The God of Zacchaeus
Monday of Pentecost 11
1 August 2016
The incarnation means that my God is small and weak. The basic Christian fact of the incarnation flies in the face of the human presupposition that God must be an overwhelmingly grand and glorious presence. How God loves to turn our human expectation on its head and do what is best for us, rather than what we expect of Him. We have a God who is willing to be so small and so weak as to be a little child and to seek and to save the little and the weary. This is a mystery that transcends all wonders.

This is the mystery confronting Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10). We are quite clear on his problem. Zacchaeus was no Texan. "A wee little man was he," as the child's song goes, "A wee little man was he." He asked himself, "If God is so big, how could I approach him?" And when finally the wee little man was confronted by Jesus, who looked up into the sycamore tree and looked upon him with compassion, how Zacchaeus must've been shocked! If this was God, why was He a man just like him? How amazing that God should condescend to bear our humanity, to be born of a virgin, to live out his life as a teacher in obscure Judea, and after taking up His cross, to be crucified for us poor sinners! God's greatness is precisely in His littleness, His weakness, His suffering, His stooping to our need, His reaching into our situation, His bearing our flesh in His own person on the tree of the cross. As the apostle Paul says, "You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him" (Col 1:21-22).

Jesus invites Zacchaeus, the sinner, down from his tree, because climbing up is not the way to find the God who stoops to be where we are. Clambering up the ladder is the way of the Tower of Babel. The ascent to God by our own efforts collapses in the end; the ladder of our own efforts will always be pushed off of the parapet of heaven. There is no escalator up. St. John's beautiful simplicity puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth....No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known" (Jn 1:14, 18). The only seeing of God that is possible is the seeing of Zacchaeus. He sees the inviting God, who calls the sinner. He sees the God who comes to his house, sits down at his table, and communes with him. He hears this man, who is God, speak holy absolution. This God recovers that which was His in the first place. For this God comes to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"The foolishness and weakness of God is the same as the life according to the gospel, by which God makes us appear foolish and weak before men in our external being. But the wisdom and the power of God is the life according to the gospel, or the very rule of the life of the gospel, by which He makes us wise and strong before Himself and looks upon us as such in our inner man. Thus the whole matter shows an exchange. The weakness and foolishness of God before men is wisdom and power before God, and vice versa, the wisdom and power of the world is weakness and foolishness and even death before God."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, 16.19
Luke 19:1-10

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (ESV)
Dear Lord Jesus, You were made little and weak for our sakes when you took our human flesh, that through bearing it You would cleanse it for us poor sinners. By Your Spirit grant that we might see your power and strength made perfect in our weakness. Bear us when we are weary and downtrodden, that we may be truly strong and wise before You by having Your mind in us. Amen.

For Michael Golchert, that the God of all grace would continue to strengthen and build him up in the midst of cancer therapy

For all those who are traveling for vacation, that they might be safe on their sojourns and return rested and strengthened

For Harvey Meyer, that the Lord would grant him peace and confidence of the gift of eternal salvation in Christ 
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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