“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of
Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
Zacchaeus was a very short man, probably barely 5 feet tall with his shoes on. And he was not a very popular man in Jericho. He was chief tax-collector for the Romans and he had made such a travesty out of it, that he was the richest and shortest man in Jericho. When he got wind that Jesus would be passing through, he climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see something more than just the backs of other people. That is where Jesus spots Zacchaeus.
"Zacchaeus," Jesus said, "come down immediately. I'm hanging out with YOU tonight." (v. 5) All Jericho rolled their eyes and snickered at the fact that Jesus didn't have better sense than to invite Himself to the house of a man that nobody else would touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole.
But Jesus knew what He was doing. Zacchaeus was so startled and surprised by the honor of Jesus’ request, that before he had a chance to change his mind, he promised not only to give half of his possessions to the poor but to also pay back, four times the cash he'd cheated from anyone. Jesus was absolutely delighted. "Today salvation has come to this house," He said (v.9), and since that was Jesus’ specialty after all, you assume He was right.
Zacchaeus makes a good story because, in a sense, he can stand for all the rest, you and me included. He's a despised social disaster with a big bank account and a crooked job, but Jesus welcomes him aboard anyway, and that's why he reminds us of all the others too.
There's Aaron fooling around with the Golden Calf the moment his Moses’ back is turned. There's Jacob deceiving everybody including his own father. There's Jael hammering a tent-peg through the temple of a tormentor of Israel, and Rahab, the first of the red-hot mamas. There's Nebuchadnezzar with his penchant for barbecuing young enemies and Paul holding coats as the people go to work on Stephen. There's Saul, the paranoid, and David, the stud, and those double-dealing, double faced friends of Job's, who would probably have succeeded in boring him to death if God hadn't intervened just at the right time. And then there are the ones who abandoned and deserted the people who loved them such as Absalom and poor old Peter, and even Judas.
Like Zacchaeus, they're all peculiar as Hell, to put it quite literally. Yet you can't help but to feel that, like Zacchaeus, they're all somehow loved and accepted too. Jesus said of him, “This man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Why are they loved and accepted? Who knows? But at least one can say this about it: they're loved and accepted, less for who they are and for what the world thinks of them than for what they have it in them. Ultimately, of course it's not what the world thinks of them at all. "All the earth is mine!" says Yahweh, "and all that dwell therein," adds the Twenty-fourth Psalm. And in the long run, presumably, that goes for you and me too.
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15
GREED: The Cat and the Vase
A man wanders into a small antique shop in San Francisco. Mostly it's cluttered with knickknacks and junk. On the floor, however, he notices what looks like an ancient Chinese vase. On closer inspection it turns out to be a priceless relic from the Ming dynasty whose value is beyond calculating. It is worth everything else in the store put together.
The owner clearly has no idea about the value of this possession, because it's filled with milk and the cat's drinking out of it. The man sees an opportunity for the deal of a lifetime. He cleverly strategizes a method to obtain the vase for a fraction of its worth.
"That's an extraordinary cat you have," he says to the owner. "How much would you sell her for?"
"Oh, the cat's not really for sale," said the owner. "She keeps the store free of mice."
"I really must have her," the man countered. "Tell you what – I'll give you a hundred dollars for her."
"She's not really worth it," laughed the owner, "but if you want her that badly, she's yours."
"I need something to feed her from as well," continued the man. "Let me throw in another ten dollars for that saucer she's drinking out of."
"Oh, I could never do that. That saucer is actually an ancient Chinese vase from the Ming dynasty. It is my prized possession, whose worth is beyond calculation. Funny thing, though; since we've had it, I've sold seventeen cats."
THE DOG AND THE SHADOW (AN AESOP FABLE):
If you covet all, you may lose all
A Dog, to whom the butcher had thrown a bone, was hurrying home with his prize as fast as he could go. As he crossed a narrow footbridge, he happened to look down and saw himself reflected in the quiet water as if in a mirror. But the greedy Dog thought he saw a real Dog carrying a bone much bigger than his own.
If he had stopped to think he would have known better. But instead of thinking, he dropped his bone and sprang at the Dog in the river, only to find himself swimming for dear life to reach the shore. At last he managed to scramble out, and as he stood sadly thinking about the good bone he had lost, he realized what a stupid Dog he had been.
It is very foolish to be greedy.
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.” “Come,” He said. Matthew 14:28-29
There is an old hymn that says, “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea.”
In our text this morning, Jesus indeed calls out to His disciples in the midst of the winds and waves of the sea, yet He is not calling them away from the storm. Instead, He calls them into the storm. The text also says that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat. A better translation of the verb would be “to force” or “to compel.” Jesus did not give the disciples a choice. He compelled them to get into the boat and leave Him alone with the crowds.
It was the disciples who wanted Jesus to get rid of the crowds before the great miracle of the feeding. Only after the feeding this multitude does Jesus send everyone away: the crowds and the disciples. Jesus then goes up the mountainside to pray. Twice, Matthew tells us that Jesus is by Himself (Matt. 14:13, 23)
The disciples are not a “considerable distance” from land and the boat is being tossed around by the winds and waves. This is reminiscent of Jesus calming the sea (Matthew 8:23-27). But in this passage, Jesus is not with the disciples in the boat. The disciples have been struggling for a while. It is not until the early hours of the morning (3:00 – 6:00 AM) that Jesus decides to come to them in the middle of the sea, while it is still dark.
