11-3-19 “Because He too is a Son of Abraham”

November 3rd, 2019.

Luke 19:1-10.

“Because He too is a Son of Abraham”

When I have seen the Halloween event and All Saints Day first in the USA, I was curious about them. They seemed to me that while the USA is a Christian country, the country encourages to celebrate all devils and to worship ancestors. However, I learned that their original meanings were changed eventually, and then the protestant Church rejected Halloween. They thought that it was not a good culture for Christians because it became a different event from the beginning. In fact, Halloween began to drive the ghost out and clean up the whole house. And they have All Saints Day on the next day. So, some call Halloween as All Saints’ Eve. If we think of Halloween’s true meaning, we may understand.  All Saints Day is the day to expel all devils out.

When I saw to light on candles on All Saint Day, I was wondering if we may vow  or worship those who passed away. As I told you before, I grew up in a Confucian family. As my family religion, we have lit on candles at the altar of ancestors.  And, we have worshiped ancestors with praying to our ancestors for peace and wealth in the world. The first missionaries from America and England had a conflict with Confucian to worship ancestors. Therefore, many missionaries were persecuted by Confusions. Later on, Korean Catholic Church allowed Korean Christian to worship ancestors, but Protestants still do not allow it. When I saw that Christians light on candles on the altar thinking of ancestors worship on All Saints Day, it made me wonder. However, I notice that I had a bias. Those who died in Jesus Christ would be all saints. In remembrance of their faithful life, we light on candles one by one.

It is a matter of how we choose to look at things. There is a saying, “a blind touch an elephant’s leg.” It means that it is a matter of perspective.  If a blind touch an elephant’s leg, he/she thinks of it as a pillar. He/she never notices that it is an elephant because an elephant is big. With touching a part, one never knows what the whole parts are. There is the other saying, “If you put on color glasses on your eyes, you always see things with the color without noticing you are wearing color glasses.” I recognized I put on color glasses of my experience on my eyes.

There was a man named Zacchaeus; He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He was short in stature. The story of Zacchaeus is only in the Gospel of Luke. According to what kind of perspective we have, we may think of him differently.

Zacchaeus is more famous to children than the adult because many people focus on that he climbed up to a sycamore tree. In fact, Jewish adults did not climb a tree because of their dress and manner. Only children might rise up to trees. Therefore, children think of Zacchaeus as a close friend. However, he is an adult. As a chief tax collector, he might be old enough to be a senior. Nevertheless, he climbed up a tree. Perhaps he might need Jesus’ help. Like a child, without thinking of shame or manner, he climbed to see Jesus.

You might learn that he was a sinner. After he met Jesus, he repented his sin, and then he was saved as well as his whole house. We know that tax collectors are described as sinners in the Gospel. They were Jewish but worked for Rome. They often cheated people out while collecting tax, and they became rich. So, they became outsiders from the Jewish community politically and socially.

By the way, was Zacchaeus a real sinner? Those who said that Zacchaeus is sinner were Jewish. Verse 7 says, “All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus was an outsider socially and politically. He became wealthy, but he was isolated from the community. Those who are in the community made him an outsider. As soon as they saw that Jesus called him and came into his house, they began to grumble and called him a sinner. The word, “grumble” is the same as Israelite’s complaint to God when they were in the wildness. They did not like Jesus also because he would be a friend with those who they made outsiders.

His name, “Zacchaeus,” means “pure” and “gentle.” According to his name, he might be a pure and gentle person. He might work hard, but he might be socially weak.

Again, the perspective matters. From the standpoint of Jewish, Zacchaeus was a sinner. However, is it the same view with Jesus?  In Luke 18:18-30, we find a rich man. We do not know his name. Luke says about him as “a certain ruler” without naming. The rich man asked Jesus about eternal life. However, he gave up for eternal life because he was very rich, and he could not give up his wealth. Even though he kept all commandments in his life, he could not share his wealth with the poor. Therefore, Jesus said to his disciples,” How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” His disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with a human is possible with God.”

The idea which the rich could not enter the kingdom of God is a bias. Jesus would teach his disciples that the rich can be saved. The rich man in chapter 18 and Zacchaeus had a different perspective about Jesus. The rich man in chapter 18 thought of Jesus as a teacher. He kept all commandments as the rule of life. He came to Jesus and said, he kept all commandments since he was a boy. However, Zacchaeus thought of Jesus as the Lord. He kept all commandments as the practice of life. As soon as Zacchaeus heard all talked about him as sinner, he said to Jesus, he stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” “Stood there and said,” mean that he said to Jesus in front of all people. In other words, he promised Jesus as well as all people. We do not know whether he cheated anyone or not. However, whether he cheated anyone or not, he might pay back four times as much as he promised. Even though he paid back all he might cheat anyone, I do not think that he became a poor man. He might be more abundant in the world as well as eternal life. Therefore, we have to think of the other possibility from a different perspective.

We live in a diverse society, but we still have a bias thought as I did about Halloween and All Saint Day. We should respect others who have different ideas because our thoughts are not always right. Pay attention to why Jesus came to Zacchaeus and why Jesus proclaimed that salvation has come to his house. In verse 9-10, Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” What Zacchaeus has saved is because he is also a son of Abraham. It means that he is the child of God. What Jesus came to him is because he was the lost, such as a son, a coin, and a sheep. We cannot judge anyone from our perspective because he/she may be the child of God. Let us take off our bias glasses so God may give us mercy and grace to love one another.

Thanks be to God. Amen.