Some time you just have an itch you can’t scratch. It happens. We have gone along in life and accomplished some goals and objectives. Maybe we are the “chief” of this or that, and like Zacchaeus are wealthy. But there is something missing, something slightly off – we thought it would different after we accomplished goals. It is the thought we just can’t put our finger on. It is the itch we can’t scratch.
I suspect that is where Zacchaeus is in life. He is chief tax collector, a wealthy man – and clearly scorned by the people. Which makes sense. A tax collector had to buy the position from the Romans – so you have your investment to recover. The Romans then expect the year taxes to be collected and paid. And you course you need to make a living and some profit for a rainy day. How much profit? The Romans didn’t care. All we know is that Zacchaeus is a wealthy man, but as become so at the cost of his relationships, his people, friends, and his heritage of faith.
Maybe now he realizes the cost and there is that sense of incompleteness, or what’s next, or do I need to start over – any one of a hundred different thoughts. In that moment, he hears the stories about Jesus – the healings, the miracles, the powerful word, and the rumors – could he be the Messiah? And so Zacchaeus “was seeking to see who Jesus was.”
Maybe in our own way, we too are like Zaccheaeus. Things are going well, we come to church, but there is more – and we can’t put our finger on it. Maybe we just need to realize that, like Zacchaeus, we need to put our self in a position to see who Jesus is. Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a better view. And then it happens.
What follows next is that encounter with Christ. Jesus calls out to him! Not in the command voice “do this,” but it the voice of a proposal – “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” It is a proposal – one to which Zacchaeus could have said “no.” Think of it as one person asking another for a date. In a way it is that same dynamic – I want to be in relationship with you; I want to know you; I want to be closer. There is the proposal will you say “yes?”
Zacchaeus responds and comes down from the tree. “And he came down quickly and received him with joy.” Joy was his response to the invitation, to the encounter. And like dating, Zacchaeus understands there is some commitment to be made. Perhaps writ large; perhaps something small – but something. Zacchaeus goes large: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”
We are like Zacchaeus. As St. Augustine notes: we are restless until we rest in you. And so we come to church – and in the Word proclaimed and the Eucharist received we year our name “come down quickly” for today Christ would stay in our house. At least that is the invitation. Will we truly accept it? Will we take the date? Will we make the commitment to walk with Christ. Will we commit to be Christ for others in our homes, our work, our schools, or on the sidewalks of life?
“Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” That is the invitation.
Yours is the answer. Yours is the commitment.