Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wee Camels

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  Jesus, looking at him with sadness, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”  But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” – Luke 18:23-27   

And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. … So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. … And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:2-10

Zacchaeus was a wee, little man -- wee enough, apparently that, had he been a camel, he could have passed through the eye of a needle.  He was a rich man who entered the kingdom of God. 

This is something I tend to forget in reading the Bible.  It’s telling a bigger story than whatever verses, passages or phrases might light up in Pneuma-neon as we are reading.  The story of the rich young man who was one of the rulers of the synagogue is a familiar one.  He rejected the call to sell his goods, though he was clearly an honest, decent, moral man.  He was, indeed, a better man by almost any standard than the dwarfish, conniving tax-collector, Zacchaeus.   

Both the sinful taxman and the righteous ruler deliberately sought out Jesus to follow Him.  I suspect that the rich ruler expected to be commended and praised by the Lord for his good conduct and holiness.  We know that the rich sinner hoped only to be able to see the Lord’s face, never expecting that he would be graced by the presence of the Master in his house. 

Another difference between the two men is their reaction to the words of Jesus.  One became sad.  The other responded with great joy.  One turned away and rejected the call.  The other made a generous offer of charity and recompense without, as far as we know, being asked.  As Jesus said elsewhere, the one who is forgiven much might be expected to love more than the one who is forgiven little.   

The grace of God allows even the worst of us to go from bondage to liberty, from hopelessness to new life.  There are those who hope in themselves, convinced that they are as good as humans can be, and better than most people.  The self-righteous do not grasp at straws or long for a glimmer of hope.  They think that if they feel dead and empty it is perhaps only a temporary unease that can be remedied by a little more religion, a little more walking the line. 

We say that Jesus gives hope to the hopeless.  What happens if we are not hopeless?  Only empty vessels can be filled. 


John Lien said...

Ah, there's the paradox for me. I've always tried to be a good kid -except when I haven't.

So now, when I sit quietly and reflect upon my life I'm often ashamed of what I've done. Which is good, I guess, unless it is sham shame because I think, "Well, I guess I'm improving." which, by thinking that, means I'm probably not.


(Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner x10E19)

mushroom said...

But, see, that you wonder if thinking you are improving means you're not improving means that you are improving. :)