Monday, April 16, 2018

The man in the sycamore tree

Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him. Revelation 3 : 20

The sycamore tree mentioned in Luke’s Gospel passage (9 : 1-10) is a “fig” sycamore. Although Zacchaeus wasn’t hiding in the tree but on the lookout for Jesus, he was covered by fig leaves, comparable to Adam and Eve covering their nakedness (sinfulness) when God came looking for them in the garden.

But Jesus did not banish Zacchaeus from his company because of any sins. Quite the opposite, he came to reconcile the tax collector with God, balance the books so to speak, redeem the debt, and become a friend of someone who probably had very few in life because of the way he treated others when collecting taxes.

The particular species of fig tree – ficus sycamorus– was in leaf, but had not reached its fruit-bearing season when Jesus arrived in Jericho on his journey to Jerusalem for the Passover, ahead of his death.

An unusual feature about the fruit of the ficus sycamorus is that it is unable to ripen unless it is slashed or pierced. Three days after being pierced, usually with metal hooks, the fruit is ready to be harvested. The yield is prolific and other figs quickly form beneath. So abundant is the fruit that seven crops can be harvested in a single summer!

Zacchaeus was ‘picked’ from the tree by Jesus after undergoing ‘piercing’ criticism for his role as a senior tax collector. As soon as Zacchaeus was called the signs of further fruit began to appear when he said to Jesus: “Look, sir, I am going to give half of my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.” The tax collector in the tree became a sign of good fruit.

Soon after, when he was slashed and pierced during his passion and death on the cross, Jesus finally redeemed the ‘lost’ life of Zacchaeus.  It had to be this way if the life of Jesus was to bear fruit through his resurrection three days later.

Pierced or pruned, it has to be like this for all of us if we are to ripen in faith and welcome Jesus joyfully.

ZACCHAEUS • Luke 19 : 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today!” And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what happening. “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house” they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, “Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount! And Jesus said to, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.