instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A short story

Today's Gospel reading is the story of Zacchaeus, the wealthy chief tax collector. Which means it's also the story of the crowd around Zacchaeus.

The best that can be said about the crowd around Zacchaeus is that, unlike the crowd around the blind man, they didn't tell him to get down from the sycamore and stop trying to see Jesus.

What they did, after Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus's home and Zacchaeus quickly received Him with joy, was this:
...they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner."
Such grumbling in the Gospels is usually understood as a knock against Jesus' own morals.

Note, though, that it also implies Jesus has not gone to stay at the house of any of the grumblers. They, after all, came out to see Jesus, too, and they weren't (we may presume) infamous for their crimes against Israel.

So their grumbling may not be purely idle scandal at the actions of a purported prophet. They're good people; why can't they be graced with the prophet's presence? Or, if not them, then why not someone even better than they?

Jesus has an answer, though I'm not sure how satisfying it was to those who heard it: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."

To those in the crowd who would be His disciples, the message was clear: You, too, have to seek and save what was lost. You have to go to the descendants of Abraham I won't get to, and tell them that salvation has come to their house today. Don't keep Me in your houses for us to admire each other. Bring My word out to the people who haven't already heard it.

The grumbling of Zacchaeus's neighbors is similar to the grumbling of the Prodigal Son's brother. All that God has is theirs, if they but knew it, and that includes His joy in Zacchaeus's return to life.