Sermon, March 24, 2019
Luke 19:1-10 Luke 13: 1-9
“Excuse Me, Did you know him? Zacchaeus’ story
Today, we get to know Jesus thru Zacchaeus who needs the redemptive power of God and thru the Parable of the Fig Tree told by Jesus who calls himself a Rabbi today and The Son of Man. Last week he called himself a prophet. This morning we might ask…
Redemption: just what does it mean? Redemption is act of atoning (reconciling) for a fault or mistake; being rescued from the repercussions of that mistake. We don’t talk about mistakes being sins so much anymore but back in the day; redemption would have been thought of as deliverance from sin. And so, on our pathway to the cross, we must think of redemption as a gift of God.
In the story of Zacchaeus, he is a man in need of redemption. In the story, of the Fig Tree, we metaphorically see our need of redemption. Reconciliation comes to us as a result of God’s grace; a gift of God. Zacchaeus took the tax office and began wheeling and dealing at the behest of the grand Tetrarch and Governor Pilate to extort taxes from the people and making himself rich in the process. One day Zacchaeus heard this Nazarene Rabbi, Jesus, was on his way toward Jerusalem and he and the whole town turned out to see him; an instant parade happened. Unable to see, Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree to see. Zacchaeus starts to argue with the man who owned the tree since he climbed it without permission, and he yells to the owner that he will repossess the house and tree for back taxes. And just about that time, the Rabbi comes up in front of the tree. You know the story, Jesus, in a strong and unmistakeable human voice says “come down from that tree”; I am going to your house for a meal. The Pharisees whisper together. Rabbis don’t eat with tax collectors; they eat with other Rabbis. And so, we journey closer to the cross. One can only guess correctly that Jesus is going to seek redemption from Zacchaeus. Jesus is going to make him atone for his extorting unfairly, taxes from the people.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem in the Parable of the Fig Tree. The parable warns against fruitless existence in the light of God’s grace given to us. God’s grace gives us another chance in life to reconcile our wrongs. From the parable we understand that whatever good experience comes to us, is by the grace of God. In giving us grace, God has purpose; we are to be fruitful. When we live taking advantage of God’s many graces, yet bear no fruit – that is, simply living for ourselves with no known benefit for God and others – we are fruitless. The parable also tells us God’s giving us ‘room to grow and produce’. The Parable tells us, it does make a difference how we live to God.
The world is going crazy for some of the followers of Jesus in this week’s gospel reading. Speculation bordering on gossip seems to be in the air as they related stories of Pilate’s brutal murder of some Galileans who were worshiping. Their blood had been mixed with the blood of the sacrifices. The how’s, the why’s and the what’s of the happening are brought to Jesus. Jesus says, unless you rely on God and turn to God in need then you will surely die. To drive home the point, he tells this story of the fruitless fig tree. If we as individuals, as followers of Christ have been given life, then aren’t we responsible for making the most of it? Likewise, as the Body of Christ, what are we doing to bear fruit, to bloom where we’ve been planted.
Think of it this way; fruit grows outward from the plant into the light. So, too, a healthy church grows outward while still maintaining its deep-rooted connection to Christ. If a church is inwardly focused, then its growth is stunted and can die. We are called to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us – our time, our talent and our resources. Even plants have fallow seasons, and so do churches have seasons when they are less than fruitful. Transplantation happens and plants grow again. Perhaps with a new minister coming July 1 then from the rest from the past year, you can replenish and you can find successful growth and production in your ministry together…
Jesus was with Zacchaeus a very long time. Jesus showed Zacchaeus his need for redemption. His need to make right the wrongs he had committed. Zacchaeus reports that he will pay back those he cheated four-fold. He came out of his home and set up a table, called for his books, called for his money bags, and began to give away. He counted to a Pharisee; gave compassionately to a widow; explained knowingly to a fisherman; and finally, when it was all over, he gave a sigh of relief and a cry of exaltation…
What had the Rabbi told him? Here is what he might have told him, “A man never stands so tall as when he kneels to God in prayer.” And Jesus said, ‘It’s not what’s on the outside but what is on the inside that counts when bearing fruit.’ The real growth from redemption happens on the inside of a person; in faith, in understanding; in hope and love. These are the real things that matter in our life. For Zacchaeus and his redemption; in-order- for, him to keep his commitment to Jesus, he had to let go of greed and guilt. Maybe there is something we can all let go of in order to make a commitment to Jesus and grow and be fruitful… Jesus turns and goes on his journey to Jerusalem.
You have visions of planting a community garden; you are digging up a space for growth and may you flourish in your fruitfulness. And so, it is that I can completely understand the action of the farmer in the parable where he gives that fig tree one more year. On the other hand, of course Jesus isn’t speaking of a fig tree, he is, actually speaking of the people God so loves and God’s unending patience with all of us. So much so that even when this patience appears, we might never bear fruit and even when we show no sign of making amends for our wrong-doings and asking for God’s grace; a God who has given us, all we could hope for in the first place, even then God would give us one more year. This is God’s great unending love. Amen.