by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The reading for Sunday, March 8, 2015:
We've had week after week of people who don't understand Jesus and his mission. I'm thinking back to Transfiguration Sunday. Even after seeing Jesus transformed, the disciples show that they don't understand. Shortly after the events on the mountain top, Peter will betray Jesus.
I think of those twelve disciples. Do they understand the forces that Jesus has set into motion? A large part of me understands that they don't comprehend the fullness of Christ's mission. As they move around the countryside with him, do they worry about what will happen to Jesus?
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?
Plenty of people in our Gospel stories do see Jesus in a way that everyone else doesn't. They journey across miles of rough terrain to see Jesus. Are they just desperate for healing?
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 season 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? And how will our lives be transformed?