Read Luke 19:1-27
During the 2014 Commonwealth Games, two Australian field hockey players captured a celebrity in the background of their selfie photo. The two women are smiling at the camera—and right behind them, also smiling at the camera, is Queen Elizabeth II! The queen was making her way over to greet the team during an unscheduled visit to the games.
Jesus was an unexpected guest at the home of an unsuspecting host. He invited Himself to the house of Zacchaeus, a well-known tax collector (v. 5). Tax collectors had the reputation for collecting more from the Jewish people than required by the Romans, and they were despised as greedy collaborators. Jesus’ decision to share a meal with Zacchaeus caused no small stir among the people.
The Gospel of Luke emphasizes the theme of “feast.” Luke records nineteen feasts, thirteen of which are mentioned only in this Gospel. Jesus was criticized for the company He kept at mealtime. As we saw in Luke 15, Jesus frequently hosted meals for sinners. The Pharisees were indignant about this; from their perspective, Jesus was demonstrating licentious behavior. For Jews, table purity was of utmost importance. Both ritualistically pure food and ritualisticallypure company mattered.
But in this text, Zacchaeus is the host, not Jesus. And this presents a surprising side of grace—a grace willing to receive as well as to give. Jesus ate the food that Zacchaeus prepared. Jesus took the chair that Zacchaeus offered. That grace affirmed Zacchaeus’s dignity as a person and moved him to immediate repentance. He promised to repay those whom he had cheated. As evidence of his life changed by grace, he would become a generous giver to the poor (v. 8)!
APPLY THE WORD
We recognize the dignity of another person not simply by meeting their needs but also by allowing them to help themselves—and even to give to us! Consider reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, which explores this idea. Jesus showed grace as Zacchaeus’s guest; how might we show grace to others?