“Word for Today” – Luke 19 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

September 11, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


Baptism 1This past weekend, I had the high honor of baptizing the daughter of one of my close friends after our Saturday evening service.  As I look back on that evening, I once again stand amazed at the grace and salvation that God can work in even the smallest hearts and lives.

Following the baptism, I had an opportunity to chat with my buddy about how things were going with he and his family.  Because of our busy schedules, we don’t get to see each other very often.  Indeed, the past several times we have seen each other, we have talked about the need to get together and “catch up.”  But we never managed to put a solid date on the calendar and, thus, never got together.  But that evening, I pulled out my calendar and said to my friend, “If we don’t schedule something today, we’re never going to have get together, so let’s put a date on the calendar today.  We need to catch up.”

In our reading for today from Luke 19, Jesus is on his way through Jericho.  Jericho was one of the finest cities in the ancient world, being rebuilt and remade by Herod the Great.  Herod built aqueducts in the city, a fortress, a lavish winter palace for himself, as well as a hippodrome for horse and chariot races.  But to engage is such ambitious building projects, Herod needed money – and lots of it.  This meant that taxes in Jericho, and in all of Herod’s provinces for that matter, were sky high and remained so even after his death shortly before the dawn of the first century.  Enter a man named Zacchaeus.

Luke says that Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector in Jericho, he was a “chief tax collector” (verse 2).  In other words, he was the head of Jericho’s IRS and was also very wealthy, not so much because being a chief tax collector paid well, but because the tax collectors of his day were well-known as tax cheats.  They would over-collect on taxes and then line their pockets with the excess dollars.  As such, Zacchaeus was a despised and disparaged man.  But even a despised and disparaged man like Zacchaeus wanted to see a revered and righteous man like Jesus.  And so, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree so that he can get a prime vantage point of Jesus as he passes through Jericho.  But then, something completely unexpected happens:  “When Jesus reached the spot [where Zacchaeus was], he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today’” (verse 5).

Interestingly, the position of the word “today” in Greek is emphatic.  Jesus literally says to this tax collector, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  Today, I must stay at your house.”  Jesus, it seems, isn’t wasting any time with Zacchaeus.  He doesn’t say, “We need to get together some time and catch up.”  No, Jesus wants to meet with Zacchaeus today.  And Zacchaeus gladly welcomes him today and repents of his sin:  “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” (verse 8).  Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus has transformed him from a degenerate to a disciple.  And Jesus rejoices at his transformation:  “Today, salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (verse 9).  When does this salvation come to Zacchaeus and his house?  “Today,” of course.

The Psalmist instructs us, “Today, if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8).  The Hebrew word for “if” is im, an intentionally ambiguous particle mixing the contingent force of “if” with the more definite force of “when.”  Thus, it’s not so much if you will hear God’s voice today, it’s that when you will hear God’s voice today, you should take to heart what he says.  You should believe and obey today.

So today, you have a promise that will hear God’s voice.  Through the pages of his Word, in prayer, and by the whisper of his Spirit, God will speak to you today.  Jesus will reside in the house of your heart today.  And his salvation will come to you anew today.  You see, Jesus never puts you off.  He never says, “We need to get together some time.”  No, Jesus always wants to meet with you today.  So whatever obstacle you may face, whatever challenge you may encounter, and whatever worry you may meet, Jesus will face, encounter, and meet it with you – not later, but today…and every day.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Luke 18 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Luke 20 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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