Searching for Answers
So Jesus says in today’s passage, it’s in the last line for the son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost, to seek out and to save the lost. Human beings have always been searching, right? Searching for peace, searching for meaning, searching for a better life, searching, and searching, which means that in some ways we have always been lost. When I think about our congregation, I’m learning now, to preach, you really have to think about what’s going on. I mean, I see people just trying and doing their best. It really actually inspires me to see how hard you’re all trying in life. I mean, I see our HI-C students. it’s just so lovely to see you guys in the picture and college students, studying really hard when we have had our young families gathering yesterday. I just, I see everyone just doing their very best to balance work and family life. I see parents worry endlessly about their children, adults worry about their aging parents. You are all trying your best with everything that comes your way.
Questions of Doubt inside us
I think that underlying all of our best efforts, some questions always lurk beneath the surface. Am I doing the right thing? Am I really okay? And sometimes when we take a moment and look back on things, we may ask ourselves, you know, where did I go wrong? What should I have done differently? And what am I doing wrong? Sometimes these questions plague us deep inside. We become racked up with doubts and we feel no peace inside the song to the choir sing is asking for peace, but we don’t feel it. Sometimes we distract ourselves with our busy-ness and the fun pleasures of life we merely get lost in our business and pleasure-seeking.
A challenge Zacchaeus had to face
We feel no peace and I think that all of this is what must have been burning inside of Zacchaeus before he met Jesus. When I think about Zacchaeus, and we’ve heard this story many times with, I started thinking about him, I realized, I think he had a tough life. You know, being a short guy, he probably got picked on by all the other village boys growing up. And I think he probably grew up in a poor little Jewish village. You know, his parents, they probably lost the land that had been in their family for generations and their way of life and sense of community. It got broken down as the Romans came in with their power and the temple system that collaborated with them, they started putting more and more tax burdens on local farmers and peasants and they became so much that they started to get more and more in debt and anyone who tried to resist paying taxes was met with the might of Roman power. So they fell into great debt and ultimately lost their lands to rich creditors in the big town and so he saw his parents suffer as tenant farmers on the very land that was theirs for generation and, and he saw his parents live out their days as defeated people and they probably died early too.
Working on Commission
Oh, but it’s the case. He was not going to play the victim. He would be different. He was going to do whatever he could to get out of his bad situation. And these are the exact kinds of people that the Romans knew how to exploit. They gave him an opportunity to collect taxes from his fellow villagers on their behalf. I mean, he could collect whatever amount he was able to obtain using the power of the n force. And he just had to give them the required amount to the authorities. And the rest was his it’s like working on commission, right? You give the company a certain amount. The rest is yours. I mean, exorbitant taxes were what had caused his parents to lose their land. And now his job was to maybe do the same for others, but Hey, he had to get his own. This was how he would become rich and not suffer what his parents had gone through. And you know, what he became extremely successful, probably started in his local village, did well impressed. The superiors got promoted and were given more and more lands to cover. And he was so successful that he was finally given a crown jewel prize, the bustling town of Jericho.
Life of Contradiction
He had reached the top of the pyramid as far up as his humble background would allow him to go. And he had the last laugh Didn’t he, it’s all those bigger boys who used to push them around as kids were now, the powerless ones owing up to him. I mean, others saw him as a trader and a sellout, but Hey, they were just haters, right. They’re just jealous that he benefited while they struggled. So the saying goes, don’t hate the player. Hate the game, but you know what, after all these years of hustling and becoming rich, I think he looked back now and asked himself know who had he become was the wealth that he had accumulated worth the social cost he paid, Oh, I think perhaps he hated himself or rather he hated his place in the world. If you know the movie, I got this quote from, come to talk to me later. Right. But was his place destined to be that where his gain came by being a parasite to his own people? So ultimately I think Zacchaeus, I think he was tired. He was tired of living a life of contradiction, tired of what he had to do to survive in a cruel system, tired of being in it enabled her of that cruel system. He was tired. I have to admit, I love that the seized hip hop artists Tupac Shakur. And he said this, no, I hate the man in the mirror. Cause the reflection makes the pain turn more real. I think this was Zacchaeus. I mean, Tupac was able to put into words, the internal struggles and contradictions of trying to survive and thrive in this cruel world with dignity and pride as a young black man. And I honestly think that’s Zacchaeus though. He’s from a different time and place would probably be able to relate. Don’t we also get tired? The things that come your way are endless after doing all that we can with the cards that were dealt with. I think we still ask ourselves, am I doing the right thing? Am I okay? and as life continues to throw things your way, we probably ask ourselves, what am I not doing or not doing enough of?
