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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, December 19, 2014


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 19:8-10

Generally, those who read this passage about a repentant tax collector think about the good that Zacchaeus did in his new-found generosity.  I am one of those who think that actions speak louder than words and that being a giver is virtuous.  Whether I would admit to it or not, there’s a part of my brain that thinks Zacchaeus “saved himself” by giving away his possessions and restoring what he had gained by extortion. 

But if we look at what Jesus said, there’s something more going on.  We can’t save ourselves no matter how good we are.  The Lord seeks us as if we were lost sheep, gathers us up and takes us home.  Salvation came into the house of Zacchaeus when Jesus entered it, but it all hinges on who we are.  (Note:  Father Stephen continues his excellent series on morality, and I’m just saying, Amen, here today.) 

Zacchaeus didn’t need to repent because he was an agent of the Roman government and a scallywag.  He needed to remember that he was a “son of Abraham”, that he was part of a covenant that put him in communion with God, and made him, and us, as 2 Peter 1:4 says, “partakers of the divine nature”.  The little man had fallen into sin and corruption because he did not know who he was.

And so it is with us all.  No one is going to go to hell because they lied, murdered, fornicated, cursed and swore, or whatever else.  We do those things because we are dead and in hell, because we are separated and isolated from communion with God, because we are living according to the flesh.  Frankly, if there’s no way back to God except the path of self-improvement, there is not much reason for me to stop living like a devil because I am not going to make it anyway. 

I watched part of the movie Charade recently.  Imagine you had a face like Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn.  Instead of showing the world that face, you decide to wear a gorilla mask all the time.  The mask is ugly, and it causes people to reject you, and it causes all kinds of problems in your life.  It’s filthy.  You can’t keep the stupid thing clean, and it stinks.  It makes you sweat and is almost unbearable in the summer.  You do what you can to make it look better and less hideous and to make it more comfortable, but nothing really works. 

Take off the damn mask.

Christ has given us His life.  He took our old life to the Cross, put it death and buried it. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks for your take on Zach, Mush.
You are right, we cannot ever redeem ourselves, no matter what we do.
Only God can give salvation.

We ought to be virtuous bevause it's the right thing to do, not for any reward.
If it's for a reward it's no longer virtuous.
Hence the mask.

mushroom said...

That's true. Love is the motivation.