Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PENTECOST XXIV (Proper 26) 2016

Zacchaeus - Niels Larsen Stevns (1913)
The portion of Psalm 119 set for this Sunday contains a half verse that could come from the mouth of Zacchaeus, the central character in the Gospel passage -- "I am small and despised". For the most part, though, it is hard to see much connection between the readings. There is nonetheless quite a deep one.

Zacchaeus is one of the hated  tax gatherers who betrayed their own people, preferring to collaborate with the Roman imperialists in order to enrich themselves. So it is easy to understand why Jesus would be criticized for going to his house. This was no ordinary 'sinner'. Jesus generally does not explain himself to his critics, but on this occasion he offers a partial explanation. - "salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham".

Prophets - John Singer Sargent
By describing Zacchaeus in this way, Jesus reaches far back into the history of Israel, back before the long process by which the detailed prescriptions of 'The Law' (to which the Pharisees faithfully subscribed) had come to dominate Jewish religious observance. Such intense respect for the Law is not to be despised, and Jesus insists on several occasions that he has not come to destroy it. But what Jewish legalism had lost was the visionary zeal of the prophets that gave the Law its life. That is precisely what the opening lesson - 'the oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw'  -- reminds us. "Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay".

In these powerful sentences we hear the first sounds of the Advent season, when it will be opportune for Christians to remind themselves that 'there is still a vision that speaks of the end and does not lie'.

No comments:

Post a Comment