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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Salvation Has Come - November 3, 2013 - Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26) - Luke 19:1-10

Last week we celebrated Reformation day and instead of using the Reformation texts I used the text for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost. This week, likewise, even though today we celebrate All Saints day, that is we celebrate the lives and examples of all those who have passed on in the faith before us, I am going to continue using the text for the Pentecost Season, today that is the Gospel reading for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost. I have chosen to use this text because it continues with the theme of the Pentecost Season, that is a continuing reading of the Gospel of Luke for our growing in faith. Our text is Luke 19:1-10. (Read the text.) This is our text.
 
We have been following along with Jesus during these past twenty-three weeks and we have been listening to Him as He has been preaching and teaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles. Jesus was born into this world; the world He created prefect and holy; the world which became tainted by sin and cursed because of Adam and Eve’s sin; the world and the people of the world for whom God promised to send Him as their Savior. Jesus has been preaching and teaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles as proof of His true humanity and true divinity, indeed as proof of His being the one promised to save the world, true God in human flesh.
 
In our text for today Jesus continues His tour of teaching and preaching and today we read that He is passing through Jericho with no intention of stopping, perhaps because it was a major trade route and He did not want to get caught up in the trade of the city. Jericho was that city that was first destroyed by the children of Israel after marching around it once for six days and seven times on the seventh day, when the children of Israel first entered the promised land. Jericho has been rebuilt at the loss of the first and youngest sons of Hiel, the Bethelite as pronounced by the curse from Joshua at its destruction.
 
Our text tells us that Jesus entered Jericho and was simply passing through when we are introduced to a man named Zacchaeus. Of course, most of us remember Zacchaeus, because we remember that song we learned way back in Sunday School. Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. But he was more than simply a wee little man. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and sinner. And tax collectors and sinners were despised especially by their own people. We can better understand this hatred when we understand the tax system. Those brave men, or thieving men who took up a career as a tax collector, enlisted with the government for the job. They were given a list of peoples names and the taxes they owned. The average person on the street did not know how much tax they owed, only what the tax collector told them. The way the tax collector made a living was that whatever money he collected over and above what was listed was his to keep, thus he made money by over charging those who owed. The kicker was that this tax collector was Jewish and he was collecting from his own Jewish people and the money he collected was for those who were Gentiles and not a part of the covenant. Thus they were seen as traitors and hated by their own people.
 
So, Zacchaeus was a wee little man and evidently not only had he heard about Jesus, perhaps the fact that Jesus did hang out with sinners, he actually had heard Jesus and the word He proclaimed. Just as our Lord does today, so even while on this earth, He works through means and in particular the means of His Word. As Jesus preached the Word, as Jesus taught the crowds, the Holy Spirit worked through that Word, when and where He pleased to give, strengthen and keep His people in faith.
 
Zacchaeus heard Jesus, was given faith and we see the faith he was given as his desire was to see Jesus. His desire was not some innate desire, not some seeker desire, not some inner spark, rather his desire was prompted by the Holy Spirit working through the Word he heard. Kind of like last week when I offered the free gift for the children and they all rushed forward, so is Zacchaeus’ desire and so is our desire to be in Divine Service every Sunday where the Word is preached, the sacraments are distributed and the gifts of God are given out. Indeed faith shows itself in the desire to be where the gifts are given and to be given those gifts.
 
Zacchaeus was a wee little man who knew he would not be able to stand behind the crowds to see Jesus so he ran ahead along the path where Jesus was walking and he climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. Zacchaeus was no longer concerned about what others thought, nor about his tax collecting business. His only concern was to see Jesus, to hear Jesus, even to be given more of the gifts He had to give. Would that we would all be like Zacchaeus.
 
Indeed, Zacchaeus chose the right tree and as Jesus came along He stopped and He looked up in the tree and He said, “Zacchaeus you come down, for I’m going to your house today.” Yes, the children’s song captures the moment quite well. Jesus sees Zacchaeus. Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus. Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house.
 
The results of Jesus eating at Zacchaeus house are much like the results of Jesus eating at Matthew’s house a few weeks ago, the crowds grumbled that Jesus eats with sinners. When Jesus was at Matthew’s house and the Pharisees grumbled complaining “Why do you eat and drink with tax collector’s and sinners?” “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31,32). Here at Zacchaeus’ house we see the same calling of Jesus, to sinners to repentance and this time it is Zacchaeus who is being called.
 
