do very often.

Children love the story of Zaccheus, because he’s a wee little man.

He has the same problem children do when there’s a parade:

They can’t see over all the adults, and they just hope someone tall will lift them up

on their shoulders, or let them come to the front of the crowd.

But nobody would have made a space for Zaccheus,

because everybody hated him.

Zaccheus was a tax collector, and no ordinary tax collector.

He was the head tax collector for that area.

Tax collectors were regarded as worst kind of sinners . . .The lowest liars and cheats--Unworthy to be called children of Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish people.

The Jews had some good reasons for hating tax collectors.

Tax collectors worked for the enemy, for the occupying forces of Rome.

To be a tax collector one had to bid for the franchise

Like you would bid at an auction with the franchise going to the highest bidder

In order for him to regain his investment he had to increase the tax.

This gained tax collectors the reputation for being notoriously corrupt

They also became quite wealthy at expense of their fellow Jews.

Tax collectors were collecting taxes for a foreign power

By this activity they were supporting Israel’s occupation by an ingodly empire.

Tax collectors were traitors to their community and their God.

And because they worked with Gentiles, they were considered unclean.

No religious Jew would associate with them.

So Zaccheus was pretty lonely.

No one would make space for him to see Jesus.

And so he runs ahead to a tree and climbs it.

In the mideast, it was unusual and undignified to see a grown man run,

especially a government official, But he runs and he climbs a tree— just like a child,

which is just the way Jesus wants us to come to him—like a child.

Watch what Jesus does, and watch how Zaccheus responds.

Readers’ Theater: Jesus & Zacchaeus Luke 19:1-9

1. NARRATOR: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was so short. So Zaccheus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see better, because Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him:

2. JESUS: Zacchaeus! Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today!

3. NARRATOR: Zaccheus hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said,

4. TOWNSPERSON 1: He’s gone to visit that sinner!

5. TOWNSPERSON 2: What did he do that for?

6. NARRATOR: But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,

7. ZACCHEUS: Half of everything I own I will give to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone of anything, I will pay it back four times over.

8. NARRATOR: Then Jesus said to Zaccheus:

9. JESUS: Today salvation has come to this house, because you, too, are a son of Abraham. For I came to seek out and to save the lost.

TEACHING: Zaccheus, Reparations, & Restorative Justice

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,

"Zaccheus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."

It didn’t matter what all the others thought about Zacchaeus.

Jesus saw hope for him.Zaccheus scrambled down, and people grumbled,

but Jesus went to the tax collector’s house.

When we look at some people in RI and in the world

who are getting rich off of other peopleand keeping them in poverty,

we sometimes consider those rich people hopelessly lost,

just like the Jews in Jesus time considered Zaccheus hopelessly lost.

We don’t want to bother with them.

We talk against them.

We may march and demonstrate against them.

But Jesus reached out to Zaccheus and that despised life was changed

and not only his, but all those people he had been cheating—

Their lives were changed.

NOTICE THE ENDING: Zaccheus not only paid his debts,

He said if he had cheated anyone out of anything,

he would pay it back four times over.

Notice the mercy of God as Jesus brought people together

around Zaccheus’ table. Our message today is

Don’t BLAME, Don’t SHAME Come to the Table!


Representatives of 166 nations gathered in Durban South Africa Friday

to launch an ambitious U.N. conference against racism and discrimination.

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