Monday, May 14, 2007

Zacchaeus (con't)

I've been thinking alot of Zacchaeus lately. We had a great discussion going a few posts down, and I can't get it out of my head. You can follow it there if you'd like, but at the core of the discussion was a matter of Biblical translation: the use of verb tense that changes our understanding of Zacchaeus, depending on which way it's read.

We all know the story of Zacchaeus. We sang the song in Sunday School. He's a short, mean tax collector. Jesus hollers for him to come down from the tree. "For I'm going to your house today."

But we should take another look at the story. On account of one translation (NIV, among others), Zacchaeus tells our Lord, when accused by the Jews of being a sinner, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." (Luke 19:8)

So by this interpretation, the story is that this Chief Publican, Zacchaeus, a Jew, excited by the arrival of Jesus into Jericho, expectantly climbs a tree, most likely a tree close to his house, to see our Lord walking by on the road to Jerusalem. Jesus looks up, notices Zacchaeus, sees something unexplainable to the crowd, and asks to be his guest, a high honor in Jewish custom. The Jewish crowd sees Jesus walking to Zacchaeus's house, and they become indignant. "Surely Jesus would not be guest to a sinner. A man who has taken wrongfully from us to give money to Rome. Blasphemous Rome. Causing us to pay allegiance to one other than the God of the Jews. And getting rich at the same time, by taking more than necessary and keeping the excess." And so Zacchaeus, moved by the acceptance given by Jesus that had been refused him by his own people, utters his conversion. To which Jesus replies, "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 what was lost."

But the New King James, among others, translates Luke 19:8 as: "Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

So here we see that after the complaint of the crowd, Zacchaeus testifies to our Lord that the crowd had it all wrong. They had cast wrong judgment on account of a man's career, his wealth, his appearance. Because of their laws they had considered him unworthy, an outcast. Not righteous enough. And Jesus restores Zacchaeus to his rightful place in Jewish society by looking beyond the outward appearance. And Zacchaeus experiences the love he so desperately sought when climbing the tree to see the man who healed the sick, raised the dead. drove out demons, and claimed to forgive sins. The love he was refused by his own.

Two different stories. Two different accounts of Zacchaeus. So what do we do with this? Where do we go from here?


Mz Jackson said...

Wow, I have never thought about it this way before. It really makes sense; perhaps the Lord was showing that he saw the real Zacheus when nobody else did.

Rob said...

Based on the language, both versions seem possible, although perhaps they are not equally likely. A tax collector was not paid by the Romans to collect taxes. The only way they had of earning a living was by overcharging the citizens. That’s why they were hated by the Jews. It’s hard to imagine how a "good" Zacchaeus would decide what was cheating. Pretty much all he had was probably taken from the poor already.

Jesus also says at the end of the story, "Today salvation has come to this house…" and, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." That would suggest to me that Zacchaeus had experienced a changed life.

kddub said...

I agree with mz jackson.... and I think that Jesus is showing us in this story, is that He loves anyone, regardless of what they've done. He doesn't get offended or appalled at what someone has done. He just wants them to turn to Him.

It's interesting to think of this story from all the different perspectives... I'll have to think on this more....

Rob~ that is interesting info. about the tax collectors during their time.

FancyPants said...

Rob, I didn't know that tax collectors weren't paid by the Romans. That's interesting.

But are we sure that's the only way Zacchaeus had of earning a living? Could it have been family wealth? Or maybe from his lifestyle before becoming a tax collector?

Just thinking out loud here.

I also at first looked at what Jesus said as proof of a conversion, but he throws in the comment about being a son of Abraham.... "Because this man, too, is a son of Abraham." Wondering what that has to do with salvation coming to their household. What am I not understanding there?

Anonymous said...

You're not understanding Galatians 3:8 that the GOSPEL was preached beforehand to Abraham -- and the promises made to Abraham are yet to be realized. By faith, Abraham was credited as righteous, and by faith, just like Abraham's, we are to believe in God's promises, also. It's all about being considered a Son of Abraham, a co-heir with Christ to inherit the LAND in the coming Kingdom of God, and eternal life in this everlasting Kingdom (Daniel 7).

Galatians 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.

Jesus got why he was here. Check out Luke 4:43. It's all about the land. All about fulfilling the promised Messiah/king of a coming kingdom and inheriting the land (Matthew 5:5) and ruling the world (Romans 4:13) that Christians totally miss somehow!