Trying to Find Christ in Outward, Shiny Things

Pentecost 24 Tuesday

Luke 19:5

“And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and saw him and said to him: Zacchaeus, climb down quickly; for I must enter your house today.”

Christ shows in his example and teaching that he was disgusted and loathed the outward expensive pomp in which everybody now goes about under the papacy and which is greatly praised. Just look at the processions and parish fairs where you can see great and immodest pomp. The bishops grant indulgences for attending these events. And the preachers loudly praise and advertise them…Christ says in Luke 16:15: “What is exalted among men is an abomination before God.” Unless the hearts of men are rescued and liberated from this pomp and external masks, Christ will find no room or place in them. All this must go if Christ is to dwell in you. He himself says, Matthew 18:3: “Unless you repent and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” For it is impossible that men should recognize what belongs to Christ until these outward things are eradicated and torn out of their hearts. Christ has no splendor or appearance in the world. For Isaiah says that he was the most despised among all men, Isaiah 53:3. Rather, he looks and searches the hearts and gives them peace. In Luke 17:20-21, Christ says: “The kingdom of God does not come in outward appearances. One will not say: Look, here or there it is. For look, the kingdom of God is within you.” This is to say, God’s kingdom does not consist of works tied to place, food, clothes, time, and person, but in faith and free love. This is why it is certain that the pomp of parish fairs does not sync with Christ at all. Zacchaeus desired only to see who Christ was; and because of his unworthiness he could not demand more than that. This is why we all are foolish if we dare to make a gracious, merciful God by means of outward pomp, especially with human, made-up, shiny, gleaming works and statutes…To be sure, when people hear that “the kingdom of heaven has come near; repent” (Matthew 4:17), fickle man takes refuge in his works and wants to adorn himself with them. Yet he does not accomplish anything thereby; he remains as fickle, inconsistent, and fitful as before. For works do not quiet the conscience; they do not give peace to the heart. And the more you torture yourself with works, the more fickle and uncertain you become. Yet when Christ, the
messenger of peace, comes along, fickleness ceases; for then the conscience clings to him as a firm, strong, immovable rock whom “the gates of hell may not overcome,” Matthew 16:18. Therefore, when Christ thus passes through Jericho, Zacchaeus’s simplicity desires to see him. For when a plain, simple layman hears that salvation rests in Christ alone, he runs past the deceivers and seducers of hearts, as Zacchaeus does here, and climbs the sycamore fig tree. This tree has beautiful green leaves, graceful twigs, and lovely branches, and everybody likes to look at it; but when you seek fruit under its leaves, you do not find it…This sycamore fig tree signifies those who teach outward and human things, who
impress the people, but do not nourish them; for it produces no fruit. Now, a thirsty, hungry soul comes running and climbs such a tree in order to see the Lord. It hears and learns everything it is being fed because it all looks nice and green to this soul, like the leaves on a sycamore fig tree. Yet when Christ comes, he calls the soul and tells it to climb down since there is not fruit up there, telling the soul that he is the living bread that always satisfies those who are his. He says here to Zacchaeus: “I, not human statutes, must stay at your house. For blessed are those who thirst for Christ.”

St. Louis ed., 11:2418-2420.

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