It was probably incumbent upon him to know what was going on. His employment as Chief Tax collector demanded it, while his social standing as a wealthy man required it. So when word came to him about this man Jesus who was passing through (Luke 19: 1- 10), he just had to go and see who it was that created so much interest and fuss. For who knows, maybe there was something about this event that would give an edge to getting more taxes out of the people or maybe this could be an opportunity to further increase his wealth. Whatever the reason was, Z found it impossible to stay away. He had to see this man.
It seems that, even with his wealth and power, however, Z was not able to see Jesus due to the crowd and his physical stature. The crowd simply got in the way and if anyone had a reasonable place to see what was going on they certainly weren’t going to give it up to someone maligned and despised in the community. In addition, his physicality curtailed him from either seeing over the heads of those gathered on the road, or pushing his way to the front to ensure a viewing spot. That said, I cannot help but wonder if his physical limitations may have also been indicative of his spiritual, religious and moral shortcomings as he was lost within, and to, the community of his faith and culture due to his tax collecting.
It is sad and chastening to reflect on how the crowd got in the way of preventing someone from seeing Jesus. Does this happen still? Are there people who would like to see Jesus today, know something about him today or even begin to journey with him today but who can’t get near him because the church crowd has got in the way? Worse still is that it can seem as though the ‘in-crowd’ can erect barriers of expectation, tradition and judgment which help to keep them securely in and others, not of their group, out.
Despite this, the shock in the story for me is that Jesus saw Z even though he had been prevented from seeing Jesus. Not only was Z seen up the tree, but Jesus took that next step of initiating a transformative relationship towards salvation by offering to step over the threshold of Z’s malignment and exclusion into his home. The simple reason for this being that Z still belonged to the community of his fore-fathers and fore-mothers; he belonged, even if he was lost to his community. He was not, lost, however, to Jesus.
I wonder how many people who belong have also been lost to their community through malignment and perceived limitation. The challenge for all of us may be to realise that no matter how lost they, or we, may feel, no-one is lost to Jesus. Hear his offer; no, his desire, to come home with us and, when we allow him in, may we know again we belong at home with him, and within his community of welcome, even as we are all passing through.
Amen; Lord, have mercy…