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Loved Those Unloved


Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. This is one of the lines to a Sunday School song I learned when I was a wee little boy. Actually, the Zacchaeus of the Gospels was not only short, but a tax collector. As such, he was in charge of discerning how much taxes it looked like you could afford to pay. He had guidelines for sure but he also had some wiggle room and what ever he could wiggle out of you that was extra, he got to keep. As you could imagine, he was not well loved. His livelihood put him at odds with his neighbors. Even those who pretended to love him only did so to avoid paying so much in taxes.


As the story goes, Jesus came along and and saw him up in a tree. He was short and he wanted to get to see this one who they called Jesus as He passed by. Jesus noticed him and stopped the procession right below the tax collector. Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, I want to eat a meal at your house. I am sure this is where the the crowd gasped and murmured to themselves. Can you picture them saying, “Does he even know who he is talking to?” or, “I heard Pastor Tim does that too.” In Biblical times, you just didn’t sit down and share a meal with someone that you didn’t want people to associate you with. Eating a meal with someone was a sign that you had shared values or social location. No one ate with tax collectors, but Jesus did.


In Johns gospel it says that Jesus was eating a meal with tax collectors and sinners. The key to understanding this is that the same Greek word for sinner, also means debtor. That is why some versions of he Lord’s prayer say trespasses and some say debts. What Jesus was doing was brokering a deal for those who owed debts to the tax collectors to keep them out of jail. This took courage and showed them both that Love for your neighbor is a better way to live.

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