by Bill Spaans:
This week is the start of Lent, when we focus on the path that Jesus took in the last day before His crucifixion. Rather fitting then that Luke 19 includes the account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Without a doubt Jesus knew what awaited Him there – His brutal death on a cross! But Jesus Himself taught that “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). And Jesus was about to do that for all of us, and in so doing usher in the fulness of His Kingdom. But first He had a few more lessons to teach us, and He did so in words and in deeds!
Heading to Jerusalem Jesus encountered Zacchaeus the tax collector. What is this about Jesus and tax collectors? It appears that Jesus repeatedly singles out these despised individuals to make a point! We are again reminded that Jesus looks at the heart, and not at outward appearances as we are inclined to do. Jesus saw something in Zacchaeus. And indeed, when Jesus affirms Zacchaeus by inviting Himself over for lunch, Zacchaeus responded immediately, invited Jesus in, and repented of all his wrong-doings. Jesus declared “Today salvation has come to this house.” Jesus adds an important lesson for us. He says “—the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Dr. Luke also includes the parable of the talents, with the clear message that all of us who claim to be followers of the King have an individual responsibility to serve Him. We have all been given time, talents and material resources, and we will some day need to give an accounting of how we have used them to honor Him. If we have been given much, much will be expected in return.
Jesus did eventually arrive in Jerusalem, to the cheers of an adoring crowd. But then one of His first acts was to enter the temple and to clear out the money changers and sellers of over-priced animals needed by worshipers for their sacrifices. What appears to have upset Jesus so much was that the outer court of the temple, where non-members of the synagogue could come to worship, had been taken over by merchants and money changers who were addressing the needs of the current members. Basically, the needs of the existing synagogue members were crowding out newcomers. It is fitting for each of us during this upcoming Lenten season to reflect on how well we are doing. Are we aware of our own sinfulness as Zacchaeus was? Are we as repentant as he was? And are we faithfully using the gifts God has given us, to His glory? And are we as a congregation making room for the newcomer in our midst? May we like Zacchaeus, humbly respond to Jesus’ invitation to be in fellowship with Him. And may we be welcoming of others who seek to do the same. And to King Jesus be the glory!