Jesus calls to faith and the Holy Spirit working through the very Word of Jesus gives faith. In the case of Zacchaeus, his response of faith was heard in his confession and desire to make amends. Zacchaeus pledged, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (v.8).
 
And our text concludes with Jesus rejoicing in salvation for the house of Zacchaeus. And Jesus reaffirming that He came to seek and to save the lost.
 
So, what does this mean? Again we are reminded that although we may live in this world, we are not of this world. We live in a world tainted by the curse, by temptation and sin. We live in a world where this is constant temptation from the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. We living in a world which is becoming less and less accepting of the Christian faith, indeed we live in a world that grumbles more and more about the Christian faith.
 
Why does the world grumble about the Christian faith? Why does the world even hate Christians? Simply stated, the world does not understand God’s grace. The world does not accept the exclusive claims of the Gospel. The world does not understand God’s intolerance to sin, nor the fact that the price for sin is death, physical death and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. Most especially the world does not understand the loving call to repentance. How often do we hear the world speak such statements as: “It’s my life to live as I want.” “It’s my body to do with as I want.” “You can’t judge me, you don’t even know me.” “You can’t tell me what to do.” “What I do in private is none of your business.” “Who are you to tell me that what I am doing is wrong?” “My god is not like that.” “I don’t like calling it sin, I would rather call it something that doesn’t make it sound wrong.” Indeed, we live in a sin sick society and that society is continually pressing against the Church of God as we live in this world.
 
Yet, the fact remains that as Jesus came to seek and to save the lost as He says in our text, so that seeking and saving continues even today. Jesus continues to seek and to save the lost, you and I included. Last week we talked about the fact that we are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Every intention of our heart is evil all the time and the wages, the cost and price for sin is death, physical death and apart from Jesus eternal spiritual death. We were also reminded that until we realize how sinful we are, that is that the less sinful we think we are and the less of Jesus we think we need, indeed, to say it badly, the less forgiven we are. It is only as we understand the depth of our sin, the complete depravity of our nature, how we are complete beggars before Jesus that we can begin to comprehend the awesomeness of the good news of the Gospel of sins forgiven. If we believe ourselves to be good people and we only need a little forgiveness, then Jesus means little to us. Only as we understand our complete fallen nature can we understand the complete love and grace of Jesus. As Jesus Himself says, he who has been forgiven little loves little, but he who has been forgiven much loves much.
 
And yet again as we continue learning from Jesus we are reminded once again that the word of God is efficacious, especially in giving the gifts God has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Through the very means of the Word of God the Holy Spirit works, gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Through the very means of the Word of God the Holy Spirit works to stir in us a desire to come running to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. Notice in our text, we see Jesus giving faith and we see the response of faith, Zacchaeus giving himself to the Lord, giving to the poor and returning what he had defrauded.
 
As always, we get it right when we get our focus right. When we point to ourselves we get it wrong, When we point to Jesus we know we get it right. As we focus on Jesus we see that it is Jesus who calls us to life and to faith. Jesus calls us through the very means He has given to call us, His Word and Sacraments. He calls us to follow Him. He calls us to desire to be given the gifts He has to give. He calls us to respond in faith, giving ourselves to Him.
 
Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree and He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today, for I’m going to your house today.” The account of Zacchaeus and the song we learned so long ago are so instructive to us in understanding the love our Lord has for us. Jesus came, as one of us, one with us, one like us except without sin. Jesus came and lived for us, fully obeying all God’s commands and fulfilling all those ceremonial sacrificial laws which pointed to Himself and His once for all sacrifice on the cross. Jesus took our sins, suffered and died and paid the price for our sins. Jesus died and rose for us, in our place. And Jesus continues to come seeking and looking for us. Today He seeks us through His Word as it is preached and taught and especially as it is proclaimed in Divine Service were His Word is most sure. Jesus seeks us and He sends His Holy Spirit to work through the Word through which He seeks us to gives us faith, to stir in us a heart of repentance, and to give us all the good gifts He has to give, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. And He stirs in us our response of faith, that is to say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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