Read His Words Before Ours!
As a child, I loved the story of Zacchaeus, and as an adult I am still intrigued by this short man who had an amazing experience with Jesus.
His encounter is recorded in the Gospel of Luke 19:1-10. We don’t know a lot about Zacchaeus, but he is an interesting character, the kind that is fun to cast in the Sunday School play or Jesus movie.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Actually, he was the Chief Tax Collector. He was wealthy and powerful, but hated among his own people, the Jews. Zacchaeus was a traitor of his own nationality, working for the Roman Empire who had overthrown and occupied the country. Zacchaeus not only collected taxes from his Jewish countrymen, but he also exploited and stole from them.
Zacchaeus was wealthy, not because he was a skilful businessman, but because he was a criminal. His people hated him. He didn’t have friends outside of his team of tax collecting crooks.
But there was something in Zacchaeus that drew him to find out more about Jesus. Being a short man, he climbed a tree along the way of Jesus’ travel plans so he could get a good look at Jesus. Perhaps there was something in Zacchaeus’ heart that was soft to the Spirit of God; something drawing him to seek a deeper meaning to life than wealth.
No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The Father is not willing that any should perish (Matthew 18:14). Even Zacchaeus, a man who was hard and powerful and rich, felt the need in his soul to explore a Saviour.
When Jesus passed by the tree that Zacchaeus was hiding in, He stopped, noticed him, and invited Himself over for a shared meal. Jesus showed acceptance and grace to Zacchaeus. He wasn’t deterred by Zacchaeus’ reputation, his criminal activity or the aghast reactions of the good people he was with. Jesus opened His schedule and His heart to Zacchaeus.
I don’t know what was spoken about over dinner. I don’t know if Jesus spoke directly to the elephant in the room and challenged Zacchaeus about his exploitation. I don’t know if there was a deep theological or apologetic debate. Nothing is recorded. But I imagine not. I imagine Zacchaeus’ heart was transformed by the love and acceptance he experienced in the company of Jesus.
Zacchaeus’ life was completely transformed by his encounter with Jesus. Zacchaeus made a public declaration, announcing his change and promising to bring restitution for the wrongs he’d committed. Zacchaeus lost his wealth that day, and gained a personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus made his intentions very clear. “For the son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” Luke 19:10
This challenges me!
I grew up a pastor’s kid in a loving Christian family, and have raised my kids in a similar way. The guests at our dinner table were most likely to be missionaries and deacons, not ‘sinners’. The people I am friends with, the ones I am comfortable to share my life and my home with, are people who have similar beliefs to me.
How can I be like Jesus and live an open life?
How can I demonstrate generous hospitality?
Just as Zacchaeus was drawn to discover more of Jesus, there are people in our communities who are living in dark circumstances, are hurting and lost. It may appear on the surface they are far from God, but He is at work in our broken world, drawing all men to himself!
Jesus noticed Zacchaeus.
Who can you notice today? A mum in the school pick up line looking sad or distressed? The server in the grocery store with red, swollen eyes?
Who is looking for a touch from Jesus that we can notice?
Jesus opened up His life to the sinners no one else wanted to spend time with.
Jesus opened his calendar for Zacchaeus.
Like me, are you too busy for sinners?
Do you have time in your day-to-day to spend with people who are far from God?
Often, I don’t.
I’m too busy at church! I’m running Bible studies and attending prayer meetings. The precious spare time I do have, I save for family and friends, not difficult people.
Jesus opened his heart to sinners.
The gospel stories tell over and over of Jesus’ compassion for the crowds, loving people who were lost and hurting.
Why did Zacchaeus change his life?
Was it because Jesus preached to him or because Jesus loved him?
Genuinely loved him.
All of him.
Jesus shared a meal with Zacchaeus. I love how He just invited himself over.
“I’m coming to your house today!” (Luke 19:5)
Who can you open your home to? A neighbour? Your children’s school friends and their families? This takes courage! But it is a powerful picture of acceptance, of love in action.
We can expect some opposition and raised eyebrows from the religious establishment when we begin to live open lives, when we open our hearts, calendar, and homes to those far from God. But it’s exciting to contemplate the way Jesus can completely transform someone’s life as we share Jesus’ love with open hearts and hands.
Who will you open your calendar, your heart, and your home to?
Who will you invite to experience the love of Jesus in your home as you offer generous hospitality?
I’m going to go and knock on my neighbour’s door.
I think Saturday evening just opened up.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!