Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An amazing story about Jesus

Next week I am giving a talk, "What is so amazing about science? What is so amazing about Jesus?", as part of Jesus Week organised by a student Christian group at the University of Queensland.
In the first half of the talk I will cover some of the material in a talk, "Why is science so awesome?" that I gave earlier this year at Theology on Tap. It highlights how the success of science raises questions that science cannot answer. We have to look elsewhere for answers for questions about meaning and purpose. I find that Jesus answers those questions.

I will then look at just one story about Jesus that I think is amazing: his encounter with a rich man, recounted in Luke 19.

[Jesus] 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.10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What is so amazing?

Jesus seeks everyone and can save anyone. It does not matter what your background and personal history. race, gender, wealth, education, social status, .....
Zacchaeus would have been despised as a collaborator of the Roman rulers and an exploiter of people, extracting as much money as he could. The crowd was right. He was a sinner. Yet that did not matter to Jesus.
On the other hand, Zacchaeus humbled himself in order to seek out Jesus. Today you rarely see rich and powerful people running through the streets, climbing trees, making public apologies seeking restitution, and giving away half their money. This reflects Jesus charisma. He inspires people to totally change and do radical things. Jesus still does that today.

The story can be contrasted to that in Luke 18:18-30 concerning the rich young ruler who would not give up his wealth to follow Jesus. Jesus said,
“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

Here we see it can happen.

Who am I in the story? Zacchaeus or a member of the crowd? or both?

Jesus seeks, saves, and sanctifies (transforms).

1 comment:

  1. I think the Romans were good, so I don't see why Zacchaeus was doing the wrong thing by collecting taxes for them. It's like criticising an Australian public servant.