Archive for September 23, 2011
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Today, we finish our reflections on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the famed “wee little man” of
Sunday School music fame. We have seen that Zaccheaus, because of his
short stature and despised status as a tax collector, climbed a tree in order to
see Jesus. Then, most surprisingly, Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home. In response to the grace he
received from Jesus, Zaccheaus turned his life around, leaving his
greedy, dishonest ways in order to walk in the ways of the kingdom of God.
We have also seen how the crowd, those townspeople who had been overtaxed by
Zacchaeus, were displeased with Jesus’ desire
to associate with such a notorious sinner. We don’t know if Jesus explained to
them at the time why he was doing something so contrary to their expectations.
But we do get such an explanation at the end of the story: “For the Son of Man
came to seek and save those who are lost” (19:10).
Talk about surprises! Various Jewish writings from
the time of Jesus spoke of a mysterious Son of Man who would come to judge the
enemies of Israel and to raise up God’s faithful people. Based on Daniel 7,
these texts often envisioned a superhuman agent of God’s fiery judgment on
sinners. (If you’d like to learn more about this subject, see what I’ve written
on the Son of Man in two blog series: Was Jesus Divine? and Why Did Jesus Have to Die?). Nobody among Jesus’
contemporaries expected the Son of Man, a phrase that means “human being” in
Hebrew and Aramaic, to seek and save the lost. Zacchaeus was precisely the
sort of person whom the Son of Man was supposed to condemn for his sins against
and his disloyalty to Israel.
Yet, Jesus saw his role as Son of Man in a radically different mode. He came
as God’s agent, not simply of judgment, but also of salvation. In fact, he came
to receive upon himself divine judgment for sin, thus offering forgiveness and
new life to those who would receive him.
The story of Zacchaeus paints a moving picture of the way
God, through Jesus, accepts us. Our sins may not be as notorious as those of
Zacchaeus. But like this “wee little man,” we
stand in need of God’s salvation. And that is exactly what he offers to us
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced
being sought by Jesus? When? Do you think of Jesus as pursuing you? Or do you
think of your relationship with God more in terms of your seeking after
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Son of Man, thank you for coming to seek
and save the lost, including me!
Lord Jesus, Son of Man, thank you for taking
upon yourself the judgment that belonged to me, so that I might be forgiven and
renewed in your grace.
Lord Jesus, may I follow you as one who seeks to reach out to those who are
lost, even to “notorious” sinners. I cannot save them, of course. But I can
point them to the only savior, to you, the Son of Man. Amen.