Zacchaeus in the Sycamore

Oct 30, 2016

by Eric Sponheim, former board member

The story of Zacchaeus perched in a sycamore tree in Luke 19 is a beloved bible story. As a boy, I remember learning a cutely endearing song about Jesus’s outreach to this “wee little man.”

 Passing through Jericho, an important customs and tax-collection center, Jesus spots Zacchaeus, short of physical stature but strategically placed in the sycamore. Jesus immediately invites himself over to the despised tax collector’s house.

 To be despised as tax collector in occupied Palestine at the time of Christ was practically a given. Whether they were honest or not (many weren’t), tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people because they collaborated with the Roman power structure.

 Luke’s story makes no particular aspersions against Zacchaeus’s personal ethics. Luke merely records Zacchaeus’s offer to give away half of his possessions to the poor and make four-fold restitution to anyone he has cheated.

 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus tells Zacchaeus in response.

Salvation has come to Zacchaeus, Jesus says, because “he too is a child of Abraham.”

 In other words, salvation – the sense of being whole, right with God and one’s neighbors – is something that happens in the moment. It isn’t about belaboring the past or overburdening the future. It’s about accepting God’s grace as a beloved child of God, right here and right now, regardless of where you are.

 For those in prison, this place is behind razor-wire and many locked doors. But no matter how many locks there are, salvation can come to your house – even to, as the old slang term went, “the big house.”

 Prison Congregations of America seeks to help make this possible. 

Category: grace

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