Read His Words Before Ours!
I recently read the story of Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:1-10) Though I’ve often read the story, this time I experienced it beyond the Sunday school story from my early years. Did you know his story occurred in Jericho? This wasn’t a fact I gathered from my felt-board storytelling long ago.
I could have told you the story of Zacchaeus without opening my Bible. I could have sung the little ditty written about him and provided a bit of historical context to reveal the depth of Zacchaeus’ heart change.
Compliments of my Sunday school years, I was familiar with the comparatively small Israelite nation marching around Jericho for seven days. As a result of their obedience, they witnessed Jericho’s mighty walls crumbling without being touched.
Yet, I never realized these two iconic Sunday school stories
took place in the same city, albeit years apart.
This new understanding added a fresh layer of significance to Zacchaeus’ story.
Jericho’s walls fell down in the presence of the Israelite army led by the Lord.
Zacchaeus’ spiritual walls of his heart crumbled in the presence of Christ.
Never before had I considered the internal dynamics taking shape in Zacchaeus’ heart. As a result, his story will never be the same for me.
While this seems unrelated to studying Jesus and His Words, my new understanding of Zacchaeus taught me an important lesson about studying Scripture. As I read anew of our diminutive friend, Zac, I hadn’t prepared for the study by recalling all the extra facts I already knew, placing them foremost as I prepared myself to “re-hear” a story I’d so often heard.
My filters were left behind.
When Christ came as God’s Word to take on human form walking about and engaging with people face-to-face, He encountered many from His own lineage (Jews) who firmly resolutely held their filters in place. The Pharisees were absolutely certain they knew what the Messiah would look like and act like, and it most assuredly wasn’t Jesus. They carried filters that clouded their vision of God speaking directly with them!
For all their years of studying Scripture,
they sorely lacked the ability to see the Word standing before their eyes. (John 1:14)
The Pharisees prided themselves on their wisdom regarding faith. They could eloquently recap the salient points of Scripture, just as I had boasted about my abilities to recall similar facts about Zacchaeus. They were so familiar with the Law, they even accused Jesus of breaking it.
“Jesus passed through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “See, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-2, emphasis mine)
For all their education, they failed to truly encounter God.
Their hearts lacked the connection that would have enabled them to see and recognize the Lord demonstrating His very presence right in front of them.
My fresh reading of Zacchaeus’ story showed me how easily a filter slips into place, quickly distorting my ability to clearly see deeper truths.
Jesus was grieved over the hardness of the Pharisees’ hearts and their unwillingness to see Who was speaking to them.
…He (Jesus) looked around at them (the Pharisees) with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…” (Mark 3:5, ESV, emphasis mine)
Christ called out,
“…looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
‘You will listen and listen,
but never understand;
you will look and look,
but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes.’”
In light of the Pharisees’ response to Jesus, I find myself praying for eyes to see Jesus when I read His Word. I long to see God just as His Words describe, and know Him better, without my filters.
Apart from our suppositions, what does Jesus tell us about Himself and God the Father?
What will our response be as we live out our everyday lives?
What filters do we have in place that may be hindering our ability to truly see God?
Pride and fear are two that immediately come to my mind.
Let’s intentionally ready ourselves to approach God’s Word by first removing our preconceived ideas and previously-constructed filters. Only then, are our hearts in a position to be struck by deeper understandings of the Word made Flesh.
Oh Jesus, thank You for coming to earth and demonstrating the Father for us in human form. Thank You for living a life that teaches us Your grace and truth.
As we come in humility to You, remove our filters and give us eyes to see You and know You in full.
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!