Life Notes—March 14, 2013
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.” Luke 19:1-3
Like many of you, I learned about Zacchaeus from the lyrics of the children’s song:
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he;
He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see…”
The song is a fair representation of the scripture above, which describes him as “short in stature,” as opposed to “wee.” But we get the picture—he was vertically challenged. He desperately wanted to get a look at Jesus, but could not because of the large crowd. So he climbed a tree for a better view.
I cannot help but wonder, as I read the story of Zacchaeus, if physical stature was the only characteristic where he displayed wee-ness. I picture him not only as physically small, but also small-minded. Smart, perhaps; but petty and selfish. Scripture tells us “he was a chief tax collector and was rich.” Tax collectors, in general, are not described positively in the Gospels, usually being portrayed as thieves, and Zacchaeus was chief among them. Rich people are also targeted for special Gospel recognition, not of a desirable nature. Zacchaeus calls up images of the bullied school boy who lags a year or two behind his peers in physical stature and grows up determined to become someone with authority and power over others, as if to satisfy a deep-seated need to gain the respect he was always denied as a child.
The same motivation that drove Zacchaeus to become a tax collector, and then chief tax collector, likely made him to want to see Jesus desperately enough to drive him up a tree. His smallness made him keep his distance, but his deep-seated longing to see if Jesus lived up to the hype drove him to become visible and vulnerable—likely well out of the comfort zone of such a wee little man. Jesus recognizes Zacchaeus, calls him out, and invites himself to dinner. The encounter with Holiness stretches his wee-ness and he becomes as generous as he once was stingy. Encounters with Holiness do that to us. They expand our perspective, and we grow in spiritual stature and become large where we were once small. Jesus gives us the opportunity to forgive and heal the hurts of our past, rather than perpetuating them. We might still be short, but no longer wee.
This Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent. Mitch will preach at all five services. Life worship is downtown at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00. West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. The sermon is “Give Up a Bad Habit for Lent,” based on Luke 19:1-10.
Come home to church this Sunday. Don’t be wee…
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator