Today James and I were reading stories from The Beginner’s Bible. Two of the stories we read were the stories of Zacchaeus, and of Mary pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet.
For anyone who hasn’t read these stories, I’ll do a summary. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who made sure Rome got their taxes from the Jewish people. Tax collectors were often Jews themselves, and were seen as traitors for working for the Romans. Tax collectors made their money by telling Fred over there that this year he owed $100. They’d pass on the $70 Rome required and keep the rest. If Fred complained, tax collectors would pass the complain on to Rome. Rome always took the side of the tax collector.
Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming to his area. Zacchaeus was short and couldn’t see through the crowd to see Jesus pass by. He climbed up into a tree to see Jesus. Jesus noticed him, called him down, and went to his house for dinner. Most of the town was not happy that Jesus was eating with this traitor. While everyone outside was complaining about Jesus’ dinner plans, big things were happening inside.
Luke 19:8-10 (HCSB)
8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!”
9 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus met Jesus and promptly turned his whole life around. Imagine if Jesus did what the crowd wanted. If Jesus walked right past that tree because traitors and cheats weren’t the kind of people He wanted to be seen with, Zacchaeus would still be stealing from the people, and they would still be broke with no one to turn to for justice. Instead, Jesus did what seemed wrong, but resolved an unfair situation by bringing about a change of heart in Zacchaeus.
And then you have Judas. Judas was a disciple. He traveled everywhere with Jesus. He was with Jesus for years.
At a different dinner party a woman named Mary came with a jar of very expensive perfume, broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet. It was an act of worship. Judas called it a waste. He wanted to know why she didn’t sell the perfume instead and give the money to the poor.
John 12:6-8 (HCSB)
6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
7 Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
Judas on the surface sounds just a little too practical. Sure, she was honouring Jesus, but think how many people we could help if we sold it. Zacchaeus gave money to the poor. Giving to the poor is good, right? Yes, absolutely.
Stealing what people donate to the poor, though, not so much. Jesus didn’t call Judas out on the theft at this point, though. Instead he affirmed that giving to the poor was good, but they’d have time for that later. Mary wouldn’t have time to honour Jesus later. His crucifixion was coming soon. Judas ends his part as a disciple by going to the people who hated Jesus and literally selling him out. He got his money.
I find it interesting that Zacchaeus who cheated and stole for a living, and who had the backing of the Roman empire to do so, met Jesus once and turned his whole life around. Judas went where Jesus went, ate what Jesus ate, lived how Jesus lived. Still, the money was more important.
I think that’s an important thing about Jesus. He gives us opportunities to change. He went to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner even though Zacchaeus was a traitor. He called Judas as a disciple even though Judas was a thief. Did Jesus make Zacchaeus give back the money he stole? No. Did Jesus make Judas give back the money he stole? No. Did Jesus meet with them, eat with them, teach them, and show God’s love in their lives? Yes. Jesus is willing to enter anyone’s life, if we’re willing. After that, it’s up to us.
All Bible verses copy/pasted from http://www.biblegateway.com.