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Bible Reflections View Comments

Go Climb a Tree!
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
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The story of Zacchaeus is a favorite in illustrated children’s Bibles and Sunday school coloring sheets. No surprise there. There are two things children understand: the lure of climbing trees and being too short to see anything in a crowd except the kneecaps of surrounding adults.

Luke tells us that Zacchaeus is short. It’s easy to imagine a normally dignified businessman puffing and struggling to run along after Jesus and haul himself into a tree. But Zacchaeus was more than a celebrity chaser, hoping for a better glimpse of someone famous coming through town.

Part of what makes this such a great story is that Zacchaeus is incredibly determined to see Jesus. Zacchaeus knows he’s going to have to make an extra effort. He runs ahead of the crowd. He finds a tree to climb “in order to see Jesus.” He knows his limitations, and he’s not willing to let minor obstacles stand in his way.

Other people may have given up, may have made an excuse—the crowd is too large, it’s too late in the day, I have other work to do—and missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Not Zacchaeus. He was willing to do whatever he had to do, with little care for what people would think of him.

Determination is a value we would do well to cultivate. Too often we let our dreams and goals slip away because the obstacles seem too great. Sometimes the problem is that we don’t really know what we want. This is where Zacchaeus can serve as a model. He knows what he wants. He knows what he needs to do to get it.

Other times, we run into roadblocks on the way to where we want to go, and getting around them seems too difficult, too complicated, too challenging. We let other people convince us that what we want isn’t worth that much effort.

Like Zacchaeus finding a tree to raise himself above the heads of the crowd, we need to find ways to go after those things we really want, the things that will help us see Jesus, the things that will ensure we’re the kind of person Jesus will see. Once Zacchaeus was up in the tree, Jesus had no trouble picking him out from the crowd.

In a perfect world, Zacchaeus would have had no need to climb a tree. The people in the crowd would have helped him to the front or raised him on their shoulders so he could see. In a very real way, this is what Zacchaeus is learning to do when he tells Jesus that he’s going to give half his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he’s short-changed in the past. Even though he had to make an extra effort to see Jesus, he’s going to do what he can to help other people along the way.

We strive after many things in the course of our lives. Some are worth the effort involved; others are not. Today’s Gospel raises the question of whether we go after the things of God with the same determination that we apply to other goals in our lives. Clearly Zacchaeus had been quite successful in his business life. That may have given him the determination he needed to make a significant change upon meeting Jesus.

St. Paul prays that God will make the Thessalonians (and us) “worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith....” People like Zacchaeus can help us to make that effort— maybe starting today.



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Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus: The actions of these two influential Jewish leaders give insight into the charismatic power of Jesus and his teachings—and the risks that could be involved in following him.
<p><b>Joseph</b> was a respected, wealthy civic leader who had become a disciple of Jesus. Following the death of Jesus, Joseph obtained Jesus' body from Pilate, wrapped it in fine linen and buried it. For these reasons Joseph is considered the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers. More important is the courage Joseph showed in asking Pilate for Jesus' body. Jesus was a condemned criminal who had been publicly executed. According to some legends, Joseph was punished and imprisoned for such a bold act.
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