Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Gospel According to Zaccheaus - Grace for Shame - Part 3

This is the third of three blog posts in which the story of Zacchaeus is viewed through the Scriptural concept of shame, an approach that is probably rarely understood in the West. Take with permission from Grace for Shame - The Forgotten Gospel by John A. Forrester, available through

"For Zacchaeus the verdict of his community no longer intimidates him. He senses, in Jesus, a greater verdict that overrides local convention. Jesus welcomes him into a new community and in so doing welcomes Zacchaeus back to himself. Remarkably, his first words are, "Behold, Lord" - (possibly the Hebrew hineni) - look at me! His shame is lifted. No more need to hide. He can stand before the Lord openly, boldly, in confidence.

And now we see how, for Zacchaeus, and for many like him, healing for guilt follows healing for shame. Zacchaeus needed ontological restoration before there could be ethical restoration. Now that Zacchaeus finds himself honored and respected, he can begin to think about honoring and respecting others. He is now neither shameful nor shameless. He inhabits the place of the honorable. In a moment of time his value system is radically realigned. No danger now of Zacchaeus seeking worth in wealth. He has found worth in the eyes of God. He immediately gives away half of his considerable possessions. Then, where he has cheated, he returns 400% (far beyond the 120% required in Leviticus 6:5). Jesus has restored personhood to Zacchaeus and in consequence Zacchaeus is no longer able to objectify (depersonalize) others. Jesus has returned Zacchaeus to himself and to others.

Here, for the sake of Zacchaeus and anyone else who will listen, Jesus pronounces the verdict of the Kingdom of God on this event.

And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (v. 9, 10)

What they have just witnessed, is salvation. A man was lost, lost to himself as well as others. But now he has been restored - he has been saved. For this Jesus came.

Zacchaeus thought he was seeking Jesus, but Jesus was first seeking him. Jesus came into this world looking for hidden, shamed people. He could not do this from heaven. He had to be Emmanuel. He had to be "God with us". He had to humble himself and become the "Son of Man" in order not to frighten away the Zacchaeuses of this world. Zaccheaus, in lifting his face to Jesus, proves himself to be a true son of Abraham, that great man of faith.

Note also the group orientation, salvation "to this house". There is a corporate quality to the New Testament salvation that makes independent westerners nervous, but not Jews! Before this encounter with Jesus the whole household has suffered from Zacchaeus' dishonorable behavior and thus shared in his shame. Likewise now the whole household shares in the considerable cost of restitution. But they also share in the salvation of Zacchaeus. They share in the re-honoring of Zacchaeus as his salvation is applied to them all."

No comments:

Post a Comment