페이지 정보작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:45 조회872회 댓글0건
<Luke 19: 1-10>
Albert Einstein is the most renowned and gifted physicist in the history of mankind. His “Theory of Relativity” won him the Nobel Peace Prize and changed the way we think about the universe and the world around us. Almost everyone around the world knows about Albert Einstein he is that famous. But would you believe the fact that he was a lonely person? Einstein once said, “It is strange to be known so universally, and yet to be so lonely.”
Like Einstein, we are all lonely. Like the phrase “solitude among the masses” denotes, we feel loneliness in the midst of all the people around us. A newspaper conducted a survey among its readers. The survey polled the readers, “What is the greatest challenge you face?” The three most repeated responses were fear, worry, and loneliness.
If we surmise that fear and worry are caused by loneliness, then loneliness is the greatest problem that afflict the people of today. A medical research report revealed that over 80% of the people who visit a psychiatrist for mental problems do so out of loneliness.
The Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘loneliness’ as such: “Being without company; cut off from others; not frequented by human beings; sad from being alone; producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation.”
I am sure that all of us, during some point in our lives, felt such feelings. And there are those who are suffering this minute because of such feelings. As the fifth topic of Lent, I would like to talk about loneliness. Who do you think was the loneliest person in the Bible? When I asked myself the same question, the name Zacchaeus came to mind. As the chief tax collector of Jericho, perhaps none was as lonely as Zacchaeus. Today, we will look at the reason behind Zacchaeus’ loneliness, and how he overcame such loneliness.
Why was Zacchaeus so lonely? And how was he able to overcome his loneliness? First, Zacchaeus was lonely because he led a life devoid of God. According to the second verse of today’s scripture, Zacchaeus was a wealthy chief tax collector of Jericho. Jericho was a bustling border city located near Jordan River. It was a transportation hub located about 17 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and its rich soil produced abundance of agricultural crops and luxurious spices. Tax collecting was particularly important in Jericho, for it was a busy trade center. Numerous tax agencies that collected tariffs, commodities tax, poll tax, and other form of taxes existed within the city limits of Jericho. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector of this booming trade hub city called Jericho. He was the highest-ranking person of the tax agency.
During the time of Christ, tax collectors were often viewed and treated as traitors by the people of Israel. Tax collectors, as instruments of the Roman Empire, enjoyed and wielded a special authority bestowed by the Roman government to levy and collect taxes as they wished. Tax collectors turned over some portion of collected taxes to the Roman government, but through clever and beguiling methods and bookkeeping, kept most of the proceeds as their personal wealth. As a result, people referred to tax collectors as ‘licensed thieves’ and considered them to be public enemy number one. Zacchaeus was not a mere tax collector; rather, he was the chief tax collector, making him the most despised and perhaps the greatest extortionist of his day. Therefore, the Bible not only refers to him as the chief tax collector, but as a wealthy man to boot. He came exceedingly wealthy by extorting the livelihood and the blood of his fellow people.
Zacchaeus was indeed wealthy; yet, he had emptiness in his heart. He was lonely. He had no friends. He had to endure the hatred and finger pointing of all the people around him, with the exception of his immediate family members. He lived in a mansion, eating only the richest food; yet, he had no peace and tranquility in his heart. He could not sleep at nights, and the most delicious foods tasted bland. He was not happy, despite living in a luxurious mansion decorated with the most expensive furniture. Why was that so?
It is because Zacchaeus lived without God. Man cannot live without God since God created man. As such, St. Augustine (354-430) left an enduring quote. “God created man for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Him.” Apart from God, man cannot find true contentment and happiness anywhere.
Craig Ellison, a noted Christian psychologist, once stated that there are three types of loneliness: emotional loneliness, societal loneliness, and existential loneliness. Emotional loneliness results from our feelings and mood, whereas societal loneliness comes from the loss of close relationship with one’s neighbors. Existential loneliness refers to the basic, innate loneliness that every person is born with. Inception of existential loneliness took place when God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden by God. A tide of loneliness often overwhelms us without reason, despite the fact that our loved ones surround us and all things are going well in our lives. Such basic, viviparous loneliness result when our relationship with God has gone off track. The important fact is that existential loneliness is the cause of all loneliness the emotional and societal loneliness.
Is the President of the US happy because he is the President? Are millionaires not lonely? Do celebrities feel true happiness because of their popularity? Not at all. Conversely, increase in one’s authority, wealth, and popularity often result in increased loneliness. Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was the most popular singer in the world and the king of Rock and Roll. He sold some 600 million records. But he was constantly lonely. Billions of people cheered when he sang, but he was one of the loneliest people in the world. Suffering from endless insomnia, Presley swallowed some 5,300 pills in 1977 and died at the age of 42. What happened to Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana? No matter how happy and content one may seem, one is destined to be lonely before he finds his creator, God.
Zacchaeus was lonely because he ultimately lived without God. His soul became more and more lonely as he lived farther and farther away from God, engrossed in his sole pursuit of money and material wealth. His attitude was, “My soul, what have you to do with me?” His only interest was hedonism eating, drinking, and becoming wealthy. Naturally, not only did he deviate from God but from those around him as well. Remember the fact that away from God, your lives will always be full of loneliness. Life without God as the ultimate objective is destined for loneliness, regardless of the amount of worldly success.
