Friday, August 26, 2011


I was thinking about the story of Zaccheus this morning.

Zaccheus tells Jesus he will give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back four-fold anyone he has defrauded. Jesus replies, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham."

A standard Protetestant reading of this event is that because Zaccheus has come to faith in Jesus he has been saved. The fact that Zaccheus doesn't say anything about having faith in Jesus isn't really a problem because his actions demonstrate it. Obviously no Christian (Protestant or otherwise) would interpret this as saying that Zaccheus is being granted salvation because of what he has promised to do.

But what if the thing he is being saved from is his old lifestyle? "Today salvation has come to this house," Jesus says. Whatever has happened, Zaccheus' salvation has just taken place. In John 3:19 Jesus says, "And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." Can we say that Zaccheus has been "saved" from that "judgment"? It seems to me that it fits.

So all that was just floating around in my head today. This afternoon I took a minute to look up the story and read it. This is a much richer story than I had previously appreciated. The first verse floored me:
He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
I don't know how I have not noticed this before, but "Jericho" and "passing through" appearing together make for some serious allusion. In general, whenever I see a mention of Jericho I think of the Israelites' entry into the promised land and the specific phrase "passing through" draws my mind to the crossing of the Jordan through parted waters, which itself draws in the crossing of the Red Sea. Maybe I'm reading too much into this particular translation of the Greek διήρχετο, but then again maybe not. The Bible does tend to do things like that.

Next it says,
He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not
Ain't that the truth! How often does "the crowd" keep us from seeing who Jesus is? Maybe that's just me.

Here's my favorite bit though. Jesus says to Zaccheus, "I must stay at your house today." The crowd says, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." But we're in Jericho. The spies that Joshua sent into Jericho stayed in the house of Rahab, the prostitute. Wouldn't you think the people living in Jericho would know that story?

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