20131113-Ford-Protest2Ain’t that the truth right?  Appearances can be deceiving.  It’s one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book – giving the consumer the appearance of a deal, when in reality it’s anything but.  On you’re next trip for those elusive gifts, look at your overall bill after you check out from that “big sale” and ask:  Can I afford to “save” this much? 🙂

 

Some food for thought this “Holiday”, I mean, “shopping” season.

 

This week, our gospel reading is Luke 19:1-10 (click here to read it)

 

I was thinking about this pearl of folk wisdom when I heard Rob Ford’s name for the thousandth time today.  When you think about it, the beleaguered Mayor and the Chief Tax Collector appear to have little in common, but upon closer inspection…well…appearances can be deceiving…

 

Zacchaeus is tax collector in chief, whilst the Mayor prides himself on saving Torontonians from their taxes (unlike the downtown liberal elite and their scurvy spending on the environment and social programs).  The Mayor is facing public outrage over how he conducts his private life, which allegedly doesn’t pass the smell test of wider social scruples but also could be illegal.  Our fair Zacchaeus?  Oh he’d rob you blind, but the way taxes were collected in Jesus time was completely legal, albeit a moral and spiritual betrayal. Just because something’s legal doesn’t always mean its morally, ethically, or theologically sound – according to scripture, that all depends on the society, “the crowd”, and the way they live with one another and with God.  Think…I dunno…slavery for example?!

But this much these two larger than life characters hold in common: public outrage for their behavior.  And at least this much we can say of them both: appearances can be deceiving.

 

On Zack’s part, think of it this way:  what’s he even doing in this scene?  Yes, yes, we’ve all heard Luke tell us about how Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and everyone else who wears on their sleeve the fact that we often mess up or do things that don’t exactly honor the image of the divine we all share.  But Zack is different isn’t he?  He’s the tax collector in chief.  In Jericho – the big city!  He’s the alpha of the pack, the big kahuna, “the man”.  He’s so successful at breaking other people’s banks that he’s got tax collectors who work for him.

 

Zack isn’t there just because Jesus is the hottest story of the day.  After all, this is the same guy who told the rich young man to sell everything he owned and follow him.  Why would Zack ever think of doing such a thing? Besides, he could never follow this guy who’s healing and redeeming everyone around him and turning social systems of fear and oppression on their head.  Zack’s life is dedicated to upholding those systems – indeed, it made him rich and put him at the front of the line in a dog eat dog world.

 

Why does Zack give one whit about Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Maybe because he’s the only one who sees Jesus for who he really is – not a popular folk magician or miracle worker or next in line prophet come lately…or at least, he really does want to see who Jesus is.

 

That’s a dangerous thing.  When people want that in their lives, everything changes.  Fishermen give up fish and fish for people instead (Luke 5:1-11).  Blind Beggars like Bartimaeus leap up, throw off their cloak, and spring into new life (Mark 10:46).  Women, cast out and cast off from friends and family are healed and restored anew (Matthew 9:20).  Soldiers, lay down arms and their loyalty to the crown and take up the cross of pea