The disciples, though, do not recognize Jesus in the midst of the storm. In their fear and exhaustion (they are probably exhausted from being up all night, fighting the wind and waves), they mistake Jesus for a ghost. Over their cries of fear, Jesus reassures them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” A more literal translation of “It is I. Do not be afraid” is “I AM. Do not be afraid.” To Matthew’s Jewish audience, Jesus’ words echo the divine name. In that self-revelation is a disclosure of Jesus’ source of power and authority. In the middle of the wind, waves and storm, Jesus does only what God can do.
When confronted with Jesus’ revelation, Peter does the unthinkable: he asks to meet Jesus in the storm. Jesus does not call the seas to make Peter’s steps easier. In fact, it is the winds and waves that scares Peter and cause him to sing. It was Jesus invitation that made possible for Peter to walk on water in the first place.
In the first miracle on the sea, the narrative ends with the question, “What kind of man is this?” (Matthew 8:27). This text, however, ends by answering that question with the declaration, “Truly, You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33).
Matthew tells us this story to reveal who Jesus is. But that revelation is only made possible in the midst of the storm and chaos. If Jesus had not compelled the disciples to get on the boat on this uncertain journey, they would have missed the opportunity to see God revealed in their midst.
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8b
This passage is the basis of Maundy Thursday, the least understood but surely the most intimate of the Paschal Triduum (the three days of Easter). Most people, even non-Christians have heard of Good Friday and Easter, the last two days of the Triduum. But most people don’t know much about this important Thursday observance.
Maundy Thursday come from “mandatum novum” (new commandment, Latin), referring to John 13. Jesus was hosting a meal, known as the Last Supper, for His disciples. In the middle of the meal, Jesus got up from the meal, wrapped a towel around His waist and proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples. He ends His loving act by giving the new mandate to love one another.
Perhaps Maundy Thursday is not on our radar because, let’s be honest, who wants to be reminded that Jesus humbled Himself to do the task of a slave? To be sure, we want to celebrate Him as the risen King and Lord of creation. Who wants to be reminded that Jesus lived out the truth of His teaching, “the first must be the last,” and even today, He is willing to touch us where we are the most vulnerable and wash us where the “dirt” in our lives can’t be seen. Who wants to be reminded of the offensive in our lives at all? Who among us does not want to shy away from being intimately seen and known in our most wounded self by another?
Peter balked at Jesus’ action, but Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” In other words, “Unless you let Me do this, unless you let Me humble Myself, unless you let Me embrace you in your shame, you cannot truly share My life, My mission and My love.” If we don’t let Jesus into our lives where we are most vulnerable, ashamed and broken, we don’t let Jesus into our lives at all.
We learn from Jesus’ action that God’s love is unconditional. And we, who share in His life and are followers of Jesus, are called to love and serve others in the same way; unconditionally. In order for us to love and serve others unconditionally, we must first receive Jesus’s unconditional love and humble service.
“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)
“Dad, can you put my shoes on? No, I don't think they'll fit me.” Last month, I wrote about mothers having the most important job in the world. To have a balance biblical view, I want to also say that “being a Dad is important business...” The importance of a father’s presence and active involvement in family life cannot be underestimated. A father has the potential to be a powerful force in the life of a child. Our kids live in a culture today that is infiltrated with sex, violence, and moral relativism. They are taught to live “me-controlled, self-indulgent and quick-fix lives” in this present age. Unfortunately, these are very “real” in today’s world and are designed to eliminate the traditional value of “family”. That is why it is crucial that fathers must recognize the gravity and uniqueness of their roles in the lives of their children. Sadly, many children have been deprived of a father’s presence in their lives.
Statistically speaking, one has only 6,570 days from your child’s birth until his or her 18th birthday to “care” for and teach him/her. This is an overwhelming responsibility, to say the least. In this short period of time, a parent somehow manages to raise a child to cope with the serious issues of life while at the same time, giving him/her moments of laughter to remember. The home life is expected to be a tapestry of tough times blended with times of joy and tenderness. God’s Word reminds us that children need firm discipline administered in love. We are to teach them to live according to God’s principles and His Word. Spiritual training needs to be the foundation of our parenting and forms the core of our children’s being. As such, fathers are called to be spiritual leaders of our homes. My dear brothers, let us once again promote and embrace fatherhood. It is time for men to rise up and answer this clarion call in the next generation’s lives.
Someone once said, “Our very survival as a nation will depend on the presence or absence of masculine leadership in the home.” A father, being the male parent, makes unique contributions to the task of parenting that a mother cannot offer. Dads, there is no substitute for the love and influence of a father. You provide for your children, you influence their views of all men, and you display an earthly image of our heavenly Father. Being a Dad truly is important business. Abraham Lincoln once said, “There is just one way to bring up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel that way yourself.” Dads, your children are watching you. Let us be good examples for them in words and deeds. More than this, we must pray for our children, that they may grow up to know the Lord as the foundation of their life. As we celebrate Fathers’ Day this month, I ask the good Lord to grant you the wisdom, strength, and grace to achieve a healthy balance as a spiritual leader, father, husband, and protector in your own families. Then at the end of your journey here on earth, you dare humbly say, you have not lived in vain.