Summary: Zacchaeus and Martin Luther both learned the just are saved by faith; and Paul shows us that for Christians, All Saints Day and All Souls Day should be the same thing.
Collect: Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
“Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises…” What a powerful image in our Collect today!
We don’t run for things anymore, do we?
We’re adults now. We walk or drive to where we need to go. Children run for things. They stumble. They fall. They get up. And they run again.
We lose the desire to run as we get older.
I’m not talking about jogging to get back in shape. I’m talking about running as part of our desire to be somewhere so quickly that walking isn’t fast enough, a desire so strong that we’d make ourselves crazy trying to walk instead of run.
When Pete Rose was playing baseball, the other players nicknamed him “Charlie Hustle.” He ran everywhere. If he drew a walk when he was batting, he ran to first base. When his team made a third out during an inning, he would run onto the field. When the other team made their third out, he would run off the field into the dugout. It was difficult to ever catch Pete Rose walking. He was that excited about the game.
Today we see in our Gospel story, a successful adult businessman running in excitement just to see Jesus.
In the Middle East, then and now, adult men don’t run. Especially wealthy men. It’s a sign of status to walk regally with one’s head held high. Children and servants run.
Yet as Jesus was entering the city of Jericho, just passing through it, the rich, chief tax collector not only ran to see Jesus, he even climbed a tree.
When’s the last time you climbed a tree? Or saw any grown-up climb a tree?
I used to do it all the time as a child but I can’t remember when the last time was that I ran or climbed a tree. Jesus mentions elsewhere in the Gospel that we need to be as children to enter the kingdom of God. Usually, we’re telling children not to run, aren’t we?
Left to their own whims, children will run through shopping malls, grocery stores — everywhere they can walk, they’ll usually run instead.
And that’s just how Zacchaeus is behaving, isn’t he? Just like a child.
This short, middle-aged guy running along the road, trying to get a glimpse of Jesus — I keep picturing Danny DeVito in a toga — unable to see Jesus, so he climbs a sycamore tree to maybe get a better view.
But while he’s trying to see Jesus, Jesus sees him and calls his name. To be able to call someone by name that one had never met was considered a strong indication during that time that one was a prophet.
When Jesus called up to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down…” You can almost feel the anticipation that the rest of the crowd must have been feeling.
Jesus, the holy miracle-man and prophet of God, the Messiah, the chosen one — he had just called out to that low-life, no-good chief tax collector by name. This would be great! Jesus was going to give this horrible little man what’s coming to him!
Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus, the Jew who not only collected the money that Rome demanded from his fellow Jews. He also forced them to pay extra to fill his own pockets.
As the chief tax collector in a major city like Jericho, Zacchaeus would have been rich without having to cheat people. But he was greedy, and took more money from his fellow Jews than he was entitled by Rome to do.
And then Jesus called to him. Oh, Jesus was going to let him have it now. The people could just imagine what Jesus was about to tell him.
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down … your days of stealing from God’s people are over! You’ve been doing evil in my eyes, and I turn you over to them for punishment for your years of cheating them out of their meager earnings. You are an embarrassment to your people!”
Oh yeah, this was going to be good….
And then they heard the rest of Jesus’ sentence:
“… for I must stay at your house today.”
They probably couldn’t believe their ears at first. Then they started to grumble. “Rabbis don’t go to the houses of sinners. What’s going on here? Why would he stand under the same roof as a guy who’s not even allowed in the temple?”