In Luke 18: 31-19:10 Jesus is traveling the road to Jerusalem and he knows things are going to get real when he gets there. He tries to warn his disciples but they don’t understand. Maybe they have plans and desires of their own. Like many of their day maybe they foresee themselves as a movement to liberate Israel from Roman oppression and they can’t see past their own hopes. Perhaps they are having a hard time understanding that our hopes and plans aren’t necessarily in line with where the Divine would lead us. Whatever the reason, Jesus tries to interrupt their lack of understanding and wake them up.
Often, we get so focused on one thing that everything else gets blocked out until something happens to interrupt us, to wake us up to what is happening around us. How much of life seems like an accident? We make plans and then the plans go in unexpected directions. Some of the most important things that happen in our lives are not planned but are unexpected. These are often life-changing, unexpected interruptions in our lives. Sometimes they’re difficult and sometimes they’re joyous, but they wake us up in some way. In other words, being interrupted or woken up from the hum drum routine of our lives often leaves us stopped in our tracks and not knowing what comes next. These times, and perhaps this is the really sacred part, ask us to be mindful of the opportunities we might have at that point in our lives.
Jesus on the road to Jerusalem could be seen as a metaphor for our own spiritual journey to realize God’s Kin-dom, where in the end God’s ability to create life and love wins over the worst that human tyrants can come up with. But on that journey, Jesus is constantly providing interruptions for people and being interrupted himself. For example, the blind beggar interrupts Jesus with his shouting and Jesus interrupts the beggar’s life by healing him. This was a momentous event and completely unexpected. And just imagine what new opportunities then awaited. Likewise, Zacchaeus, who as a tax collector and therefore a colluder with Rome is despised by his neighbors in Jericho, climbs the tree to see what’s happening and when Jesus notices this guy up in a tree, he’s interrupted. He in turn stops to talk and eat with Zacchaeus and his family, interrupting his life and reminding him that he too is loved by God and thereby opens him to new opportunities, to new and better ways of living.
Jesus is still trying to interrupt us today, to wake us up, asking us to be mindful of the opportunities that life gives us in unexpected events and encounters. Perhaps when something stops us in our tracks we should imagine ourselves as Zacchaeus in that tree and Jesus has just stopped to say “come down, I have a surprise for you.” The Divine wants to wake us up, interrupt us, but we have to open ourselves to those interruptions. We have to do some interrupting of our own. The sick man has to go outside, the beggar has to shout, and Zacchaeus has to climb a tree. We too need to open ourselves to sacred moments that ask us to slow down, listen, and remember the holy in our lives, to stop and ask what new life, what new opportunities we might find as we journey together on our own spiritual roads toward the kin-dom just as Jesus walked the road to Jerusalem with his disciples.
(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, April 2, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)