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?