Second, Zacchaeus was able to escape from loneliness when he received Jesus into his life. Living in the midst of hateful and stinging glares from his neighbors, Zacchaeus heard rumors about Jesus Christ. He heard that Jesus was a friend of sinners and that He performed many miracles. It is only natural that Zacchaeus, the object of hatred, scorn, and ostracism, took interest in Jesus. Upon hearing that Jesus is coming to his neighborhood, he wanted to meet this Man, to see what He was like. So he went out into the street to meet Him.
Then a problem arose. Throngs of people already lined the street, and Zacchaeus, who was short, could not see into the street. Most people would have given up at this point and went home. But Zacchaeus, who was so lonely, had to meet Jesus. So without reservations, he climbed a mulberry tree to see Jesus. The fact that Zacchaeus, who was widely considered a sinner, climbed a tree to see Jesus shows just how desperate and lonely he was. He ignored stares of people and shamelessly climbed a tree to see Jesus.
As He was walking down the street, Jesus saw Zacchaeus on top of a mulberry tree. According to the fifth verse, Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus already knew just how lonely Zacchaeus felt and how desperately he wanted to meet Him. Zacchaeus was overjoyed upon hearing those words from Jesus. Verse 6 states, “So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.” For most of his adult life, everyone ignored Zacchaeus, and either avoided him or contemptuously confronted him. Yet, Jesus was different. Just like the rumors he heard, Jesus was warm, fair, and gentle. Zacchaeus had the confidence in his heart that Jesus was indeed the one who can wash away the loneliness from his heart. So with haste, he came down from the tree and joyfully received Jesus.
Do you feel inexplicable loneliness and emptiness in your hearts? From deep within, receive Jesus. Jesus will help you cast away your loneliness.
Third, Zacchaeus made the decision to live without loneliness. Zacchaeus, who lived away from God, was naturally lonely. Living inconsequential of God, he led an aimless life. As his neighbors hated him more and more, as they pointed fingers at him more frequently, Zacchaeus only concentrated on increasing his wealth. Thinking that his only reprieve and vengeance against the people who hated him was earning more money, his sole purpose in life had been increasing his wealth. But Jesus called to Zacchaeus. Not only did He call on him, Jesus told him that He would be staying at his house. There was no boundary to the joy that Zacchaeus felt. But there was one problem.
Take a look at verse 7. “But when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “he has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”” They were gossiping. They were criticizing and complaining about the fact that Jesus was going to the house of a man who all considered a sinner. In truth, Zacchaeus, up to that point, lived isolated from not only God. He built a wall between himself and those around him. Existential loneliness, coupled with emotional and societal loneliness, made Zacchaeus a total social outcast. It was natural for people to criticize Jesus for visiting the house of Zacchaeus.
But in verse 8, Zacchaeus responds to the people’s berating. “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” This shows the determination of Zacchaeus to escape from his loneliness. He said he would give half of his wealth to the poor. Furthermore, he said that he would repay four times the money he unjustly extorted from other people. According to the law outlined in Leviticus 6: 4-5, one was bound to repay, with 20% surcharge, the money he stole from others. But Zacchaeus went above and beyond what the laws of the day stipulated. According to Exodus 22: 1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.” This shows that Zacchaeus had the will to consider all unjust tax collections as a form of theft.
When Zacchaeus received Christ and remedied his spiritual, or existential loneliness, he learned of the method to solve his societal loneliness that resulted from his relationship with those around him. He made the decision to change his life and fix his relationship with his neighbors. How did Jesus respond to Zacchaeus’ determination? In verse 9, He states, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.” Jesus declared that Zacchaeus was no longer a sinner, but a child of God.
Our loneliness comes from our broken relationship with God. We also become lonely when our relationship with our neighbors is broken. After receiving Christ, Zacchaeus realized why his community sequestered him and decides to lead a new life. He vows to become a new man, a good, benevolent person who benefits others rather than harming them. As the phrase “good is good” denotes, develop good relations with others when possible. No one is lonely as long as he maintains love with his neighbors.
The name “Zacchaeus” means “pure” or “innocent.” His parents named him such out of hopes that he will be pure and innocent. But Zacchaeus did not live according to his name. Rather, he led a life as a tax collector, opposite of what his name meant. He lived inconsequential of God, and led a lonely life, isolated from his neighbors. The lonely Zacchaeus met Jesus and became a new man. He no longer led a gloomy, aimless life; rather, he transformed into a generous benefactor who gave to God and his neighbors.
My loving fellow Christians, are your lives lonely? Probably none of you are lonely as Jesus was. Jesus was so lonely that in Matthew 8: 20, he claimed, “Foxes have their holds and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The Pharisees and the scribes constantly conspired to kill Jesus. The twelve disciples He trusted failed to understand His intent and disappointed Him. Judas Iscariot, one of His trusted disciples, betrayed Him for money. In a human sense, Jesus was probably the loneliest Man in the history of mankind. But through spiritual relationship with His Father, our God, He overcame His loneliness. He was victorious in turning countless sorrow and loneliness into grace and joy. Jesus came to this earth to rescue lonely souls like Zacchaeus.
Are you lonely today? Do inexplicable emptiness and sadness bother you? Life your eyes and see Jesus at the Cross. There, you will find the loneliest and the happiest person in the world. Lay your loneliness in front of Jesus and His Cross. And experience the amazing love of our Lord. Your loneliness will turn into bliss.
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