Thursday, March 01, 2007
This is a self-portrait.
Some thoughts on Luke 18 and 19
I was struck this week as I was studying and discussing Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus how Jesus is able to speak directly to the heart of Zacchaeus when He tells all who are listening that "he too is a son of Abraham". This was significant since Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, working for the Romans, and hated by his fellow Jews. He had become very rich but was an outcast, hated by all as the passage makes clear. It is one of the few times, if not the only time, that the whole crowd, not just the Pharisees, grumbles about Jesus befriending "sinners". So to the Jews, as I understand it, Zacchaeus was not considered a Jew anymore. He was a traitor. So Jesus not only announces that "salvation has come to this house..." great news to say the least, but He needs to add that Zacchaeus is a "son of Abraham". He is a Jew, one of the chosen, accepted and loved by God. And when Jesus speaks these words He is speaking right into the heart of Zacchaeus and healing the deep wounds that have developed over the years. I find that I need Jesus to speak in the same way to me. "For Duke too is my child." The words may be different for each of us, but all of us have a deep need to hear Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, speak into our hearts and heal our wounds. Notice that He knew what Zacchaeus needed to hear; Jesus did not need to ask him. It is the same with us. We need only listen for He wants to come and stay with us. I have to ask myself if I am pursuing Jesus like Zacchaeus was? And am I expecting the Zacchaeuses of our tmes to be wanting to see Jesus?
And on another note, this story really should be part of chapter 18 for it concludes what Luke has been saying in 18. In the Zacchaeus story Luke answers the question and statement that he gave us in chapter 18. "Who can be saved?" and "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven... What is impossible with man is possible with God." We see in Zacchaeus a rich man be saved. God has done what was impossible, that is brought a rich man to the place where his possessions do not own him anymore. Zacchaeus gives half to the poor and the other half will go towards paying back those he cheated. That is as big a miracle as any of Jesus' healings.
And lastly chapter 18 is also the place that Jesus says that unless we "receive the kingdom of God as a little child we will not enter it." What I have usually heard in regards to this is that it means we should mirror the simple faith of a child, which made sense to me. But now I do not think that is what Jesus means here. There is nothing in the passage that indicates the children's (and it seems to indicates these are babies, not children) faith is what Jesus is referring to. Nothing specific about the children is described. But Jesus has talked almost continuously about the need to sell our possessions and give them to the poor. He has focused on the blessings to the poor and woes to the rich. In this episode in 18 the disciples try to keep the children from Jesus and would have if He had not intervened. This all points to the fact that children and especially infants have nothing. They have no possessions, no authority, no rights, nothing. Jesus is saying that unless we are like that we can not enter His kingdom.
Why? Because the way is narrow and all those things will not fit.
Why? Because there is only one king, and it is not me. And there is only one treasure and it is not anything I own (or that owns me as the case may be). In His kingdom his way is best and He is the treasure, and if we do not recognize that and act accordingly, then we can not, and in reality will not want to enter it. And unless I give the wrong impression, I want to make it clear that we are fools if we do not see this as good news and what will give us the most joy. If we do not see it, if we are still holding on to things, then we need to repent and pray for our eyes to be opened. This is what I am doing. I still do not have the freedom that Zacchaeus found (or that found him). I want it and yet part of me does not want it; part of me wants my stuff and my rights and my way. Oh Lord, have mercy on me a sinner (also in chapter 18 by the way). Free me from the idols and possessions that grip my heart.