There is a great deal to learn from Zacchaeus. First, remember the tax collector from last week. In the parable, he confessed to God that he sinned and sought forgiveness. We repeat that with today’s reading, with a different slant.
We also repeat part of the story of the Rich Ruler in that Zacchaeus is also rich. In addition, Chapter 18 ended with the account of a blind beggar asking for vision.
The very next account is of Zacchaeus who climbed into a tree so that he could see Jesus, about whom he had heard so much. Both he and the beggar were able to see Jesus. The beggar believed that Jesus was the Messiah because of the gift of healing.
Zacchaeus believed Jesus was the Messiah, not because he saw Jesus, but because Jesus treated him as a son of God. Zacchaeus saw the real Jesus/Messiah and believed in him.
Now for the rich ruler. Both men were rich, but Zacchaeus immediately announced that he would give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back everyone he had cheated out of his remaining money; pay back four times what he had taken. Notice that Jesus was happy with rich Zacchaeus keeping plenty of money to live on and if the rich ruler had been willing to give a large chunk of his wealth to the poor, Jesus would have been happy as well.
Notice, please, that the money was to go to the poor in each account, not to a church building, art museum, university lecture series, or TV evangelists.
How does Zacchaeus tie into Habakkuk?
The prophet asked, O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? TLB Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head. MSG Billions have asked this question over the generations of humans. We seem to believe that we are the first.
Our problem is, we don’t like God’s answer. We want a quick fix. Instead, He said, For the vision is meant for its appointed time; it speaks of the end, and it does not lie. It may take a while, but wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. “Look at the proud: he is inwardly not upright; but the righteous will attain life through trusting faithfulness. CJB Again, Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive. MSG
Paul has the answer in his comments to the church at Thessalonica. We are happy to tell other churches about your patience and complete faith in God, in spite of all the crushing troubles and hardships you are going through. TLB
Following Jesus is not about eliminating problems in our lives. War and crime thrive and always will. No President or Congress will bring about World Peace.
As followers of Christ, we are to do as much love in the world as possible, even in the face of great danger.
Be righteous and do good.