31th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
I Gave Up Diet Coke for God
I had a lightning bolt moment years ago. I had weird stuff on my feet that no doctor or lab test could identify and no cream could cure. I had prayed about it for several years, and finally one morning, I had this weird feeling, “Give up diet coke.” It wasn’t a voice, just a feeling, a very compelling feeling. It was a struggle, but I put the brakes on my habit. And slowly the stuff on my feet went away. Do I think diet coke had anything to do with my feet? Absolutely not. Do I think God wanted my obedience in that moment? Absolutely.
Zacchaeus had a lightning bolt moment when he saw Jesus. Something about Jesus had interested him, because even though Zacchaeus was a tax collector and crooked, when he heard that Jesus, the Son of Righteousness, was coming, Zacchaeus decided to see Him. He was “seeking to see who Jesus was” (v.3). Aren’t we all in Zacchaeus’s shoes, seeking to see who this Jesus really is? We don’t know much, but we know enough that we want to know more, even if we’re not sure we’re “all in” quite yet.
When Zacchaeus got to the street and realized the crowd was too big for him to see anyone passing on the street, let alone Jesus, he could have gone home. But instead Zacchaeus went with his own very compelling feeling and climbed a tree. I could give up diet coke in secret and no had to know. Which is exactly what I did. I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy, a fanatic. But that’s not how it unfolded for Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus had to climb a tree. As a wealthy man in the community, I’m guessing Zacchaeus in a tree stood out a little. It’s hard to climb a tree surreptiously, especially if you knock off any sycamore balls in the process. It’s even harder to be discreet when Jesus spies you up there and calls you down. Now you’re front of everybody and their brother. But Zacchaeus wasn’t worried about discretion anymore because “he came down quickly and received him with joy” (v.6).
At this point, Zacchaeus is “all in.” Jesus wants to come to his house for dinner! The others are turning away, annoyed that Jesus is buddying up to a crooked tax collector and not with them. But Zacchaeus doesn’t even notice—he only has eyes for Jesus. Right then, right there in a street full of witnesses, Zacchaeus vows to give half his possessions to the poor and repay his debts four times over. I bet the “grumblers” (v.7) have turned back to Zacchaeus now. He’s probably cheated them many times over and now they’re going to make money on his promise.
Zacchaeus is a changed man, and Jesus makes sure he knows it. Salvation has come to him.
I don’t think I’m changed, although my feet have definitely taken a turn for the better. Probably my insides too since I don’t drink diet coke any more. And my secret’s out: I gave up diet coke for God. I don’t think we all have sudden about-faces like Zacchaeus, but I do think God is always there nudging us along, planting in us the desire to know Him just a little bit more, giving us our own very compelling feelings. We just have to listen to them.