2Mc 6:18-31; Ps 3:2-7; Lk 19:1-10
Many are the prophets of gloom and doom. Many are the quick to judge another. Many rise up against the Lord’s anointed. Many say, “there is no salvation for him in God.” These adversaries are many and great, but the Lord is faithful. The Lord is a shield; he lifts us up; he is our glory. When we call out in distress the LORD answers from his holy mountain. When we lie down to rest, we do not fear sleep nor do we fear not waking because the LORD sustains us. Even a multitude of enemies on every side is no match for the LORD God Almighty. Our ancestor in the faith, Eleazar was being forced to eat meat contrary to the law of God. All around him his adversaries hemmed him in and tried to persuade him, but he preferred a glorious death to a life of defilement. On the way through Jericho the Lord Jesus encountered another man who wanted to see. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector climbed a tree to see the Lord Jesus, and this act of humiliation attracted his adversaries. His enemies tried to persuade the Lord Jesus from bothering with someone they had rejected as unworthy of love and attention. The LORD sustained both men, Eleazar and Zacchaeus. We, too, are called to trust in the one who can sustain us in all our trials.
Right now in our lives we do not have to deal with the choice presented to Eleazar. Right now, few of us are surrounded by our enemies. However, there are many around who are secret adversaries who are waiting to witness our failure, our weakness. They are focused and careful to observe our every move. Eleazar was a well known and well respected among all the people, old and young alike. Even his public adversaries knew and respected him. They tried to talk him into pretending to eat the forbidden meat. Eleazar preferred to face torture and death than scandalize any of his countrymen. It’s hard for us to imagine dying for the right to keep dietary laws, but these domestic practices distinguished the Jews from all others. It wasn’t so much about what to eat or not eat as it was about being faithful to the covenant. Perhaps, this comparison will help illustrate. What if you were being forced to stomp upon the Blessed Sacrament? What if your adversaries said just provide unconsecrated hosts to make it look like you’re obeying the authority? When Eleazar was about to die under the blows, he cried out: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” Our ancestor in the faith died as a model of courage and virtue not only for the young but also for every generation hence and henceforth. Do we dare suffer with joy? Is our soul so devoted?
For the adversaries of Zacchaeus he was not a descendant of Abraham because he had allied himself with the oppressive tax taking Romans. How could this wealthy man be treated any other way than by rejection? However, the Lord Jesus could see into his heart. His adversaries, his own countrymen could not see beyond their own wallets. The Lord knew that Zacchaeus wanted to see him and to come to know him and to come to serve him. All this the Lord Jesus could see in his willingness to climb a tree and place himself in danger of being ridiculed and condemned. The real virtue Zacchaeus exhibits in this public challenge is not justice for those he may have wronged or even generosity with those who were poor. His greatest virtue was to forgive and forget the judgmental elitism of his fellow Jews. Zacchaeus stood strong and tall before those who would only take time to condemn or ignore him. However, it is the Lord Jesus who receives the full force of the judgment of the crowd, and it is this for which He came to live among us. The Lord Jesus always sees into the human heart, and he stands strong with the humble and repentant. Today, the Son of Man comes to stay with us because he came to seek and save what was lost.