by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Narrative Lectionary readings for Sunday, March 17, 2013:
Optional Reading: Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12 or 84:10
Last week's reading presented the rich man who was blind in so many ways that Lazarus was not. This week's readings also revolve around blind people.
Perhaps the most surprising blind people in today's readings are the twelve disciples. Can they really not understand the forces that Jesus has set into motion? A large part of me understands that they don't comprehend Christ's mission, but can they really not see that the actions of Jesus put him on a collision course with societal institutions?
After all, the Romans were not reserved at all when it came to punishing criminals. Likewise, the regional rulers chosen by Rome, men like Herod and Pilate, were brutal. Crucifixion was not uncommon--and other methods of capital punishment were a regular fact of life too. Life in a Roman outpost was harsh, especially for those groups that were lower on the social spectrum, as Christ and his followers were.
But the disciples cannot see. Are they willingly blind? Can they just not cope with what's coming, and thus they live in a delusional state?
Contrast the twelve to the one blind man, the man who can't see with his physical eyes. Nonetheless, he recognizes Jesus--and as a reward, he receives physical vision to go with his spiritual vision.
And then, there is Zacchaeus, the man who is so short that he cannot see Jesus, even though his eyes are working perfectly fine. So, he climbs up a tree to get some perspective.
In this story, we get to see Jesus act in ways that have set him on that collision course with the authorities. Time after time, Jesus turns away from the rich and the powerful, as he heals the sick (often in violation of the purity laws) and invites himself to dinner at the homes of the outcast and lowly.
Christ's acceptance changes Zacchaeus, so that he can see spiritually as well as physically. He vows to give half of his goods to the poor, and to all whom he had defrauded, he'll repay them four times over.
In a Sunday of stories that presents so many blind people, even those closest to Jesus, it's good to reflect on our own blindness. Do we really understand the mission of Jesus, or are we blind, just like the disciples? Are we willing to invite Christ into the center of our lives?
How big a tree will we climb if it means we can meet Jesus?