Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Calling Zacchaeus"

Message preached October 31, 2004
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Luke 19:1-10

Order of Worship

(One end of a phone conversation between a telemarketer and a prospective customer)

"Hello, Zacchaeus? This is Peter. Iím calling from Century One Home Improvement Company, and I was just wond...

Whatís that? Do I know you? Have we ever met? Well, no, I donít think so...

Iím sorry, sir. I used your first name because itís here in the script Iím supposed to follow. Forgive me for acting like we were acquaintances...

Why, thank you, youíre most kind. Anyway, Mr. ... I donít seem to have your last name. You are Mr.?...

Mr. Son of Abraham. Well, now, thatís a pretty good name around these parts. You must have a lot of family nearby. Speaking of family, I was wondering if you and the Missus would be interested in adding on to your home any time in the near future. Iím sure, with little ones running around under feet, thereís always need for more space, and we here at Century One are committed to providing more space for growing families...

Whatís that?... There is no missus? ... nor any children underfoot? Again, Iím sorry Mr. Son of Abraham. I guess I assumed too much. I was just following the script my boss gave me. By the way, I need to tell you that this call is being monitored so that my supervisors can assure you of the highest quality service...

Why, thank you sir, again, youíre very kind. Iím rather new at this line of work. When things got tight on the farm last month I had to get a second job to make ends meet. I do have little ones underfoot. Too many, actually. My wife, however, loves children...

How many? Well, thereís Josh, heís 9. Then Lillith, age 8, and Ruthie, age 7. We lost our 4th child to that epidemic that went through. Nath is 5, Joseph is 4, Bart is 3. The next child was stillborn. Our baby is Mary, only she wonít be the baby much longer. Another is on the way...

Yes, youíre right. We do have a big family. A lot of mouths to feed...

Our home? Well, it isnít much. Just 2 rooms. The tax collector assessed it at 100 thousand, but I tell you, that was highway robbery. The place is falling down around us. Itís because of the tax that I had to get this second job. Iíd like to get my hands on that crook. Maybe someday weíll meet in a dark alley. Iíd apply my own tax to his face...

Oh, yes, sir. Iím sorry, again. Thatís not the purpose of this call. Mr. Son of Abraham, we at Century One would like to meet your home improvement needs. Is there any way we can help?...

There is? Great! What do you have in mind? We can have a representative at your place before the sun goes down. We believe in speedy service...

Youíd like to add on a few rooms? Say, thatís a wonderful idea, Mr. Son of Abraham...

Whatís that? I can call you Zacchaeus. Thank you, sir. I need an address to send our representative to, sir. Iím sure youíll find him most helpful...

Whatís my address? Well, we live at 25 Falling Wall Rd., here in Jericho...

Thatís where Iím supposed to send the representative? Iím not sure I understand...

Now, wait a minute, buddy. Is this some kind of prank? You know it gets pretty tiring doing this job. Nine out of ten people hang up on me, some cursing the day I was born. All they need to say is "Iím not interested" and hang up, but NO they have to cuss me out. Itís not my fault. This is just a job that helps put food on my table. Then there are the pranksters who get back at me by trying to trick me, using up my time, giving false addresses. I donít get any commission out of any of these calls, only the ones who say "yes." Please, sir, donít use up any more of my time if you donít mean it...

You still want me to send a representative to my house? Zacchaeus, I canít afford anything like that. Iím scraping just to make ends meet...

What did you say? Please repeat that...

Iím supposed to send the bill to you?...

Let me get this straight. You want me to add a couple of rooms to my house, and youíre going to pay for it? Heh, heh, heh. Thatís funny...

Youíre serious? I donít know what to say. How do I know this isnít just another joke?...

Sure, I remember when that Jesus fellow passed through here. Who wouldnít? My brother, Bartimaeus (thatís who we named Bart after), was the first one who met him when he came to town. Bartimaeus was doing his usual begging on the outskirts of the city...

Why was he begging? Well, it goes a long way back. As kids we were playing ball. My brother was pretty good at it. He had visions of making a living out of the sport, big league stuff. Then a wild pitch hit him smack in the eyes. From that day on he was blind as a bat. It wasnít so bad when he was younger. My folks took care of him, but then they died. Nobody hires a blind man, you know. The wife and I told him heíd always have a place in our home, but he didnít like imposing. Said we had enough mouths to feed without his own. My sister has a shack near the dump. He stays with her, and spends his days begging. That is, he did until Jesus came by. Believe it or not, Jesus healed him. Just like that....  (see Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43, or Matthew 20:29-34)

Youíre right, that rabbi is all right in my book. Of course, my boss isnít too sure about him. Says Jesus expects too much. One day my boss sought him out - Jesus, that is. He wondered about that "eternal life" stuff. Me, I canít see much more than this day to day scratching, but my boss has got money coming out of his ears. I suppose he has time to think about the afterlife. Anyway, from what I heard, my boss went and asked Jesus about it, about how he could get it. Jesus asked him a few questions about the law, which my boss knows through and through. Then he said that my boss should sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. Can you imagine that?...   (see Mark 10:17-23, Luke 18:18-24, Matthew 19:16-23)

Oh, you can? Then you might imagine how my boss responded. Heís been moody ever since he walked away from Jesus that day....

