Prof. Brian Hull – “Jesus Came for Even the ‘Sinners’”
“Jesus entered Jericho and made His way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, He looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said. ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.’ Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.
But the people were displeased. ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,’ they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’ Jesus responded, ‘Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.’” - Luke 19:1-10
In this story Zacchaeus stands out because he was a chief tax collector and therefore a “sinner.” He is considered unclean because as a chief tax collector he has to exchange all money, including Roman coins which bear the face of the emperor. The emperor considered himself a god, and therefore anything with his picture on it was considered an idol and unclean. A chief tax collector would be constantly touching these “idols” and would therefore constantly be considered unclean.
Jesus goes to Zacchaeus. Even though custom would dictate that a Jewish rabbi remain clean by not touching the unclean, Jesus goes to this man who is constantly unclean. Jesus not only goes to him but brings salvation to his house. Jesus models for us what it means to be truly on God’s mission.
How are we doing at going to the unclean of our culture? Are we too concerned about what others might think? Are we too concerned about getting dirty? God’s mission is for everyone to know Him. Are we truly joining in God’s mission by going to the unclean as well as the clean?
- Prof. Brian Hull, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies & Philosophy