1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
Growing up, we always said, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…” before every meal. And I do mean, EVERY meal. At home, at church, at Grandma and Grandpa’s, in restaurants: any- and everywhere.
It wasn’t until years later I realized that the “Common Table prayer” wasn’t all that common. First of all, there were regional differences; no two parts of the country could seem to agree on “these gifts” or “Thy gifts.” Personally, I like the compromise position of “these, Thy gifts…”
Then, as shocking as it may sound, I discovered that many people without deep Lutheran roots simply stared like a cow at a new gate if you invited them to pray the “Common Table Prayer.” Never even heard of it. Hard to imagine.
Zacchaeus gives us a new take on an old prayer. He was so amazed at being accepted and forgiven, he immediately responded with a change of life that included inviting Jesus home for dinner. This, of course, caused some consternation among the Real Church Folk. In fact, they maliciously gossiped about Jesus: “He went to be the guest of a SINNER.”
In no uncertain terms, Jesus says their taunt is in fact the truth at the heart of His mission: to restore fellowship to sinners. When we invite Jesus to our table, when we pray “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…” we are claiming the promise of that fellowship. In fact, we are claiming to be sinners, so that Jesus might fulfill His mission by being our guest.
Like Zachaeus, it’s amazing that the One and Only Jesus Himself would bother to pay any attention to us. Like Zachaeus, that kind of undeserved honor can only be met with drastic life change.
I am a sinner and I want to be different than I was yesterday. Come, Lord Jesus, be my guest, come into my life and my home and turn me back toward You. Amen.