The Scandalous Invitation
(See Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus never saw him coming. Literally - the “wee little man” was probably kept from seeing Jesus deliberately by the crowds, out of spite, and hatred. Zacchaeus was the boss of tax collectors - a legalized pimp of professional extortioners, all with authority from Rome to fleece their own people in order to return taxes due to Caesar.
Zacchaeus was therefore rich, and “little”, literally and figuratively - secure, and empty. Satisfied, and despised. Possessing the brass ring, and possessing nothing at all. Though we don’t know why exactly, it is not hard to conjecture, therefore, why he was so drawn to Jesus - even to the point of climbing a tree to see him. Perhaps Zacchaeus didn’t know himself what exactly he was seeking. Perhaps he just felt compelled, by Something in this man Jesus.
Who do you know who is Zacchaeus? Who has it all, but who can enjoy “it all” only in a pile of rubble - whose life is both the American dream and at the same time a post-apocalyptic nightmare of wreckage? (Is it you?) They, we, are everywhere.
The world speaks to Zacchaeus either in judgment - you got what you deserved, so find a tree! - or with self-excusing pity - it’s not your fault.
But Jesus is concerned for not only the down-and-out, but also the up-and-out - yes, he cares for the prostitute, the leper, the blind . . . Yet low social station and physical maladies, in the eyes of Jesus, do nothing in themselves to grant us nobility before God. God’s grace has no bias; it does not follow our intuitions of judgment. Jesus invited Zacchaeus to dinner.
This is scandalous. "What?! The Lord invited himself to Zacchaeus' house?! What just happened?! I thought Jesus was with us?!"
Jesus repeatedly crossed social boundaries, with all kinds of people. But his purpose was not to diversify his follower base. He eats with sinners to introduce them to God, and - implicitly or explicitly - to call them to faith and repentance. And does Zacchaeus repent! Freely, joyously!
Jesus, being God, brought God into every situation he went. Naturally. But we, being united to him, no less bring God with us, as we eat with those who long for life, and home - even if they don’t know that “home” is Christ.
Who do you eat with? Really, who? The invitation to a meal, still in our day, carries powerful connotations of possible acceptance, and deep friendship. Yet we win no one into our Father’s family by our winsome personalities. Only by repentance, and faith.