@johnvinod | March 18, 2021
During the pandemic, which we have been coping with for over a year now, so many people around the world are feeling miserable. Some are struggling with mental issues. We are all mostly social beings, and the isolation is excruciating for so many around us. Today, I am reminded of Jesus Christ’s ministry. In his day, too, there were lonely, neglected, rejected, and marginalized people in the society. However, the gospels show us that Jesus went about their villages looking for such people. He even went a step ahead in befriending and believing those who could not be befriended otherwise. Let us read Luke 19: 1-10, for one such ministry of Jesus.
One warm day, Jesus arrives in Jericho on the bank of the river Jordan. As the word spread around the town, people were flocking to get close to Jesus. Zacchaeus was one of the persons who could not get close to Jesus, so he climbed up a tree. He was considered a betrayer by his Jewish people. Obviously, it is difficult to like a person who collected taxes from his own people for the Roman colonizers keeping a sizable amount for himself. Not only his work, but also his short stature led most people to dislike him even though he was a man of means.
Jesus Christ makes an abrupt stop under the tree where he spotted Zacchaeus. He must have startled him with his announcement: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19: 5 ESV).
Luke also records for us:
And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7 ESV)
However, in the ears of Zacchaeus, the unexpected words were something he had not heard in a long time. It might have sounded to him: “Zacchaeus, I value you, and I believe in you. Out of all these people, you are important. Therefore, I want to be your friend and your guest to spend time with you.”
That night, at Zacchaeus’ house, not only did Jesus ate and drank, but also showered his abundant grace on someone who was rejected and unloved. Jesus lifted him up from rejection, might have hugged and kissed him while entering his spacious house, and sat down to dine with his family. He also led him to true repentance to an extent that Zacchaeus was willing to make fourfold reparations for his extortions of people in the past. And Jesus calls it “salvation”!
As Jesus’ followers, we are called to this mission. Especially now that we are surrounded by scores of people struggling with loneliness, rejection, racial violence, marginalization, and loss of loved ones, who is he/she that the Holy Spirit might be leading you to, today? Is there someone who could benefit from a message of worth if they are feeling worthless? Is there someone who needs your friendship? Would you be willing to risk befriending someone today, in an age of blocking people on social media who do not look or think like you? Would you risk believing in someone’s story today and saying to them, yes, I believe in your experience even though it is not exactly like mine? Would you consider saying to someone today that it is worth spending time with them and listening to their stories? May the salvation indeed mean this to us and to others through us. Amen.