The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 19:1-10
It has become quite fashionable in our time for people to wonder about the existence of God. More often than not we hear people tell us that they are “spiritual but not religious”, a phrase which to my knowledge has never been defined in any meaningful way. In addition we have a great number of people who say to us “I would believe in God if only He would show Himself to me.” “I would believe in God if only He would stop hiding.”
To me these types of statements would be equivalent to my youngest daughter (she’s 3) telling me that she wished she knew calculus. While it is a high and lofty goal, it misses a few critical steps in the process. The act of knowing God is not simply blind faith or wishful thinking. Theology, the study of God is a complex exercise with various steps along the way. In the same way that we do not learn calculus without first learning basic arithmetic we likewise do not simply come to a knowledge of God without going through a process.
Think about this….We don’t get fed just because we’re hungry. Just being hungry isn’t enough to make a mouth-watering bacon cheeseburger appear in front of me. Hunger will force me to take other steps. I will have to go to the fridge and open it and search for all the ingredients. Then I will have to prepare all the ingredients and cook them and put the sandwich together. No matter what it is that I’d like to eat, the simple act of being hungry isn’t enough to make food appear right before your eyes or in your belly. There is work that is involved. Yet with God we somehow have a different set of expectations. If I say that I am hungry for God and God doesn’t come sit next to me on the couch or leap right into my heart and mind then I somehow get the impression that God doesn’t exist. I’d like you to rethink that strategy a bit.
I want you to know that if you’re truly hungry for God, you wouldn’t just sit around talking about it or lamenting the fact that God is ignoring you. If you were truly hungry for God you would follow the example of a man we hear about in today’s gospel reading according to St. Luke. We are told that as the Lord Jesus was passing through Jericho there was a tax collector named Zachaeus. Now we are told that “ he sought to see Who Jesus was.” Did you get that? The crucial part of the story was that Zachaeus “sought to see Who Jesus was.” He wasn’t happy simply hearing about Him from others or simply imagining that he knew anything about this man named Jesus, as so many modern people tend to do. He wasn’t out to fool himself. Zachaeus was hungry for God so he actually went looking for answers. But since he couldn’t possibly see God (God is spirit) and can’t be observed with our human eyes. He also can’t be examined under a microscope or in a test tube. Zachaeus couldn’t find God that way, so he did the next best thing…he tried to find out the real identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Think about that statement “he sought to see Who Jesus was.” Doesn’t it sound funny? It means that Zachaeus was actually trying to get past the name of Jesus to actually try and discover whatever he could discover about the actual person of Jesus. Was Jesus simply another Jewish rabbi, or a revolutionary or a magician or something more? That is what Zachaeus wanted to know.
But he didn’t stop because of his hunger. He didn’t let his hunger discourage him. His hunger moved him to go out of his way to find the answer. In fact he went above and beyond to overcome the many obstacles that were in his way. What have we done to satisfy our hunger for God? What have we done to inquire and investigate into this man called Jesus, the Jew who has captivated the attention of the whole world for the last 2000 years?
You want to know if God exists? Good luck with that. God the Father is invisible and He won’t be visiting you or calling you on the phone, that I can promise. But there is an alternative. The Lord Jesus teaches us that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father who sent Him. That is a bold statement. Have we ever imagined that it could actually be true?
C.S. Lewis writes about the person of Jesus in his great book “Mere Christianity”. He says “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.” “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
So you really want to know if God exists…..follow Zachaeus and try with all your strength to answer this question “Who is Jesus Christ?” I would suggest that the best place to look for answers would be to read the 4 gospels which were written by those closest to the Lord. This is not simply for those who call themselves atheists, but for those who call themselves Christians but don’t really know much about Christ. Let’s do our part to replace the skeptical heart with the faithful, hungry heart like this man Zachaeus. In this way salvation will truly come to us and to our households. Glory be to God forever AMEN.