I don’t know exactly why as the case was so motivated to see Jesus. I mean, he went around and went up a tree just to catch sight of him. I don’t know. Maybe it was because of all the stories of Jesus’s healing that he had heard, maybe it was his message of renewal and restoration. Maybe it was his love for unlovable people like him. I mean, what was it about this Jesus that made him go to such lengths just to see him and what was he hoping for? I don’t know exactly why, but I do see that there is some deep desire for change. When Jesus spotted him in a tree, he approached him and invited Zacchaeus to his house and something happens to him. I know he experienced something and this experience transformed him. He must have experienced a sort of presence and acceptance. This is how Jesus described himself. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me for, I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
Our Souls needs Rest
I think Zacchaeus found rest for his soul. I mean his whole adult life had been a struggle to survive and thrive in a cruel system that oppressed his own people and that, and he himself had caused the very suffering that his own family had been through. He was plagued with self doubt and he was alienated from his own people and community, but now in the presence of Jesus, he found rest. We all know the importance of sleep, it’s fundamentally important to your health. And that’s why we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping. I mean, some more, maybe sleeping, rejuvenates our bodies. It restores ourselves. It organizes all these thoughts in your brain and processes. The experiences you’ve been through and without enough sleep are functioning diminishes, right? It can become like you’re just going through the motions in a hazy fog. So yes, everyone, please get enough sleep. Our society today is so sleep deprived, But I think it’s the same thing with our hearts and our souls. Our souls need rest. Our hearts are constantly bombarded with things to worry about, to get anxious, about, to get stressed out about our hearts need rest in order to mend, to process, to heal, and to be healthy. If we don’t give our hearts rest, we will not be able to function properly.
Why We need rest
When the Bible talks about our heart or soul, it’s not just about kind of the feeling or emotional center of our lives. The Bible, the heart is like the very center of our lives. It’s the seat of our intellect, our reasoning, our emotions, and who we are as a person. So that center, our existence needs rest. The Sabbath is a day of rest. The laws of Sabbath called for the stop of all physical activities, but it was not mainly for the purpose of physical rest, but so that the heart and soul could rest. And more importantly, to find that rest in God, the source of who we are When we come to church on Sunday, we come to offer our worship. We come to give thanks. We come to reflect, but we also come to find rest for our souls in God and worship and coming into God’s presence is the best way we find rest for our souls and God has given us the church to find rest in one another as well, and so this is what Saint Paul said, bear one another burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.
In other words, we provide rest for the souls of those around us. I mean, I’m thoroughly enjoying my life in ministry and the ESM, but I still always look back fondly on my very first experience in ministry with our youth, our high. See, I missed you guys so much. And in youth ministry, there’s nothing more important than creating that space where people feel safe when they feel safe, they let down their guard and let their real selves show and almost find rest in a way, and when that happens, actually beautiful things arise for me and everyone else. in HI-C there was nothing more beautiful than those moments where we found rest for our souls in God and one another and watching students go around, sharing their burdens with one another crying together, praying together. I mean, those were moments when they truly fulfilled the law of Christ. I mean, isn’t that the essence of what it is to be human when your heart is mended, when it feels safe, when it has found rest, it becomes open to love others and see the needs of others. This is what happened to Zacchaeus. When he found rest for his soul, his heart began to open up. He began to see the suffering that he had inflicted on others, and he took action to make amends for that suffering and do his part to restore right relations between them. That is true repentance. Repentance begins when our hearts have found rest in God so that our hearts can see more clearly what we’ve been doing and what we need to do. Jesus said this does a kiss at the end “today salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham.” He too was a son of Abraham. He too belonged to the community of God to this unlovable man. Jesus said, “you belong.” That is salvation to belong. Even when we don’t deserve it. Life constantly throws things our way. It makes us question ourselves, doubt ourselves, and just get us really tired. Jesus, his word to us today is this. You are loved. You are okay. You belong. Let us find rest for our souls in this merciful and gracious God. And may this rest strengthen our hearts to do what it was meant to do to love and bear the burdens of those around us.