This episode takes place in Luke’s gospel at the end of an extended road-trip Jesus takes toward God’s town, Jerusalem, that began eleven chapters previously. If Jesus were an invading army, at this point he would be on the outskirts of your town, a day or so away. News travels fast, and this news travelled fast, of a random incident that said more about what Jesus was about than could any organised media blitz.
The vignette is one of the first we hear or learn from the life of Jesus. We often focus on the lively details: this chap’s shortness; his climbing; Jesus’ singling him out. But the story has a darker headline: rich, a chief tax collector. In that time and place, those are codewords for ‘gouger’, ‘opportunist’, ‘collaborator’, ‘thief’, ‘betrayer’. Yet Jesus pointedly goes with him. Hence the grumbling: ‘he goes with a sinner’. Right here, Jesus sets his agenda on the outskirts of God’s town. ‘[H]e too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
In the days and weeks ahead, we may see some Australians strongly ‘othered’ on the basis of race, or covid-status; or more likely, on the basis of their rapacious, price-gouging opportunism; or even on the basis of their desperation over toilet paper, or shoelaces, or pickles, or whatever stupidity becomes the must-have panic-buy that day. But the Son of Man came to seek and save these lost, and we lost, too. He actually remains on the side of every tiny human who has lost their way, even when we’ve given ourselves to self-enclosed panic, or greed, or self-seeking. He wants even them, even us, and still asks to come into every home, to save whoever cowers there.
This reflection was part of St Mark’s Chapel Service conducted online at 10:30am on Wednesday 25 March 2020.