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Jesus’ encounter with the despised tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19) is one of the better known biblical stories because so many of us learned it by song during childhood. Yet the radical inclusiveness of Jesus revealed in this story might take a lifetime to fully grasp.

The Wikipedia entry on Zacchaeus — based on Easton’s Bible Dictionary — puts it like this: “The crowd was shocked that Christ would sully himself by being a guest of a tax collector.”

What an interesting perspective — that Jesus was not concerned about his reputation getting sullied. In fact, Jesus showed such deep compassion across human lines of division that he sullied himself. Intentionally. On purpose. For a purpose.

As the song taught us: Jesus called the weasely little man out of a tree and invited himself to dinner.

The sycamore fig tree of that time and place had little resemblance to this massive sycamore on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. But the lesson is just as large — if we are willing to consider the reality that God’s love is much broader and deeper than most of us find comfortable.

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