To fully appreciate the story of Zacchaeus you do need to understand how despised he would have been within the society of Jericho – itself already on the outside of acceptable Jewish society, given its reputation as a city of sin and its history of standing opposed to the kingdom of God. There were three strikes against him, the main one being his profession. He was not only a tax-collector, but a chief one – meaning that he was not only a collaborator with the oppressive Roman Empire, but he not only made his usual cut from the collection of taxes from the people, but he also made a cut on all the other tax collectors who worked under him. Second, he was wealthy. He is usually pictured as being middle-aged, somewhat portly, but well-dressed and presented. The final blow is that he is height-challenged – something which I find difficult to relate to!
But despite all these obstacles, he has one thing going for him. His curiosity leads him to climb one of the sycamore trees that even today line the streets of ancient Jericho. And this leads him to a direct encounter with Jesus who was passing through this city of sin.
Recorded at St Paul’s, Camden 6pm (11’56”)
Sunday 31, Year C. Luke 19:1-10