Sunday of Zacchaeus

Push past the press!


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

Brothers and sisters, today is Zacchaeus Sunday; it one of the five
Sundays that precedes Great Lent and helps us prepare for the Great

Zacchaeus was a publican and very rich.  This meant that he was very
corrupt because the way publicans became rich was by extorting more
money than the Romans actually taxed.  They were Jews, but they extorted
their own people for their own personal gain.  

Zacchaeus had heard about Christ; everybody had heard about Christ.  He
was the ?happening¦ thing at that time and He was an event wherever He
went.  People came out of curiosity, as well because they believed or
wanted to be healed.  

As Christ is coming into town, passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus hears
about His arrival.  And something in Zacchaeus' soul, although he
probably didn-t even understand it at that time, desired to see Christ. 
Perhaps he had some hope he could change and amend his life, even though
he had been so far away from God for so long because he had been so
corrupt; hurt so many; lied, stolen.  Probably he contributed to
people-s death by extorting money from poor widows and such.  But he
wanted to see Christ, but he was small, short, and the crowd was large
and he wouldn-t be able to see Christ.  So, being a clever man, he ran
ahead and climbed into a tree so he could see Christ.  

Now what do we understand from this?  The Scripture is a historical
record, but it is also a mystical teaching.  This historical event
teaches spiritual truths, and teaches us how to live.  Now, I have also
told you that you should read the Scriptures to see how they apply to
you, both the good and the bad.  When you see a sinner in the
Scriptures, beg the Lord to forgive you of your sins.  When you see
someone righteous, confessing in the Scriptures, beg the Lord that you
would have the strength to do the same.  When you see Zacchaeus, beg the
Lord that you would be freed of any avarice, any grabbing on to money,
any greed, any dishonesty, any lack of compassion - all these things
that Zacchaeus had in abundance, like shall we say, a legion of sins.  

Also, when you see Zacchaeus, notice how he climbed up into a tree. 
Even though he was hindered from seeing Christ, he didn-t give up.  The
press is the crowd of people who were keeping him from seeing because he
was short.  I ask you look at the spiritual meaning of what the press is
-- it is our sins, our passions, our worldly concerns, our false
priorities.  And also the press is our shame.  It is important to
understand this.  Many of us understand about our sins and desire not to
sin anymore, but this press of shame often keeps us from seeing God
because what God wants you to do when you sin is to run to Him, and the
?press¦ is a formidable obstacle between us and the arms of our Father. 

Our Lord uses the image of a child to teach us what our disposition
should be after we sin.  A child who has been in a normal family with
parents that love him when he sins and his parents scold him or spank
him, what does he do?  He cries big tears and then he hugs his parent
and says, ?I-m sorry¦ immediately.  This is how we should be when we sin
so we can see Christ again because sin makes our eyes grow dim.  We are
not able to see Christ when we sin.  

We should be like Zacchaeus; when we sin we should push pass the press. 
And the press indeed is often our own shame; our own incredulity about
our sins.  Why are you surprised when you sin?  I have said this to some
of you in confession, probably almost everybody.  Why be surprised when
you sin?  Why be offended when you sin?  Your sinning shouldn-t offend
you.  Your sinning offends God.  When you sin, push past that pride that
the devil puts in your way and struggle to repent of that sin so that
you will restore full communion with God in your soul.  

Brothers and sisters, the press is just not entanglements in the world. 
We create our own press.  The press could be depression; this press
could be despondency; this press could be our shame.  Or it could be
other sins: laziness, wrong priorities, anything that keeps us from
Christ -all these things are the press.  

You must find a way around the press.  If you do not have the strength
to push past it, then find a way to be over it like Zacchaeus was.  And
how did he find his way to be able to see Christ?  By rising up, by
going into the tree.  Always, the only way that we can accomplish
anything is by having our eyes on Christ, by thinking of things above
and not earthly.  So if there is something that you cannot conquer,
something that grieves you, something that saddens you, then you must
climb the tree, you must make the effort to pray and as part of your
praying to be struggling to follow the Commandments.  

Now Zacchaeus didn-t know these things.  All he wanted to do was see
Christ.  Now Christ saw that there was a good heart buried under all
that corruption in Zacchaeus.  So when He passed by him, He said,
?Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thine

Now this occurs with us, too, brothers and sisters.  When our Lord sees
that we have pushed past the press, even if it is only a small amount,
even if we are still in the middle of the crowd, but struggling to get
out, even if we haven-t made it to the tree, much less been able to
climb it with exalted thoughts and prayer, the Lord sees this and says,
?Make haste, make haste.  I will abide with you.¦  Make haste means:
?consider My living inside you, My Grace that I give you to be the most
critical and important thing in your entire life.  Run to it!  Order
your life according to it!¦  Make haste today.  Today salvation comes to
our house, and every day because the Kingdom of God is within us.  

