Sermon for Zacchaeus Sunday
delivered at the GOC Cathedral, Portland, Oregon, by Fr. Photios 29January2017
My brothers and sisters~
God be with you!
In today's Gospel reading, we hear the story of Zacchaeus, who was and is a model for us all.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to guest with a man that is a sinner.
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, for somuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
My friends, it may seem strange that Christ enters into this house, and this man who suddenly gives nearly all his riches and belongings to the poor and those whom he has stolen from, had any sin to repent of. would any of us do such a thing? Do we considerer ourselves virtuous enough to give so fully as Zacchaeus?
Nikolai Velomirivich, a new Chrysostom, explains that “Repentance is the abandoning of all false paths that have been trodden by mans feet, and mens thoughts and desires, and a return to the new path: Christ's path. But how can a sinful man repent unless he, in his heart, meets with the Lord and knows his own shame? Before little Zacchaeus saw the Lord with his eyes. he met Him in his heart and was ashamed of all his ways."
“Notice the way in which Zacchaeus confessed his sin. He did not say: ‘Lord. I am a sinful man!', or 'Avarice is my sickness!' No; but, showing the fruits of repentance, he thus confessed his sin and his sickness: 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.' Is not this a clear confession that riches are his passion? 'And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” is not this a clear confession that his riches were acquired in a sinful manner? He did not, before this, say to the Lord: 'I am a sinner, and I repent.' He confessed this silently to the Lord in his heart, and the Lord silently received his confession and repentance. It is of more importance to the Lord that a man acknowledge and confess his sickness and cry for help in his heart than with this tongue, for the tongue is capable of deception, but the heart is not."
And as Christ was entering in -- to both Zacchaeus’ heart and home -- we see an example, as St. John Chrysostom so eloquently put it, how we should adorn our hearts in repentance: “And that thou mayest learn that this is, above all, a house's adorning, enter into the house of Zacchaeus, and learn, when Christ was on the point of entering therein, how Zacchaeus adorned it. For he did not run to his neighbors begging curtains, and seats, and chairs made of ivory, neither did he bring forth from his closets Laconian hangings; but he adorned it with an adorning suitable to Christ. What was this? 'The half of my goods I will give,' he saith, 'to the poor; and whomsoever I have robbed, I will restore fourfold' (Luke xix. 8). On this wise let us too adorn our houses, that Christ may enter in unto us also. These are the fair curtains, these are wrought in Heaven, they are woven there. Where these are, there is also the King of Heaven. But if thou adorn it in another way, thou art inviting the devil and his company.”
So what, my friends, is the Throne awaiting Christ in our hearts, that He may sit upon? That throne is humility, and it is adorned with charity and self sacrifice. If only we keep the doors of our inward home open to Him, He will come in and dwell, and we will find ourselves constantly in the Kingdom of God.
Again. the blessed Nikolai of Serbia explains to us:
"'Today, salvation has come to this house.' (Luke 19:9). Thus it was spoken by the One Whose word is life and joy and restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself into greenery and flowers from the breath of spring, so does every man, regardless of how arid and darkened by sin, becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is as the nearness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam which restores health, increases life, give fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death and His nearness means salvation and life.
"'Today salvation has come to this house,' said the Lord upon entering the house of Zacchaeus the sinner. Christ was the salvation that came and Zacchaeus was the house into which He entered. Brethren, each one of us is a house in which sin dwells as long as Christ is distant and to which salvation comes when Christ approaches it. Nevertheless, will Christ approach my house and your house? That depends on us. Behold, He did not arbitrarily enter the house of the sinner Zacchaeus, rather He entered as a most desired guest. Zacchaeus of little stature climbed into a tree in order to see the Lord Jesus with his own eyes. Zacchaeus, therefore, sought him; Zacchaeus desired Him. We must also seek Him in order to find Him and desire Him in order that He would draw nearer to us and, with our spirit, to climb high in order to encounter His glance. Then He will visit our house as He visited the house of Zacchaeus and with Him salvation will come."
My friends, God knows our hearts. and desires to dwell in them. If only we live a life of continual repentance and seeking out Christ's will when He calls us and invites us, He will grant all the blessings we could ask for, and in turn make us members in His household.
When we move and live and breath with God inside our hearts, with Him ruling as the King therein, we have only blessedness to look forward to.
May all blessedness and love be yours. And with that blessedness, let us seek out those who are lost just as we were, and bring them home to Christ’s Kingdom. "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."