Monday, August 4, 2008

Zacchaeus was a little man....with a big heart for God

I’m horrible about judging people. At times, if I’m not careful, I pass judgement onto people before I even consider my sin filled life in God’s eyes. At times, I have a “holier than thou” attitude toward my fellow man – yet if I stop and think about it, I’m a pretty pitiful sight in God’s eyes. Yet, I’m thankful for God’s plan, and for His love that He and His son Jesus Christ offered toward all who will accept His gift. The Gospel is for all who will accept it. But, they gotta hear it first. That’s where Jesus lead by example. Take for instance the people of Jesus’ time. There were those who followed Jesus, and those who didn’t. There were those who obeyed His teachings, and those who didn’t. There were those who felt like they were righteous, and liked to show off for Jesus, and those who knew they were lost, and in need of Jesus’ help. There were also those who just out of curiosity, wanted to take a peek at Jesus and see what He was all about. There had been some magnificent stories about Jesus that floated from town to town, and certainly not to down-play all of the miracles that Jesus did, but we all know that stories tend to grow and grow second and third hand.

There was a man who lived a very good life. In fact, he lived his life in quite a predicament. He made his living at the expense of other people. Although he was certainly “just doing his job” while he took their money, he was more than likely compensated by percentage of every single penny that he collected. So, what could be more motivating than to have a percentage of everything that you collect. We call Zacchaeus a tax collector. But I also get the feeling, though I’m only guessing and adding to the story, that Mr. Zacchaeus was also a debt collector. After all, the more that he could collect from the people for the government’s sake, the larger his cut would be too. It was this occupation, tax collector/debt collector that made Zacchaeus a very wealthy man. It was also this same occupation that made others hate him and call him a sinner. Was there some judging going on back then? You better believe it. Judging, non-the-less by so called followers of Jesus, who were feeling a little self-righteous. (Careful self, ‘cause I’m calling you out here too)

These people of Jericho obviously were all familiar with this low-life they called Zacchaeus, or “Zach-attack-us” or whatever names they might have hurled at him outside of his presence. In fact, Mr. Zacchaeus might have even felt uneasy around all these people whom his two assistants, Guido and Luigi roughed up a bit occasionally when they fell behind in their payments. But non-the-less, Mr. Zacchaeus’ curiosity got the best of him, and he made his way out to take a look at this magician Jesus that was coming through town that one day. In fact, you could say that Mr. Zacchaeus actually really put forth a good hard effort to see this Jesus. He realized his limitations, and planned ahead and figured out his route through the town, and got up in a tree and waited for him there.

Here’s where Jesus really amazed everyone there, including Zacchaeus. For He called him by his name, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." [Luke 19:5] How cool was that? Zacchaeus had never met Jesus before, but Jesus knew who he was, and wanted to go home with him. What’s Jesus’ strategy here? Jesus associates with someone that was pretty much a thorn in all these people’s side, someone who had defrauded the people of extra money that was above and beyond their actual obligation, someone who was very rich and had a lot of life’s fine possessions. Would you call this move by Jesus risky? He could hear the grumbles from the people. These people certainly could not understand why Jesus was doing this. These people certainly talked to others about this and yet another nasty rumor has started and spread, and grown and gotten way out of hand. These people certainly could not understand why Jesus did what he did. But, regardless, Zacchaeus hears the grumbles too. What Zacchaeus does next is just the kind of response that Jesus wanted, and that Jesus expected to come from Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus stands up and admits freely in front of all: "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." [v.8] Then we hear those famous words of Jesus: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." [vv.9,10] Awesome. Unfortunately, there were some there who didn’t even see this miracle happening. This change in a man from serving the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. They were too put out that Jesus would even talk to this thief, let alone go to his house. What’s even more interesting to me is that Jesus doesn’t try to console those around him, but instead says, [paraphrased] I am more concerned with people who know they’re wrong, than the people who think they’re right.
Am I listening to what God is saying in His word?

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