Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Fourth Sunday before Advent
Text: Luke 19.1-10: "A Personality Transplant"*
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
If you came to faith gradually, as most people do, can you recall ways in which over the years your slowly growing beliefs have changed your personality, and perhaps your lifestyle? If you came to faith suddenly, are you aware that it changed your personality and the way you now live life?
A Window on the Text
This is the second week in which we read about a Tax Collector. The man last week saw himself as a sinner unworthy of God’s love (Luke 18.9-14).
Zacchaeus manages to reach beyond his sense of unworthiness. One day when Jesus arrived in town Zacchaeus appears to have been overtaken by a irresistible urge to meet him (v3), we know not why. So overpowering is the compulsion that this official of the Roman state makes himself look ridiculous in the sight of the crowd by climbing a tree.
Tax, or more accurately toll, collectors were self-employed and had to earn their income out of the money they collected. By inference, a rich one had probably over-charged his ‘clients’, making it unlikely that he would ever let anyone see this by inviting them into his house. But Jesus invites himself and, in response, Zacchaeus “welcomes him gladly” (v6). (If you are tempted to wonder what Mrs Zacchaeus might have thought about this, see paragraph 1 of “More Background”, below.)
The self-righteous observers in the crowd ‘mutter’, regarding the tax collector as a ‘sinner’, an outsider, a collaborator who because of his work could never be acceptable to, or right with, God. Yet Jesus offers him acceptance. This proves to be an overwhelming experience for Zacchaeus, who responds with over-the-top generosity, promising to give away half of his possessions and to repay fourfold anyone he has cheated. We might compare this with the self-righteous Pharisee of last week who gave away only the required one tenth of his income (Luke 18.12).
The story ends with Jesus confirming Zacchaeus’ new status before God as “a son of Abraham”, a true Jew, regardless of what the crowd or the Pharisees might think.
Responding as a community
- Last week, a question for discussion was, “What might you do, and to whom, in order to turn unworthiness into acceptance and welcome?” Share what has happened to you in recent days as a result of that discussion.
- Which bit of your personality is God working on at present, and how is it changing the way in which you live your life?
- As you share these thoughts with the rest of the group, is there a common theme and perhaps something you might do as a group to nurture each other through your ‘personality transplants’?
- You might like to reflect on whichever of the ‘sharing together’ questions at the start fits you, and then share perceptions with another person in the group.
- First, give thanks for the way your personalities have been changed over time by a growing faith.
- Then pray for each other in the ongoing changes which have just been identified in the discussion.
- Share the Peace with each other.
- End with the Lord’s Prayer and the Grace.
- * For an alternative and imaginative perspective on the story of Zacchaeus turn to a newly published book “The Word of the Wives”, by Abby and Michele Guinness. It is subtitled “Monologues from the unheard women of the Bible”, one of whom is Mrs Zacchaeus (page 103). It paints a picture of Mr Zacchaeus as being a skinflint, guarding every penny and whose life was dominated by accumulating wealth. Consequently, his family have a hard time and he is difficult to live with. When Mrs Zacchaeus eventually comes to terms with the transformation in her husband she describes it as a “Personality Transplant”, from which the title of this reflection has been taken.
The book is published by Authentic in 2010, ISBN 978-1-85078-870-0