Reflections for the Week of Sunday October 30, 2016 Twenty-fourth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 19.1-10. Is the story of Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector (and therefore an infamous sinner) who climbed a tree to see Jesus, and Jesus saw him and declared His intention to stay at his house.This acceptance must amount to salvation. Zacchaeus was so grateful at being accepted that he promised restitution to anyone he had defrauded, and to be generous to the poor. Jesus declared him saved as a son of Abraham and that He had come to seek and save the lost. Many bystanders criticized the Lord for this forgiveness and mercy. This parable may be understood as an example of election and the gospel. Election, theologically, means being chosen by God. Zacchaeus is drawn to Jesus by a desire to see Him. Why? What was the nature of the desire and where did it come from? It seems to me that it is an example of the Scripture that says, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (Jn 6.65). This is what theologians call ‘prevenient grace’ referring to the grace that leads a person to salvation. This seems to be a clear example of a person being drawn by a desire (or Power–and they may be the same thing) to see Jesus, to turn to Him, and Jesus saves him. This, in turn is an example of divine election: Jesus sees him in the tree and chooses him to be saved, which means that his sins are forgiven (Eph 1.7), he is given the gift of faith (Eph 2.8), he receives the Holy Spirit to dwell in him (Jn 3.1-15; Rm 8.1-11), and is adopted as a child of God (Rm 8.14-17). Election is seen in many forms throughout Scripture: Noah was chosen, as was Abraham, as was David, as were the prophets. Everyone who has been saved has been chosen from before the foundation of the world (Rm 8.29; Eph 1.4). Can we know that we have been chosen and saved? Yes, by knowing in our hearts that we believe in Christ and trust in Him (Rm 8.30-39; 10.9-11). Zacchaeus was drawn by a gracious desire to see Jesus, and Jesus pronounced him to be saved, and he began to manifest the fruits of salvation in restitution of those he had defrauded and in generosity to the poor. We mortals may ask why did God save a notorious sinner like Zacchaeus who betrayed his countrymen? The best answer is found in Rm 9.10-20 which tells of the election at the birth of Jacob rather than Esau, his twin brother. Paul says of God in this (and every) instance, “He (God) has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (Rm 9.18). This is a reference to God’s sovereignty which is spoken of as the “purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1.11). We don’t know (and can’t know) why God chose Zacchaeus (or anyone else), but we must rejoice in the wisdom and glory of God’s sovereign election. It is an example of grace and mercy that comprise the gospel, and we praise God for His glorious attributes. If you have doubt about your salvation, Peter says, “Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure….” (2 Pet 1.10). How do we do that? By availing ourselves of the means of grace which include prayer, attending church for worship, reading Scripture, being in fellowship with Christian believers, and seeking first the kingdom of God (Mt 6.33). But if you are drawn to such things, they are a pretty good sign that you, like Zacchaeus, have been chosen for salvation, because “the lost” want to have nothing to do with the Lord. To make your election sure (with Peter) begin to act like you are chosen by God by manifesting the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23) and the Beatitudes (Mt 5.1-12) with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Memory Verse: O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rm 7.24, 25a).

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