We get closer to Bethlehem as Christmas Day draws near, and Jesus is getting closer to Jerusalem. In reading through today’s chapter, we can see some of what is on his heart and mind.
As he passes through Jericho, Jesus looks up at a man sitting on a branch of a sycamore tree, obviously watching Jesus and his entourage. We know that, earlier, the man—Zacchaeus—had tried to catch a glimpse of Jesus through the crowd, but he was too short, so he ran ahead, climbed that tree, and waited to see the Master. A few moments later, the unthinkable happened. Jesus looked up. And stopped. And spoke to him.
I love it when Jesus stops to meet a seeker. He always seems to know who the seekers are, whether they say a word or not. Perhaps Jesus noticed the effort Zacchaeus had made to see him, or perhaps he knew, by the Spirit, this tax collector’s heart. And what a gift Jesus gave him! In front of the whole crowd, Jesus invited himself to this man’s house. The narrative tells us that Zacchaeus hurried down and received him joyfully.
You know the story as well as I. While the gathered Pharisees were murmuring about how inappropriate this was, Zacchaeus was showing the appropriate fruit of a tax collector’s repentance: He became a giver. Jesus said, “Salvation has come to his house this day.”
The teaching that follows feels almost random. It might just be that Jesus was nearing Jerusalem and, while he knew what would take place there, the people—-including his closest companions—-still thought he was going to usher in the kingdom in a way that was not what God’s plan called for. I wonder if, in the parable of the Ten Talents, he was preparing them for his departure. Perhaps it wasn’t about money at all, and not even about personal gifts or talent, since gifts and talent seem to remain intact even if, unused, they bring no fruit. It seems to me he was referring to all he had taught them, and what they would do with it after he left. In the context of what’s happening and what is to come, it seems to me that his last words here suggest as much:
“I will tell you that to everyone who has [received understanding and acted on my words] will be given more [harvest from them.] But from him who has not [acted on them] even what [understanding] he has will be taken away from him…” (vs 26, author’s edit).
Later we see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, the beloved city that missed the time of its visitation. This is the heart of one who knows what happens when his words—-compared in scripture to light, gold, bread and seed—-are rejected or neglected for whatever reason.
It makes me want to revisit my own heart’s commitment to holding fast to his Word, letting it fulfill its purpose in and through me, as it did in Zacchaeus.
“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” (Psalm 119:105).