Dining with Jesus

Dining with Zacchaeus Luke 19:1-10
I have always had a soft spot for Zacchaeus; his story is appealing to those of us who are vertically challenged. Zacchaeus is easily identified as the short man who had Jesus over to dinner. It was a bit surprising then, when someone pointed out that the text says Zacchaeus ‘was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature,’ but does not does not actually tell us which of the two men was short. Most readers assume the ‘he’ in question was Zacchaeus. But you see, Jesus also would have been hard to spot in the crowd if he himself was short. Though a fascinating question, it’s an interpretive dead end, since we have no other evidence outside this story to clarify this point. I merely include it to make you ponder, and re-read the text, as I have done.
We are told that Zacchaeus was ‘a chief tax collector and was rich.’ Absolutely despised for their cooperation with the oppressive Roman government, Zacchaeus had apparently done well among his fellow tax collectors. In a corrupt system, the loftier one’s position, the greater one’s complicity. As he had probably made his fortune by taking advantage of his own people, I guess no one was of a mind to move over for him to see Jesus when he passed by. So he scampered his way up into a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus, because he had heard that Jesus really was a ‘friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
Zacchaeus had exposed himself to some ridicule in his determination to see Jesus, but Jesus seems to take it all in stride. ‘Oh, hi, Zach. Hurry and come down now; you’re hosting me for dinner tonight.’ I think Zacchaeus must have been delighted; predictably, the reaction of the bystanders was grumbling; maybe even a snyde remark that Jesus had chose the one household that would feed him well.
So over a really choice meal, does Zacchaeus reveal himself as a man who, although he has everything, is longing to shed the looks of disgust from his fellow Jews, someone longing for a change? We don’t know how the conversation went, but did Jesus see past the table heaped with food, and while absently eating a bowl of grapes, look straight into a heart that acknowledged fault, and see a cry for help. ‘Help me, Lord, to change. Help me, Lord, to put behind me those old selfish patterns. Help me not only to be just and fair, but to be generous, extravagantly generous even.’
Zacchaeus recognised that his need for a heart to heart conversation with Jesus was huge. The result of that conversation was a life transformed. Salvation, come to his house, and peace to his heart.
No matter how often we ‘dine’ with Jesus, we need to be reminded that he can reach us and help us transform those things in our lives that need changing. When our children were small, when we dined alone as a family unit we always had two seats vacant. We encouraged the children to imagine that Jesus was dining with us, listening to our table chatter, being our friend.
What is the conversation you are longing to have with Jesus? ‘Hurry and come down’, for Jesus is ready to dine with you today.

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