Christ’s Mission, Our Mission
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
5When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to Zacchaeus, “Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today.”
v6Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed him with great joy. v7All the people who saw it started grumbling, “This man has gone as a guest to the home of a sinner!”
v8Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Listen, sir! I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times as much.”
v9Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham. v10The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:5-10
The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most indelible story that I heard during my Sunday school days. Aside from his height that I can relate with, his persistence to see Jesus and his creativity to do it continues to be a personal inspiration and I’m sure motivation of multitude that have heard or read the story. But there is more that we can learn from the Zacchaeus story. This gospel story captures what the mission of Jesus was all about, and in turn the mission of the church, our mission as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Zacchaeus story transpired while Jesus was passing Jericho, the city of palms. We read from the gospel lesson this Sunday according to Saint Luke, “And there was a man named Zacchaeus he was a chief tax collector, and was rich.” In one sentence we are told the story of a human life. Here’s the background. Nothing in first century Judea was quite so hated and despised as was the Roman tax. It not only reminded the Jews that they were a subjugated people, it also represented a theological affront. To the Jew there was only one King, and that was God, not Caesar. Paying tribute to an earthly non-Jewish monarch was something that the Hebrews had opposed throughout their long history.
But there was more. The dirty work of collecting the tax was done not by the Romans, but by collaborating Jews. To make matters worse, some of the money that they collected off the backs of their fellow countrymen stuck to their own fingers. We are told that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That is the only time in the New Testament that that term is used. It meant that he was over an entire district. Zacchaeus may have been short in stature, but he had wealth and wealth means power, so, in a manner of speaking, people looked up to him. Zacchaeus was the little man with the big reputation. He was not just well to do. According to Luke, he was rich. However this status did not deter his desire to see this celebrated man from Galilee passing by his town. His determination to see the Lord made him climb the sycamore tree beside the road because obviously his wealth could not buy him a frontline view to see Jesus Christ.
Jesus was still seeking to save the lost (v.10) only a few days before his crucifixion; this was the purpose of his coming. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, earned his living by collecting more than should have from the people. For this reason, tax collectors were despised by the people. Jesus’ concern for Zacchaeus admonishes us to bring the gospel to the undesirable of society, for all people are lost and in need of salvation.
C.S. Lewis has this really helpful illustration. He says that in the incarnation, Jesus was like a diver. He is God in heaven looking down into this dark, slimy, murky water. That’s our sinful, polluted world. God dives in, He gets himself wet. And then God came up again, dripping, but holding the precious thing he went down to recover. That precious thing was Zacchaeus, and you and me. All those sinners who have trusted in Christ. That’s how we get out of the slime of tax collecting, or cheating, or lusting, or hating, or whatever other self-destructive sin we are buried in. God in Christ descended down into the slime and rescued us. Resolutions and vows to be better won’t help by themselves. We don’t have the power to keep them. We are stuck on the sea bottom. We have no power of our own to get up or out. All we can do is cry out for God’s grace to lift us up, to rescue us. (e.sermons.com)
This is to reiterate what Christian mission is and should be as already mentioned in the previous article. “The whole church is mission, a people sent, to meet humanity’s total needs, like the all-embracing love of Christ. Important here is justice and peace work. Jesus not only proclaimed the Good News, he was the Good News. The saving message cannot be dissociated from the saving ministry.” Hence, the mission of the church, of Christian believers is to reach out to the Zacchaeus of the world today.
Let us pray.
Almighty God and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (ECP-BCP p138)**