A reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 19.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Please turn to page 322 in the Lutheran Service Book as we recite together the 9th and 10th Commandments.
The 9th Commandment. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. … What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or to get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
The 10th Commandment. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor's wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
God’s grace, peace and mercy be with you. … It finally happened. One person broke all Ten Commandments simultaneously. “How could this happen?” you ask.
Last Friday, Oklahoma State Police arrested Michael Reed Jr., a 29-year-old Oklahoma man who suffers from bipolar disorder, after he threatened to kill President Obama and spat on a picture of the president in the Oklahoma City Federal Building. He later told agents that Satan instructed him destroy the Ten Commandments monument in front of the Oklahoma Capitol. He drove his car into the granite monument, breaking The Ten Commandments into several pieces. Michael’s mother said her son is a devout Christian who wanted to be a pastor but has been wrestling with mental illness for the last two years.
Meanwhile, the rest of us wrestle with how not to break one commandment at a time. Today, the commandment deals with covetousness.
One dictionary defines covet as wishing for longingly or feeling an immoderate desire for that which is another's. Its root is the same Latin word as St. Valentine’s Day characters, cupids, from cupere, meaning to desire.
We may not have had covetousness in our hearts when we sent Valentine’s Day cards to 3rd grade sweethearts and buddies. However, the commandments forbidding coveting apply to those who could alienate anything from neighbor, even if we could do so with honor in the eyes of the world. This way, no one could accuse or blame us though we obtained it wrongfully. So says Martin Luther in his Large Catechism.
Whereas common folk who steal outright break the 7th Commandment, the 9th and 10th are for pious folk, who wish to be praised and called honest, upright people.
So it would seem in Luke’s Gospel. Those who saw Jesus go into Zacchaeus’ house to dine with him grumbled. True, Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a rich man. He became rich through corruption. Nevertheless, as mercy and table fellowship are dual themes of Luke, it appears Zacchaeus received God’s mercy when he responded to Jesus’ invitation to dine with Him. Doing so, salvation came to Zaccaeus’ house, proving once again that the Son of man came to seek and save the lost.
The Son of Man came to seek and save not only people like Zacchaeus, but also people like the Pharisees. Covetousness, however, filled the hardened hearts of the Pharisees for what Zacchaeus now possessed was the gift – the gift of faith.
How did Zacchaeus go from being a dirty, rotten scoundrel to a true son of Abraham? He accepted Jesus’ offer of table fellowship, repented for the injustices he committed, gave to the poor and welcomed Christ into his home and into his heart.
Like the blind man in the story that immediately precedes this one, Zacchaeus overcame the difficulties presented by the crowd that surrounded Jesus. Jesus reached out to him in spite of the crowd’s objections. So will it be among those who enter into the kingdom and are saved on the day of the Son of Man. God reaches out to save us. All we have to do is receive his grace.
Having received God’s grace through Word and Sacrament, may we not become like those who objected to Jesus dining with Zacchaeus. May my heart not be filled with covetousness because one is richer than I. Whatever people have that I desire, I must ask for the grace to be kept from sin, from breaking the 9th and 10th Commandments.
But because the devil never stops tempting us, take a few moments tonight before going to bed and reflect on how easily we break the last two commandments, if not outright, at least within our hearts. Then, ask our merciful God for forgiveness and the grace to right our wrongs and be a true son of Abraham. When you do, may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Please stand as we recite together the Nicene Creed found on the inside back cover of the hymnal.