Luke 19.1-10 (comments, please?)

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through.

And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, because he was short. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree along the way.

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your place today.”

So he made haste to come down, and received him joyfully.

And when people saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anybody of anything, I restore it fourfold!”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since [Zacchaeus] too is a son of Abraham. For this son of Adam came to seek and to save the lost.”

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One response

  1. On a customary reading, this looks like: “If you think you’re a sinner, Jesus will forgive you.” That’s true enough, but there’s a lot more going on.

    “Sin” here isn’t a personal issue; Jesus’ work is tied to his nation’s hope for forgiveness and shared prosperity, under renewed good relations with God. (See ‘Why Is John…?’ And “‘More About Sinners’.)

    NT Wright (_Jesus and the Victory of God_): “The logic of this position is quite different from that of the lonely post-Enlightenment individual bent on his quest for individual salvation. It is the logic of the promise to Abraham and his family; and the key question is: who really are the children of Abraham?…

    “The crucial thing, of course, is that for Jesus this repentance, whether personal or national, did not involve going to the Temple and offering sacrifice. John’s baptism, as we saw, already carried this scandalous notion: one could ‘repent’, in the divinely appointed way, down by the Jordan instead of up in Jerusalem! In just the same way, Jesus offered membership in the renewed people of the covenant God on his own authority and by his own process. This was the real scandal. He behaved as if he thought (a) that the return from exile was already happening, (b) that it consisted precisely of himself and his mission, and hence (c) that he had the right to pronounce on who belonged to the restored Israel. The crucial issue in the Zacchaeus episode — to take one highly relevant passage — is that, whatever Zacchaeus did or did not do with his money, Jesus declared on his own authority that Zacchaeus was a true son of Abraham, and that salvation had come to his house. In other words, what Zacchaeus would normally have obtained through visiting Jerusalem and participating in the sacrificial cult, Jesus gave him on the spot…. If the story which Jesus was telling by his words and actions was true, the climactic moment in Jewish history had arrived in person, and was behaving in a thoroughly unprincipled manner.

    … He did indeed summon people to repent, as he did indeed announce the kingdom. But in neither case did the story follow the plot that his hearers might have expected. His implied narrative continued, not with national restoration per se… but with the challenge to his hearers to follow a different way of being Israel, and to await a different sort of vindication.”
    ——

    Being “the guest of a sinner,” in this time & place, is not just socially unacceptable, but religiously offensive, a rejection of the national effort to practice their side of the covenant in the hope that God would reciprocate… And in Jesus’ case, as Wright says elsewhere, he seems to be “celebrating the Messianic Banquet with all the wrong people.”

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