The second story takes place on the other side of Jericho.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.
Remember part 1, when we talked about how the visiting Rabbi would have been expected to stay for a banquet, and perhaps teach a little? But our story affirms that Jesus was Just "passing through."
Imagine how the disappointed the community is...
A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.
The tax system in place was called Tax farming. The local person who acquired the right to collect the taxes was expected to turn over a set amount to the authorities. The tax collectors were often the only ones who could read Greek and had precise knowledge of the tax laws. This system naturally promoted and produced economic injustice.
It was bad enough that Zack was a tax collector, but we are also told another seeming small detail. He had become rich in the process. So of course the people hated him.
He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.
Zack's problem was that he was short AND hated. If he were a respected and rich man people would have made way for him. The culture required it.
Zack dared not even mix with them... If he was short and surrounded in a crowd of people who hated him, the quick flash of a knife, a cry that wouldn't be heard over the excitement of the crowd, it would all be over for him.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
He does two things that powerful men in his culture would never do.
1 He ran...
2 He climbed a tree
Both of theses are/were cultural taboos that would bring public shame
Sycamore trees have large leaves and low branches. They are easy to climb and offer a good hiding place among their thickly clustered broad leaves.
According to the laws the sycamore trees were only allows to be planted out side of town. they were to be grown fifty cubits out side of town.
This is because they have wide spread branches. And the Pharisees regarded them as a kind of then tent. They sighted the old testament law that said that if you were in a tent when some form of uncleanness happened it was automatically transferred to you. So in the Pharisees interpretation of the law if a tree in your back yard had branches that hung over into your neighbors yard then you were responsible for the sins they committed too.
So Zack ran outside of town hoping that the crowd would disperse so that he could get a good look at this Rabbi who was causing such a stir. And when he saw that the crowd was still with him Zack hid in a tree.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."
How did Jesus know Zack's name?
Think about this...
The crowd has just watched Jesus side with the oppressed. They are all fired up, here is the liberating King, the son of David. It is passover after all, the day they celebrated their political liberation from the empire of Egypt.
And here is an oppressor, a guy who collects more than the fair share of taxes for the oppressive empire that is holding them down now. Many of them would have fresh memories of stepping into Zack's office and begging for a break or a reduction in the overwhelming amount they were required to pay. Perhaps some of them even knew neighbors who had been arrested or lost their homes for non-payment...
And now they have him up a tree. They are a name less faceless mob of people. Anyone can shout from the crowd using any four letter word they want. One insult stimulates another, and another, and another... The atmosphere quickly darkens and produces a whiff of anticipated violence.
Jesus sees this and decides to intervene...
The crown expects Jesus to side with them against the oppressor, but Jesus again defies their categories.
Having before signaled that he does not intend to stay for a banquet in the town, Jesus now says
"Zack I'm coming to stay at your house!"
And Zack's response?
So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Well duh... Jesus decides to save Zack from an ugly situation, of course He takes it. I mean we're talking about a guy who has not hesitated to line his pockets whit the money of his fellow Jews. His life until now has been about seizing opportunities.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.' "
The word guest here is the word: katalyō
which means: to halt on a journey, to put up, lodge
Jesus has just transferred all of the peoples anger to himself.
How will Zack respond?
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
Everything he has is because he has cheated someone.
if he fives Half of his money to the poor, that leaves him with 50%.
If he then tries to repay everyone he has cheated four times what he has taken...
He will quickly run out of money!
Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
After receiving such love acceptance and grace from Jesus Zack will never be the same...
Jesus says salvation has come to Zack... Even though he has not given out the money yet. Zack has not arrived, he has a long process ahead of him.
But Jesus takes the hostility of the world upon himself, and watches for the change to occur in Zack's heart. And then Jesus says good job Zack you get it. salvation has started here and now. Your life is somehow different...
Zack has the remainder of his life to live out that salvation.
Jesus salvation includes a radical transformation in Zack, his entire life will change...
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Jesus once again affirms that he came for the lost not the religious people.
He is always saying things like "its not the healthy who need a hospital but the sick."
Jesus sides with the oppressor, and gives him a chance to repent, that is to change his ways.
Jesus also rejects the idea that the problem of oppression can be solved with violence!