To the children…
Have you ever been to a parade?
I remember taking my own children to a parade when they were little and having to hold them up high so that they could see what was happening and who was crossing by. Each of them would ask me to lift them up so they could see better.
The Gospel story for today is about a man named Zacchaeus who went to a parade and who could not see what was happening or who was crossing by in front of him. Well, it turns out that it was Jesus crossing by and there were a lot of people lined up along the side of the road waiting to see him because they heard unbelievable stories about all the amazing things that he had been doing in other towns. Jesus had just helped someone who could not see, which means that he was blind, to be able to see again. This was amazing! A true miracle. So, everyone in that town wanted to see this man and maybe even witness a true miracle themselves.
But Zacchaeus was not very tall and so he could not see anything that was happening. So, he decided to find the biggest tree around and climb up onto it so he could watch Jesus passing by. But then, something very strange and unexpected happened. Jesus called out to Zacchaeus by name and that was quite odd to everyone who was there. How did Jesus know this man? And also, everyone in that town knew that Zacchaeus had done some bad things, that he was mean to others, that he stole their money, and was not a nice person. They didn’t like Zacchaeus very much. So, how did Jesus know his name and then why did Jesus call out to him?
Jesus did more than call out his name, though. He also invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. Everyone in that town was amazed. They asked themselves: “Why is this good man, Jesus, going over to the home of this bad man, Zacchaeus?”
The Bible is full of a lot of stories about Jesus and we talk about all those stories every single week here in church. Many of those stories are about about how Jesus helped others, forgave people, was super nice to everyone he met, was a good teacher, and how he gave people a second chance. This means that when they made a mistake, even a really big one, Jesus told them it would be ok. That he still loved them. That’s what forgiveness is all about.
Jesus did this to the man in today’s story, the man who climbed up a tree so he could see. Jesus told him that he forgave him, that he could have a second chance. This is what Jesus did back then when he walked from town to town. And this is what Jesus still does today because we believe that he is still here, even though we can’t so easily see him.
He forgives you and me, no matter what we have done. All we have to do is try to see him, to get close to him, to get to know him… just as Zacchaeus did!
And to the adults…
This is, no doubt, a story about second chances.
But there’s also an important ironic twist in this story worth mentioning as well. Immediately before entering Jericho, the town where he met Zacchaeus, Jesus healed a blind beggar who was on the side of the road. It was because of dramatic miracles such as this that caused the crowds to gather in Jericho. People wanted to see a miracle, they wanted sparks to fly, maybe even to experience a dramatic miracle themselves.
Imagine how disappointed they must have been to only witness the despicable, tree climbing, Zacchaeus being acknowledged publicly by Jesus. How disappointing.
Yet, Zacchaeus repented. He told Jesus that he was sorry for having wronged anybody and that he was committed to making things right from that point forward. And thus, Zacchaeus was saved.
So, a miracle did happen right before their very eyes and they didn’t likely realize it. A different type of blind man regained his sight that day and in some ways, this was an even bigger miracle than the poor blind beggar had experienced the day before.
Second chances… is a miracle.
Forgiveness… is a miracle.
Mercy… is a miracle.
Sometimes we just need to elevate our point of view a bit in order to see that more clearly.