Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Luke 19: 1-10
In most areas of our lives, we have bought into the idea or belief that “knowledge is power”. If I want to succeed at anything, I have to have the right knowledge or intellect and I can get what I want. In the age we live, we are also inundated with information through internet and other sources that we just keep accumulating. Yet, maybe that’s part of the reason why we change careers so often in this day and age…the knowledge gives us part of the equation, but we know if our heart and soul isn’t into something, it makes it very challenging. All the knowledge in the world won’t give us what we want in that instance, we will always be left feeling empty when we spend our lives climbing the tree as Zacchaeus does in today’s gospel, trying to find what was lost.
I think it helps to know some of the symbolism from myth, soul, and dream work to understand what’s going on in this passage. Many scholars question whether Zacchaeus has already begun to have a conversion in his life and has been feeling empty. He had all the knowledge and was quite successful at what he did, but it was about him more than it was the people. He knew how to play the system. He knew how to make money off the less fortunate and he did it, leaving people resentful of him for what he had done. Again, though, he did it through his mind. If we look at all of this as symbol, climbing the tree for Zacchaeus is where he was comfortable; it’s Zacchaeus getting “in his head” thinking that he could encounter Jesus that way. We could think and study all we want about Jesus and God, but that’s not where the encounter will take place. I had a gentleman tell me last evening that it took him 70 years of his life before he knew what it meant to say that he loves Jesus. We think we can think our way to God, but like Zacchaeus, it will often leave us feeling empty and lonely, knowing something is still missing. We just can’t think that we can think our way to God!
But then comes the invitation and the openness on the part of Zacchaeus. Once it comes, nothing will stop us from making the journey. If climbing the tree is getting lost in our heads, the other symbol of the story is the house. In dream and soul work, the house often represents the soul. He is invited down out of his head and into his soul where the encounter will take place. That doesn’t mean that he could just go from one to the other. There is a crowd of many negative voices and feelings that Zacchaeus is going to have to encounter before he gets there. He has swindled people and taken advantage of them and for once he’s going to begin to see what he has done and what has led him to such emptiness. He will begin to recognize all that he had done to build up his own ego and inflated image of himself while knocking everyone down in the process. Like Zacchaeus, it is often a stumbling out of the tree that is going to lead us down into the soul, but again, when that invitation comes and we hear the voice of Jesus speak, not much is going to stop us from making it. We, like him, finally begin to see who we really are. Like Zacchaeus, the one we often need to be saved from is ourselves and thankfully, as the writer of Wisdom tells us today, God remains patient with us in that process because God is “the lover of souls”. It becomes authentic to Zacchaeus in the way he wants to reconcile with others, finally knowing in himself that he is a loved sinner.
If our faith is simply about knowledge and intellect, we become dangerous. We start to lord it over others, build judgments, and become critical of others. Just think about it, if coming to this Table each week is about trying to understand what transubstantiation is all about or some other big word, it may never lead us to God. We can go our entire lives and never have an encounter with God. But like Zacchaeus, when the invitation comes from somewhere deeper within our souls and tells us to leave the tree, we will begin to move and this will become much more than an intellectual experience. The last line of the gospel today, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” is a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. When we are open to this invitation, we begin to realize just what has been lost and sacrificed and that is our soul. We see it in ourselves; we see it in our world, the absence of soul. We feel safe in our heads and minds. We know it and it always seems to be faithful to us. It has all the answers that we could ever want, but most likely will never give us what we truly desire. We are invited today, like Zacchaeus, to come out of the tree, probably stumbling along the way, and enter into what has been lost, our souls, so as the Gospel tells us, salvation today will come upon this house. We don’t have to wait until the end of our lives; salvation is today when we say yes to the invitation from Jesus to come down out of the tree and into our souls. We can’t think it. We can’t even know it as an intellectual entity. We can only be it once it finally comes upon our house. Come down quickly, for the Lord has invited himself to your house!