To my American friends and relatives, Happy Thanksgiving! In the spirit of this grand holiday, and Christmas around the corner, I offer this look at hospitality through the unlikely story of ... Zachhaeus.
Luke records part of the story this way: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly." (Luke 19: 5-6)
Have you ever considered that Zacchaeus gladly welcomed Jesus to his home? Given his occupation—a tax collector whom many despised—you might think he would have hid among the leaves of that sycamore tree. But he didn’t; he came down, escorted Jesus to his home, and threw a little party, and an unplanned one at that.
I wonder who else joined them. Probably not those who watched this happen; they were muttering, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” I can see them with arms crossed and faces scowling.
But something tells me Zacchaeus would have welcomed his enemies to his home that day. Consider his new heart when he says, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” His generous heart flowed in love for the poor, and his pocketbook with justice for mistreated clients.
What explains his change of heart? One clue is the reason he climbed the tree—“he wanted to see who Jesus was.” And who did he see? He saw someone worthy of calling “Lord.” Perhaps Jesus’ reputation preceded him, and Zacchaeus knew that with Jesus wine overflowed, blind saw, lame walked, and dead people revived. Jesus was a rock star, and the rich tax man had to catch a look. And now, with Jesus present in the flesh, Zacchaeus humbled himself, acknowledged his wrong-doing, and sought to make things right. So right was his heart as shown through his speech and actions that Jesus declared, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. for the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (vv. 9 & 10).
What will our response be to the present Christ this season? Will we open our homes to celebrate the Lord of the universe? Will we give away our wealth to help people in need? Doing so may put us outside our comfort zone, or require more effort than usual. But in the grand scheme it will indicate our relationship under God as one of his children eager to gather others into his community of grace.
Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to show us a life worthy imitating. May I bow in awe of his glory and from that place open my heart to people. Show me whom I may invite to my home to celebrate the presence and love of Jesus. Amen.
Bill Strom, Author
I am a believer by faith, a professor by vocation, a husband by choice, a father by blessing, and a friend by hanging out. Along the way I have learned about close relating through my experiences, biblical models, and social science research. Hopefully my ideas and encouragement show up here in ways meaningful to you.