The Invitation and the Taxman
by Jedd Medefind
God’s Word never arrives only as information. It always carries an invitation as well.
It certainly did for Zacchaeus. Imagine that sharp-eyed, well-dressed figure. He’s accustomed to squeezing money and hatred from his neighbors with an imperious nod. But there he is, shimmying down a sycamore, robe hiked up to his bare thighs. He reaches ground, breathless and tousled before Jesus, wide-eyed. The crowd can’t believe it either. They snicker and gripe as Jesus allows himself to be led by the tax collector through the streets, homeward.
The unlikely pair pass into the gates of Zacchaeus’ compound. The crush of noise and body odor fades, yielding to soft sounds and sweet scents. Inside, servants scatter like mercury on a tabletop, returning with foot-washing towels and sparkling refreshments. The aroma of roasting lamb soon fills the air.
We know little of the conversation that ensued. But we know that Zacchaeus encountered God’s Word. He heard it in the nouns and verbs Jesus used. Just as much, he saw, smelled and touched it in the Word-made-flesh before him.
As it always does, God’s Word carried not just information for Zacchaeus, but an invitation.
Of course, this wasn’t the first time. God is never not communicating. The self-revealing of God’s truth and character, His Logos, is always spilling and shimmering through every crevice of creation. It had enveloped Zacchaeus, as it does all of us, since his earliest days. The Word addressed him in a boy’s waking conscience (Romans 2:15), in synagogue readings from the Torah and the prophets (2 Timothy 3:16-17), in every sunset and shooting star (Psalm 19; Romans 1:19-20). But somewhere along the way, Zacchaeus began to suppress the invitations. At each crossroad, he made his choice, preferring to grasp rather than yield. He chose money-worship over God-worship.
But now, the invitations were breaking through again. The first came, perhaps, as a subtle yearning that drove him up that sycamore. Then, a gentle directive, “Come down. I’m coming to your house.” Finally, as Zacchaeus conversed with Jesus, he found himself at the most decisive junction of all.
So it is for all of us. In every encounter with God’s Word – whether in Scripture, our conscience or creation – we face an invitation. It may be a gentle wooing to worship. A rousing to repentance. A summons to service. Like any invitation, it requires a choice, revealing what we most desire. It penetrates and divides, slicing into our thoughts and intentions with the precision of a surgeon’s knife.
Zacchaeus responded. He heard the invitation to repentance and change. He leapt to his feet. Right then and there he pledged half his estate for the poor and to pay back every drachma of ill-gotten gain - quadruple.
Jesus knew it was sincere. “Today,” he said, “salvation has come to this house.”
Our Good Father, You dwell in inapproachable light. Yet you delight to reveal yourself to us. Thank you. Please give us ears to hear your invitations in every encounter with your Word – each passage of Scripture, each whisper of conscience, each wildflower and sunrise. And then, please give us hearts and hands to respond with swiftness and joy. Amen
Jedd Medefind serves as president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. He loves venturing life with his wife Rachel and their five children.