In the Gospel Reading this week which was Luke 19:1-10, Jesus met the tax collector Zacchaeus. In Christ’s time, Tax Collectors were frowned upon. Many of the collectors of the time were commonly underhanded and tended to swindle the everyday people from their money, for the collector’s fiscal gain. So long as the Roman Empire got the tax then the government would turn a blind eye to the other actions of the collectors. People also saw the collectors as almost betrayers for their people because they collected tax for an oppressive government and were able to benefit financially.
The idea of a tax collector was the prime example of a sinner that Jesus hoped to save from damnation. The Tax Collector was considered a social pariah and that he was ripe with corruption. No matter the attempts they made to repent and be better, they had to fight against the stereotypes that the towns would yell against them.
This story has always spoken to me about the whole premise of it. The seemingly irredeemable man is seen as redeemable and worthy to be in the presence of the holy of holies. It’s honestly really powerful to me to see this story. Throughout every human life we from time to time fall into pits of despair. In my senior year apologetics class, we discussed the works of CS Lewis. We discussed “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters”. Within Screwtape, the idea of humans going through a continuous cycle of rises and falls in their faith was discussed. At every low point in our lives we need the inciting instance of faith to bring us to a new peak.
The Life of a Tax Collector would be a constant struggle of the lows of faith. But in Christ choosing to spend his time with Zacchaeus, he rose him out of the pit and led him towards a new faith.
The Gospel of Luke especially could be known as the Gospel of Inclusion. Luke writes about those who would have been marginalized or overlooked by society; Samaritans, the sick and poor, Sinners, Tax Collectors, and women to name a few. In my theology class right now, we are discussing the Gospel narratives and Christology. Christology is the study of our understanding of Jesus’ duality as both fully human and fully divine. The Gospel of Luke focuses on faith, and he focused his Gospel to be inclusive to his audience of the Christians who were originally Gentiles and not originally Jews.
Thus, the idea of being saved even if you seem to be irredeemable is very pleasing, and just very hopeful. In Christ choosing and acknowledging Zacchaeus, he then repents and Zacchaeus resolves to give half of his possessions to the poor and to return and repay anyone he has extorted four times over.
“Today salvation has come to this house … For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”