God is very close, very near brothers and sisters.  And He is constantly
telling us, ?Make haste!  Come down!  Be with Me.  Learn of Me.  I am
meek and lowly.  My yoke is easy.  Learn of Me.  I am sweet; a sweetness
that you cannot experience in anything else.  I am joy, a joy which you
cannot obtain from anything earthly.  I am incorruptible and I will make
you who are corrupted perfect.¦  The Lord says this often, brothers and

Do you hear Him say, ?Make haste¦?  Do you hear Him say, ?Today I will
abide in your house¦, that is, your soul?  Do you hear this?  A
Christian should hear this.  Everyday you should be trying to prepare
your house; make it a little bit cleaner.  A little bit more
straightened up, so that the Lord would abide in it as an honored guest.

Now Zacchaeus had not repented of any of his sins before the Lord said,
?Come down.¦, but the Lord knew he would.  The Lord accepts us because
of our potential brothers and sisters.   We can become perfected; He
knows how to accomplish it.  The only thing He asks of us is that we
make haste; the only thing He asks of us is that we make an effort. 
That we struggle, that we try, that when obstacles are in our lives, we
find ways around them by His grace and with His help and with our

They go and have dinner at Zacchaeus- house.  Zacchaeus is full of joy
because here was a Rabbi, a great teacher, who accepted him.  No one
else accepted him because he had defrauded so many people.  And he felt
joy.  There must have been such a feeling in his heart at the time of
joy and expectation and that maybe he could change now.  Maybe he could
put off this burden that had been dragging his conscience down for so
many years.  

But there are people in the crowd, at the dinner, that are saying that
he is a sinner and they are murmuring about it.  The Lord hears this and
so does Zacchaeus.  So he pledges to the Lord, ?Behold, the half of my
goods I give to poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false
accusation, I restore him four-fold.¦  If you work out the math,
basically Zacchaeus has just impoverished himself.  A person who has
been accustomed to silk pillows and the finest of foods and an abundance
of wine and probably to wealthy courtesans to give him his every whim
and wish, suddenly is going to make himself poor for the sake of Christ.
 This is repentance, brothers and sisters, this is contrition.  

The Lord requires this of us; requires that we give up what we were so
that we can become what we should be.  Jesus waits for Zacchaeus to say
this (of course He knew he was going to say it), and when He hears it
says, ?This day is salvation come to this house.¦  Now what is
salvation, brothers and sisters?  In the West, salvation is thought of
in such a miniscule fashion.  There is such poverty in the minds of
people when they consider what salvation is!  Most people think that
salvation is that when you die, you go to heaven.  Salvation is, ?Well,
you have sins and Jesus Christ pays the penalty of your sins and you go
to heaven.¦  

May it never be that we have such a small view! Salvation is
restoration, brothers and sisters.  Salvation is completion.  Salvation
is being made perfect.  Salvation is being able to cast off everything
that hurts, everything that is heavy, and to be able to see Christ as He
is, to be able to know the true nature of things.  Salvation is when a
soul changes.  And Zacchaeus was changing.  

Brothers and sisters, do you hear the Lord telling you to make haste? 
Do you hear the Lord saying salvation has come to your house?  Do you
hear the Lord telling you about His sweetness?  About his perfection?
About His love for you?  Do you hear these things?  Perhaps you don-t
hear these things.  You should hear them everyday.  If you don-t hear,
this is because you have sins that are holding you down.  

Push past the press, brothers and sisters.  The whole world is going to
go away.  It is going to be recreated.  Everything will be made new. 
Will you be new?  If you have not become new, if you have not changed,
then you will be like that old piece of cloth-it can-t be put on a new
wineskin.  Brothers and sisters, be like Zacchaeus.  Press past the
crowd; find a way to see Christ.  And when Christ speaks to you, make
haste and come down and do everything in your power so that He may abide
in your house and never leave.  May God help you in all things.  Amen.

 This homily was preached at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church,
Dallas, Texas, on Zacchaeus Sunday, 2002

 Cf. Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30

 [Mat 9:17]  Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the
bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but
they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.