Today's Bible reading: Luke 19:1-10
For as much as we have been taking about the Scribes and the Pharisees being offended by Jesus and the company He keeps, if they paid a little closer attention, they would have no right to complain. The reason is this: Jesus never accepts sin in excepting sinners. Actually … it’s the exact opposite. One of the stories that illustrates this for us very clearly is a story I just shared with our Holy Cross Pre-school kids this past week during “Pastor time.” – the story of Zacchaeus. As the story of Zacchaeus shows, the meeting with Jesus - the friend of sinners - leads to transformed lives.
The little man who climbs a tree to get a good look at the famous teacher - Jesus - becomes a totally changed man. Jesus must stay in Zacchaeus’ house not just as a temporary guest … but as its permanent Lord. Salvation comes to the house of a man previously an outcast, but now fully a member of God’s family.
By the end of the account, we see that Zacchaeus’ life has been absolutely transformed! He is prepared to pay back everything he has wrongly taken … and then some – an abundantly generous “then some.” A changed heart leads to a changed life. The friend of sinners becomes their Lord and Savior.
Why should God - in His Son - go to the bother of seeking out the lost? Our Gospel reading for today gives the final reason. God’s heart burns with pity and compassion for every sinner. It says: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The Greek word here for “compassion” is splagchnidzomai, which means quite literally to have the viscera moved - the lungs, the heart, the liver, the gut - which are considered to be the seat of the deepest feelings, such as love and pity. It indicates not only a pained feeling at the sight of suffering … but in addition a strong desire to remove the suffering. Jesus yearns with love to restore every lost sheep back to its fold. After Israel’s leaders prove to be false shepherds, God fulfilled His promise to send the perfect Shepherd-King to gather together all the straying sheep of His flock.
May the Holy Spirit call you and transform your life to be a witness of the surpassing compassion Jesus has shown you by the forgiveness, life and salvation He offers to you through His cross and empty tomb.