52 Weeks at the Table – Week 40
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, but not just a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector. Since that meant to most citizens of Roman-occupied Israel that he was a collaborator who probably collected too much (and was, as Luke tells us, wealthy), that meant he was a chief thief – a sinner. He had heard of Jesus, but wanted to see this great teacher. His stature may have been short, but he was long on ingenuity, and so he ran ahead and climbed a tree. Passing by – or perhaps under – Jesus saw him there and invited Himself over to stay. Zacchaeus welcomed Him. The crowd was taken aback at this, and began to mutter about Jesus and this sinner.
Though Luke mentions no meal – and he is the only gospel writer to record the incident – no act of hospitality in those days would have been complete without the host offering a meal. Whether at the table or elsewhere, Zacchaeus stood to his full height to set right what had been muttered about himself. He committed to give half his goods to the poor. And, in addition, he promised to restore fourfold anything he had cheated anyone out of having. Jesus confirmed that Zacchaeus’ character testified that he was a descendant of the quintessential patriarchal host, Abraham – not a Roman collaborator … and that salvation had come to his house. Perhaps to the crowd gathered around and clustered to the windows, Jesus also explained that He had come to seek and save the lost. He had come to set everything right.
A Prayer Over the Bread
God of all of us – from Abraham to Zacchaeus – thank you for setting right all that has ever gone wrong through your Son, Jesus. As we surround this table of penitence, we have no claim of spotless character; no magnanimous promises to make that prove our innocence. We have only our gratitude for this broken body, this bread of heaven, given for us – for all of us who sin. Bless us through it we pray in the name of Jesus: Amen.
A Prayer Over the Cup
In this cup, righteous and holy Father, we see the blood of your Son poured out for us … the blood of the One who came to seek and save the lost. And so we were: hopelessly lost, unaware that we were sought, all but unconscious of our guilt. We have no need to climb a tree to see Him, for He spread His own arms upon a tree and was lifted up for all to see. May this cup make us powerfully aware of the price You paid – because we were powerless to restore fourfold or twofold or onefold what we owed. We ask your blessing of salvation on your house through this blood, in the name of our Host: Amen.