Psalm 119: 137-144
Let me share a story that might have happened about 2000 years ago in the house of a man named Simon. Let us journey through this story and enter that city called Jericho.
There is a knock at the door, and Simon’s son says, “Someone is at the door, father! He said his name is Zacchaeus.” Simon exclaimed, “Zacchaeus!” and his face was flushed with rage. He said, “What does that thief want?!?” Simon moved brusquely past his son, clenching his jaw, saying, “The nerve of that man after all that he has squeezed out of my income, he has the gall to come back to ask for more! He is an extortionist, a crook, a merciless vermin!” There was a flash of other words that came to his mind to describe the foul and despicable character of this social criminal.
Arriving at the door, while jerking it open, Simon exploded, “What do you want?!” He was almost unable to control the momentum of his stride. “It isn’t yet time to pay taxes to Caesar. Get out of my sight!!!” Zacchaeus said, “I am here to return something to you, Simon.” Simon wondered, “What do you mean?” Zacchaeus held out a bag containing silver coins, heavy enough for Simon to hold out two hands in order for it not to fall.
Simon was confused, yet suspicious. The man standing in front of him had literally robbed all of Jericho while collecting taxes in the name of the emperor. No one was more cunning and sly and treacherous with his words as this man. Simon could not move. He was thinking that Zacchaeus was trying to lure him into a trap. Simon asked cynically, “What is this all about, Zacc?” Zacchaeus answered, “Simon, I know this is strange and you have every reason to doubt to what I say after all those years of fraud and trickery that I have done to you and many others. But I am here because I realized I defrauded you. I have sinned against God and against you. I have charged you way beyond what you should really pay in taxes and I have kept the difference. I know that you and many others here in Jericho are aware of that. I know how you hated me for it. But I stand here before you today to ask for forgiveness, to show you how sorry I am, and to make restitution. That is what is in the money bag is all about.”
The small figure of this man called Zacchaeus, unexpectedly and uncharacteristic of how people have known him, suddenly bent down in a humble display of repentance. Tentatively, Simon took the bag and looked inside and said, “There is a lot here and it seems much more than what you charged me.” Zacchaeus replied, “Yes, it is four times what I have overcharged you.” Simon asked, “But why, Zacchaeus?”
Zacchaeus replied with remorse in his voice, “I am keeping a vow that I made to Jesus when He came and visited our town. I told him that I would give everyone I cheated up to four times as much as what I took from them. Jesus was here in Jericho! I saw Him! He gazed at me with eyes so filled with compassion and love in spite of all that I have done. He called me out by my own name and He even stayed in my house. We sat and had dinner together. Jesus had a dinner with me, a sinner, Simon, but He changed me! Something inside of me was transformed into what I have never experienced before. I am a new creature now, Simon. I was forgiven and hope was born in me."
The gospel of Jesus Christ always bears hope. We are burdened with life today. Life seems to be difficult, and yet the life many of us see and experience today is only a small portion of the much bigger picture of life which God has given for us to live. It is a God-kind of life. This is why St. Paul can say in Romans 8:18 (NIV), “18 I consider that our present sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” If only we can pause and pay attention to this.
This Sunday, our theme is to “Walk in Complete Conversion.” What does this mean? What does it entail? Complete conversion is composed of 3 aspects: Firstly: God always initiates and fulfills His work. God is always the first cause. He always takes the first step and first move. We can only do what He has already provided for. God has taken the first action for our salvation.
In Luke 19:1 (GNT), the first words of the gospel says, “Jesus went on into Jericho.” It was the action of Jesus first that started the gospel. God always acts first. Our gospel begins with Jesus’ action. He purposed to go to Jericho. He had a mission to fulfill and He plans to complete that mission.
In 1 Peter 1:19-21 (CEV) it says, “19 You were rescued by the precious blood of Christ, that spotless and innocent lamb. 20 Christ was chosen even before the world was created, but because of you, he did not come until these last days. 21 And when he did come, it was to lead you to have faith in God, who raised him from death and honored him in a glorious way. That’s why you have put your faith and hope in God." We have faith because it was God’s action first. We cannot boast about what we have done because what we did is just a response to what God had done