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Seeing Jesus Through the Crowd
1 “Jesus was going through the city of Jericho. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus, who was a very important tax collector, and he was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because he was too short to see above the crowd. 4 He ran ahead to a place where Jesus would come, and he climbed a sycamore tree so he could see him. 5 When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down! I must stay at your house today.” 6 Zacchaeus came down quickly and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to complain, “Jesus is staying with a sinner!” 8 But Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “I will give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times more.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today, because this man also belongs to the family of Abraham. 10 The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them” (Luke 19:1-10).
Luke 19:1-10 is a short but powerful passage about Jesus and a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. The Jewish people were under Roman occupation. An unfair tax was extracted by people like Zacchaeus. They earned their living by adding an extra surcharge for themselves. These Jews were considered traitors. However, they were still Jews, sons of the Covenant and children of Abraham. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus more than he wanted to maintain his economic comfort. Jesus knew that. He had come to Jericho that day seeking to save the lost. He knew Zacchaeus like He knows each one of us. The “crowds” around Zacchaeus may have deemed him as unworthy of the encounter that was about to occur, but God did not see him this way. Jesus saw Zacchaeus heart and he drew him to Himself.
Each one of us should find hope in this story because, literally or figuratively, we have compromised in our lives. Perhaps in our family, by failing to love and lead in the way that we know we ought, sacrificially. Perhaps in our church by failing to step out in faith and give a full tithe. Perhaps in our community by not responding to the call of those in need.
The Good News is that, no matter what has happened in our past, Jesus walks into the muddy streets of our own lives this day. He comes for us. We can surely learn some lessons from Zacchaeus from his time in a Sycamore tree.
- I think the Lord specifically came to Jericho for Zacchaeus, and He continues to meet each of us wherever we are in life – in church, on a mountain, in a valley, or up a tree.
- It is important to note that Zacchaeus did not need to get the Lord’s attention and neither do we. Jesus comes into each one of our lives, searching for us, because He still comes to seek and save what was lost. We often think of the Christian life in terms of our efforts to reach God and to do His will. However, the opposite is what really occurs. God seeks us and we respond. He stands at the door and knocks and awaits our response.
- We need to “position” ourselves for the meeting. In contemporary terms, the term “be intentional” is often used to encourage proper positioning. Zacchaeus climbed that tree to see Jesus; he positioned himself for the encounter. Can you imagine his emotions upon hearing Jesus say, “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 19:9).
- Salvation is a gift that Christ offers to us all regardless of our profession, race, gender, etc. In Ephesians 2:8 we learn, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Our faith provides salvation, which provides life everlasting.
- The Christian life is about God’s action and our response to what He is already doing. Jesus reminds us “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Zacchaeus serves to remind us of who does the choosing and who does the responding. Zacchaeus climbed the tree in order to see the Lord, not to be seen by Jesus. He did not care what the crowd thought of a grown man climbing a tree! He went after the encounter with Jesus Christ with a childlike simplicity and a reckless abandon. We should all strive to do the same.
Prayer: Dear God, We want to climb a tree to see your face. Help us to realize that when we see our neighbors, we are seeing you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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