Happy!!! (exploring Luke 19:1-10)

"Salvation has come to this house today," Jesus said to Zacchaeus. This doesn’t mean that Zacchaeus became a Christian. After all, Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Jesus was Jewish, and the salvation he was bringing to everyone who would listen was a shift into a deeper, broader embrace of God’s shalom, God’s love, God’s desire for wholeness for each person and for all of us together.

Zacchaeus, when we meet him here in Luke’s gospel, is already ready for the wholeness God is calling him to. We don’t see him when he’s getting ready. We don’t get a flashback to help us understand when his questions about his life began to stir, or when he was struggling as we do between being ready and not yet ready at the same time. Being ready and not really ready is so human and normal when we are in a time of spiritual transformation.

But by the time we meet Zacchaeus, he is already ready for the new life God has been calling him to. We know this because he is running. He is running ahead of the crowd that is walking with Jesus into Jericho. He is running to find a tree that he can climb up into so that he, being short of stature, will be able to get a good look at Jesus when he walks by.

Yet Luke’s story makes clear that Zacchaeus already knows about the ministry of Jesus, somehow. Maybe he was on the edge of the crowd when Jesus spoke the Beatitudes. Or in a synagogue one Sabbath when Jesus healed someone.

We don’t know how he found out about the gospel of salvation, of wholeness in our own minds, hearts, and bodies, and in how we connect with our communities, the wholeness that Jesus was revealing and inviting everyone to be part of, no one left out.

Somehow Zacchaeus knew Jesus wouldn’t reject him because he was a tax collector, working for Rome, in fact, a chief tax collector. He knew Jesus wouldn’t reject him just because he had become very, very rich, while some of his neighbors were struggling to have enough food.

Jesus too is already ready. He somehow already knows Zaccheaus’s name. Hurry and come down Zacchaeus, he says. Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today. So Zaccheaus hurried down from the tree and was happy to welcome Jesus to his home and to his table.

The people in the crowd who saw this began to grumble. I think it’s fair to assume that they were not already ready. They were not ready for the “no one left out” part of God’s love.

But Zacchaeus was ready. He was ready not only to be loved but to love. He told Jesus “I will give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay back four times as much.”

So Zacchaeus is now not only ready, but happy--utterly and wondrously happy!--to change his life. He has a new point of orientation for living—and it isn’t piling up money, it’s helping God to build a beloved community.

As the psalmist says, “Awaken us, O Holy One! Too long have we been asleep! Help us to listen for your gentle Voice; strengthen us with courage in our inner being. O that we may be transformed in our hearts, and walk together in peace and harmony. Let the grace of your Spirit shine through us, guiding our feet into pathways of love." (from Psalm 90, translated by Nan C. Merrill)