by Pastor Stephen Abraham
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Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount (Luke 19:8).
Have you ever felt lost?
Maybe not lost in the sense of physical location but a ‘lost in life’ or spiritually lost feeling. Or perhaps you have been ostracised by people and left feeling lost and alone. Maybe you have been directionless in life, drifting with no sense of where your life was going, or perhaps you were heading off a cliff!
Maybe you have lost someone who meant the world to you. For me personally, it has been two years since I lost my mum, and part of me still feels numb and directionless – an emptiness, like something is missing from my life.
Feeling lost is not a nice feeling.
It appears that Zacchaeus is lost at the start of our reading today.
How was he lost? His job as a tax collector for the hated Roman Empire certainly would have made him a social pariah, as indicated by the muttering of all the people in verse 7. Being a tax collector made him ritually unclean – even excommunicated from the synagogues – and outside of God’s mercy. Zacchaeus is lost spiritually and socially.
What is he seeking? Most people who are lost don’t really want to be lost! Verse 4 tells us Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus and discover who he is, but he is too short (and he has certainly fallen short!). Seeking answers, he climbs a tree. To some, this seems amusing: ‘a short loser climbing a tree!’. Personally, I think it is an act of audacity – a brave risk by a desperate man!
How is Zacchaeus found? Jesus sees him. Jesus breaks down the social/religious barrier and speaks to him. Jesus calls him down. Jesus welcomes him. Jesus wants to be with him in the most intimate way – in his home.
How does Zacchaeus react? ‘Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’ (Luke 19:8).
Zacchaeus acknowledges Jesus as Lord. He acts immediately in giving of himself freely, releasing his wealth to help those in need and making restitution for his misdeeds. It is a stark contrast to the rich man in Luke 18:18–27 (and Mark 10:22), who walks away empty and lost.
How is Zacchaeus saved? Jesus says, ‘salvation has come to this house’. The word here also means to heal or be made whole. Jesus makes us whole!
Lord Jesus, save us. Fill our emptiness with your love. Grant us your peace. Holy Spirit, show us how we can reach out to the lost with your love and acceptance. Amen.
Stephen Abraham is a retired Lutheran pastor and musician who served as a school pastor and church planter in Mawson Lakes, South Australia. Stephen retired early due to a spinal injury, leaving him largely housebound with chronic pain (documented by Lutheran Media on its Messages of Hope YouTube channel in 2014). When Stephen can, he still preaches, takes school chapels and serves his local church. He also writes and records personal songs, worship songs and Christian meditations, which he shares on his YouTube channel (youtube.com/StephenAbrahamMusic).