He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
Today’s scripture is one that has always spoken to me. It tells us so much of faith and, even more importantly, of God’s never-ending love for us.
So, let’s go into the scene for a moment.
We begin with Zacchaeus. A man shorter than most of the people around him. A man who was despised because he was a tax collector. Even worse, he was the chief tax collector. Someone who connived with the Romans to cheat his fellow countrymen. But he is determined to see Jesus. Perhaps his countrymen intentionally got in the way so he could not see. He outwits them by climbing a sycamore tree to see.
Then we have Jesus. His love for sinners was so profound that he literally went to the deepest place on earth in search of perhaps the greatest public sinner of that city, to reconcile him to the Father. Jesus went to Jericho, the lowest city on the planet — 853 feet below sea level — to find Zacchaeus.
Jesus had promised that he, the Good Shepherd, would leave the ninety-nine sheep in his fold to search out and save one lost sheep, and this is what he did, leaving the crowds behind and entering alone with Zacchaeus into his home and into his life. He called Zacchaeus, his lost sheep, by name and heaven rejoiced on that day more for him than for all the others.
Already, the story has grown powerful. It’s true power, however, lies in what it means for us.
It was not enough for Zacchaeus to want to see Jesus. He took a concrete action to see Jesus. How many of us want to be followers of Christ? Some even profess to be. But truth is we never take the actions in our lives to be his follower.
Sure, the words we speak say that but they are betrayed by the thoughts in our minds and hearts which are not in the spirit of Christ. It’s folly and folly which could affect our eternal lives.
Zacchaeus took another step. He promised not only to give retribution but to do it four-fold. Think of his actions and correlate them to faith. Faith is kept alive not only in spiritual dispositions. It takes flesh and grows through concrete actions, daily choices.
In today’s world-wide climate, how many of us are making the daily choices to be true to Christ? Moreover, like Zacchaeus, how many of us are willing to seemingly go against the choices of others whose lives do not reflect Christ? That happens easily. We listen to words of anger and seek not to inject peace. We allow those around us to inflame others with hate and fail to stand up to it. We see violence and walk away professing it is not only safer to do that but that it’s none of our business.
Are we afraid to climb the tree that crucified Christ?
The Lord Jesus comes continually to save us, no matter how far we’ve sunk, and no matter how many times we’ve fallen. And there’s nothing he won’t do to save us.
When we and the whole human race were incapable of seeing Him on account of the great weight of sin which was reducing our humanity to smaller and smaller images of what we are called to be, and when we were incapable of climbing any tree at all, he, out of his great love for us, climbed one on our behalf, so that each of us might still be able to see him, perched upon his glorious wooden throne.
That makes me shudder and feel ever so humble that he loves you and I that much. He took the ultimate action, the final step to show the meaning behind the words “I love you.”
He invites each of us to be lifted up by him onto that life-giving tree, so that as victors we might sit with him on his throne and as God’s children might spend eternity in a celestial tree house built upon the Cross’-firm foundation.
Today Jesus knocks on the door of our heart and says, “I must stay in your house today.” What will your answer be?
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, come and stay with me. Fill my life with your peace, my home with your presence, and my heart with your praise. Help me to show kindness, mercy, and goodness to all, even to those who cause me ill-will or harm.”
Today and every day, Jesus takes the initiative of knocking at the door of our souls, asking for entry, coming to us wherever we are, no matter the depths to which we’ve sunk, no matter the fact that perhaps everyone else around us might dislike us. Jesus never abandons us. To the extent that we repent of whatever sins we’ve committed and accept Jesus’ gracious invitation by “welcoming him with delight,” we, too, like Zacchaeus, can have salvation come to us.