Daily Devotion 10 March 2021
Luke 19: 1-10 ‘Climbing Cleverly’
1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
The best climbing tree in the world, in my humble opinion, is in a small park just north of Guildford. Years ago, I used to take the boys there (when we were all smaller), and it was just the ideal tree to climb. The branches seemed to be spaced out just perfectly, you could step up some, reach and scramble up others and whether you were 5 or 35 could get a reasonable way up without bother. Small children could climb and feel reasonably confident of holding on while enjoying the thrill; older children (me) could climb even higher in that way dads like being bigger kids even that their own children.
I’m not sure there’s another tree-climbing story in the Bible; Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus is only in Luke too. It’s terrific though – some drama, some lightness, some grumbling – and Jesus doing what Jesus does best: reaching out in love to someone basically unlovable. Is that controversial? Not really. Luke tells us Zacchaeus is in just the worst job, is a fraud and cheat – significant shortcomings indeed. His shortcomings, you could say, also extends to his physical appearance, perhaps added by Luke for some lightness in the storytelling.
It seems Zacchaeus climbed the tree only catch a glimpse of who this Jesus was – the one causing all the fuss and excitement locally. He got what he wanted – a higher vantage point and a better line of sight. However, he also got something he hadn’t expected – a fresh perspective in a far more meaningful sense. Zacchaeus experienced a transformation well before Jesus had even visited his house – a simple calling by name and a welcome was enough. This from one who was on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem, to the end of the road. Even with the darkness beginning to surround him, Jesus was willing to reach out. All it took was for Zacchaeus to say ‘yes’ to Jesus calling him by name. It’s all it takes for us, too.
Loving God, thank you for searching us out, for looking so hard to find us;
for your gaze falling upon us right where we are.
May we be open to you, for you call us by name and know our deepest need;
our sin and shortcomings, and our longing to feel the reach of your love.
We ask this in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Paul Tabraham.
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