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Luke 18:31 – 19:10, Zacchaeus

Body and Spirit are Intertwined

Jesus was well on his way toward Jerusalem and was in the midst of intense, intentional ministry. Crowds gathered and followed Jesus everywhere he went. This day was no exception. First, he encountered a man who could not see because he had been born blind. Then, he encountered Zacchaeus, who could not see because he was short. The man born blind asked for Jesus’ mercy and healing. Jesus gave him both. Zacchaeus asked for nothing, but offered to return with interest all that he had taken illicitly. Jesus accepted his change of heart and granted him mercy as well. Both men’s lives were changed dramatically that day. One was healed in body; the other in spirit.

I sometimes wonder which is harder to heal – a broken body or a broken spirit? I think the reality is that the two are too closely tied to separate. There is no way for an illness or injury to occur without affecting the spirit. An illness, say cancer, has a profound effect on not only the person diagnosed, but on all who love them, too. Even a more minor injury, say a sprained wrist, brings up questions about our limitations, our frailty, and the abrupt way it changes the course of our lives, even if just for a few weeks. Conversely, a broken spirit has significant impact on our bodies as well. Depression and grief cause poor sleep, changes in appetite, even aches and pains. Perhaps this is why Jesus’ healings and mercy were so often intertwined. The blind man begged for mercy and healing and received both. Zacchaeus just wanted to see Jesus, and Jesus became physically present in Zacchaeus’ home, prompting Zacchaeus to change his way. Jesus granted mercy and healed his spirit, too.

In our world of technology and busy schedules, it has become quite a challenge to pursue wellness for body and spirit. Yoga has become quite popular over recent years. Maybe it’s because the practice of yoga strengthens the body and the spirit. Our bodies need adequate exercise, nutrition, and sleep to function well. Our spirits need time and space to process all that happens to us day by day. I know too many people who have a really hard time being alone with themselves. But time to be alone and not to be busy has healing properties. Spiritual practices along with exercise can be great complements to one another, strengthening body and spirit alike. Engaging in both gives space for the healing power of Jesus to enter in, encouraging both our bodies and our spirits toward health and wellness.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Luke 18:31-19:10

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 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 down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”