Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week was an excellent picture of restoration. A father restored his prodigal son with a great deal of grace and mercy. Central points of the parable included:
1) A son essentially betrays his father by asking for his inheritance before his father’s death.
2) The son went far away to live a wild and immoral life. He squanders all that he has. And then, life came at him fast. A severe famine occurred. A situation for which he had no control and he could not change.
3) While he contemplates eating what the pigs are eating, he realizes his father’s servants have bread to spare. Feeling defeated and broken, he returns home to humbly ask to work as a hired hand.
4) His father runs to meet him and restores him as a son with a great celebration. The father does this because his son “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found”.
This week we continue with the idea of restoration and add to it the ideas of restitution and reconciliation. In this parable Jesus notices Zacchaeus; a man who is likely despised by other Jews and decides to abide at his house. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Calling To Salvation”. Standard Commentary titles it “Called to Repent”. The Scripture text comes from Luke 19:1-10.
Luke 19:28 begins the final days of Jesus’ life. Today’s text is another parable mentioning the lost and found theme discussed in last week’s lesson. There were lost and found sheep, coins, and people. In the big picture Jesus is helping us understand how God loves God’s people.
1) When the sheep was lost, the shepherd diligently searched for the lost sheep. 2) When the coin was lost the woman diligently searched for the lost coin.
3) When the prodigal son was lost the father ran to meet him even while he was a great distance away.
The point to remember is that God’s love for us is gracious, powerful, and all encompassing. As discussed last week Luke’s gospel is likely written shortly after 70 C.E. Nelson’s Bible Handbook says “He is an educated Gentile with a better command of Greek than any of the other New Testament writers. He portrays Jesus as a man with compassion for all people and he is the most socially minded of the gospels.
What takes place in this passage:
Jesus is passing through Jericho on his final trip to Jerusalem. There are great crowds lining the street as people try to see him pass by. Zacchaeus, a short man can’t see so he quickly devises a plan. He is likely a rich tax collector also. He wants to see for himself who this man named Jesus is. The crowd is so great that he can’t see, so he climbs a tree in hopes of seeing him. When Jesus passes by he notices Zacchaeus and tells him to quickly come down because “I must stay at your house today”.
Zacchaeus hurries down and gladly receives Jesus. The crowd knows exactly who Zacchaeus is and immediately begins to murmur that Jesus is the guest of a sinner. They despise him because tax collectors were often corrupt and Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Moved by this encounter with Jesus declares he will give half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he has defrauded four times. Impressed by Zacchaeus’ repentance and offer of restitution, Jesus reconciles Zacchaeus calling him a son of Abraham. Jesus closes this parable with a familiar refrain. “For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost”.
There are several ways to contextualize this passage. We could look at the ideas of:
1) Salvation – Zacchaeus is restored by Jesus when He declares him as a Son of Abraham.
2) Repentance – Zacchaeus repents of his actions and declares he will give half his goods to the poor and repay four times anyone he has defrauded.
3) Reparations – Zacchaeus provides an example of reparations as he seeks to repair what he has harmed.
4) Restitution – Zacchaeus desires to restore all he has harmed.
American descendants of slavery have a unique claim against the federal government for reparations. Enslavement of Africans is the foundation of American wealth. That enslavement transitioned to racial caste, Jim Crow laws, then Federal government endorsed redlining, mass incarceration and other acts that intentionally disenfranchised the descendants of slavery. Reparations are about repairing or restoring what has been harmed. Zacchaeus knew he needed to make right what he had wronged. He repented of his sins, declared he would restore those he had harmed, and then Jesus reconciled him by calling him a son of Abraham. Repentance, restoration, and then reconciliation, that’s the Zacchaeus model.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30). His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.
Zacchaeus – He is mentioned only in the Protestant scripture in the gospel of Luke. He is a rich tax collector for the Roman government and has other tax collectors working beneath him. His four fold repayment was the Old Testament repayment for theft.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Acceptance – the act of accepting something or someone: the fact of being accepted: APPROVAL – Zacchaeus was not accepted in the Israelite community because of his occupation as a tax collector. He was likely despised.
Repentance – The act of expressing contrition and penitence for sin. It’s linguistic roots point to its theological meaning of a change of mind and life direction as a beginning step of expressing Christian faith.
Reparation – The action of making amends for past offenses. It describes Christ’s death in that it restored the divine-human relationship. In some Roman Catholic communities, the term describes good works or acts of penitence for sins against another person.
Sin – Various Hebrew and Greek words are translated “sin” with many shades of meaning. Theologically, sin is the human condition of separation from God that arises from opposition to God’s purposes. It may be breaking God’s law, failing to do God’s wills, or rebellion. It needs forgiveness by God.
Salvation – God’s activities in bringing humans into a right relationship with God and with one another through Jesus Christ. They are saved from the consequences of their sin and given eternal life. Biblical images of salvation vary widely.
Themes, topics, discussion, or sermon preparation ideas:
- Repentance, Restitution, and Reconciliation.
- Little man with a big problem.
- Reparations – Making right what was wrong.
1) Has anyone ever borrowed something from you and didn’t return it or returned it in worse condition than when you lent it? Discuss the attitude of both the borrower and the lender.
2) Zacchaeus was likely despised by the Israelites because of his occupation. Are their people you know who despise others because of what they do for a living?
3) The crowd murmured when Jesus went to went to stay with Zacchaeus. Have you faced situations when others talked badly about you for associating with people they didn’t like?
The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms lists at least 22 variations of the word “sin”. Sin is what Zacchaeus repented of and sought to provide restitution for. He was a collaborator with the Roman government, likely cheated many people out of their money, and was despised by the Jewish people. The good news is Jesus provides salvation for people like Zacchaeus. His life was changed when he encountered Jesus. And that’s the way encounters with Jesus should be for all of us – life changing.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week the Gospel according to Matthew brings into focus hearing the call of Jesus. We return to Jesus’ call of some of the disciples and the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In this lesson, we will explore what the call of Jesus means to us personally.