Have you ever wondered who can be saved? The answer is found in today’s Gospel story. A rich man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life? Jesus reminds him what the commandments are, only to have the rich man say, “I’ve kept all these from my youth.” Jesus’ response is a shocking one: “One thing remains for you to do: Sell everything you possess!” This is such a radical response that the people hearing it, including his disciples, ask: “Then who can be saved?” To answer their question, a story about another rich man named Zacchaeus is told. Only this time, the person is not a righteous follower of the law, but a man who is known by all to be a “sinner.” His sin is that he is the chief tax collection, a man who has gotten rich from colluding with the hated Romans and oppressing the Jewish people. But unlike the first rich man, who asked the question about how one can gain eternal life, Zacchaeus is open to the possibility of a new life, a transformed life, a life of hospitality and generosity and “glorifying God.”
Appearances can deceive us. Everything about the first rich man suggested the utmost piety. He’d followed all the commandments from the time he was a child. He was pious to the core. Yet he lacked one thing – the willingness to change his heart, and the longing to embrace a new way of living in total trust of God. We are told that he went away sad. At the same time, everything about Zacchaeus suggested corruption and wickedness. Yet he so wanted to see Jesus, he was so on fire to discover a new approach to life, that he almost made of fool out of himself by climbing a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus even though he was very short. And after he was able to see and to hear, he climbed down and enthusiastically welcomed Jesus into his home and into his heart. In fact, he was so changed by this experience that he promised to give away half his wealth and make restitution to anyone he cheated. Here is a rich man filled with joy! This Jesus tells us, is the answer to the question “Who can be saved?” Those who have a free and generous heart; those who do not allow themselves to become consumed by their possessions. Zacchaeus was saved that day because, although he was a little man, he had a giant heart!
Have a blessed week!