Did he sell everything? Are you kidding? My boss? No way! He hoards his money like a camel guzzles up water. Only, heís not getting ready for a long trip in the wilderness. A camel, at least, uses that water when all else is dry. My boss keeps stockpiling it even on the bad days...

You understand where heís coming from, do you? Iím glad somebody does. Maybe Iíd be the same way if I ever made my million in the lottery...

My boss? Might he be listening to this conversation? Actually, no. Weíre just supposed to say that this call is monitored. Nobody actually does. Theyíd have to pay somebody to do that, and this operation is too cheap for such things...

Would I use this company if I were adding on to my own home? Well, to be honest, no. But donít quote me on that...

Which contractor would I use? Are you trying to get me in trouble or something?...

You just want the addition to my house to be a quality job? Are you still on that kick?...

Youíre serious? Say, who are you anyway?

Of course, Zacchaeus Son of Abraham. I know that. You told me. But who are you really? Forgive me, but I donít know you from Adam...

Sure, I remember when Jesus came through town...

Yeah, I recall that fellow up in the tree. He was the jerk who ripped me off, the guy who caused me to get this stupid job. If it wasnít for the crowd all around, Iíd have given him more than my money that day. Heís lucky, I tell you. Furthermore, Iím sure there were plenty of others in that crowd who would have wanted to do the same thing. The Romans always pick the slimiest characters to collect their taxes...

Do I remember what Jesus did? Sure, he noticed that little cheat and told him to come down out of the tree, that he was going to have lunch at his place. Didnít make much sense to me but, hey, itís a free country. Well, once you forget about the Romans, that is. Then thereís King Herod and his goons. And the Temple guys have their say, also. Maybe itís not so free a country, after all...

Do I recall the name of that fool in the tree? Let me see, what did Jesus call him. I think it was, um, Zach ... Zacchaeus! Please tell me I havenít been wasting my time talking to that weasel...

You are the tax collector! Let me tell you a thing or two...

I already have been?... Well, yeah, I guess I have been... You donít blame me for thinking this way?... You want to make it right?... Have you got a fever or something, man?... Do I remember what you said that day?... Well, was it something about returning what you stole, four times over? I just thought you were saying that because everybody was watching and listening. Nobody would be that foolish unless they had to be. You know, some judge ordering you to pay up...

Do I want what you owe me in cash, or would I prefer that addition on the house? Are you serious? To be honest, I think the money would come in handier right now. First priority is making sure all those little bellies are full...

You say youíll bring it over this evening? Arenít you afraid I might punch you out?... Not any more?... I donít understand. Why would you do this?...

Have I ever been lonely? Are you kidding? With a wife and seven kids, lonely is not exactly a word Iíd use to describe my life... Have I ever felt like everybody looked down on me? Well, at times, yes... Have I ever wondered what itís all for, why the daily struggle? Mr. Z., I havenít the time right now to do much wondering about such things....

What would I do if Jesus wanted to come to my house? He wouldnít want to come to my house. He was smart to go to your place. He surely got a better meal there than I could have provided...

Okay, I suppose it was a risky thing to do. The Pharisees were watching like hawks, and everybody else was a little miffed that he chose you of all people. I mean, it kind of makes you wonder about his judgment. If he makes friends like this, can you trust what he says?...

What? Do I think I can trust what you say? Do you want an honest answer to that? You say youíre bringing me cash tonight to make things right between us. I've got to say, Iíll believe it when I see it. Do you blame me? Your track record isnít exactly stellar, you know...

Well, okay. I guess Iíll see you when I see you. Goodbye. Shalom! (Peter hangs up, then ponders out loud:) What an odd thing to say! "Iím coming to your house in Jesusí place. Today is salvation day." ... huh!, I wonder if heíll show...

This message was originally delivered on November 1, 1998.
I so enjoyed sharing it, and others shared their joy in receiving it, that I decided to share it again.

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Luke.


©2004 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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