Who did you used to look up to? Who did you want to be when you were growing up? For me, it was Tiger Woods. See clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbNLqVCAG5s&ab_channel=uhurricanes3. I remember watching this and just imagining what it would have been like to be there in the crowd that day? To watch one of the greatest golf moments of all time? What it would have been like to be Tiger Woods?
The only problem is that I could never come close to being Tiger Woods! No matter how much I practiced, I could never be him.
But, Jesus was the greatest person to ever live! When I read stories of his life, I imagine what it was like to have been there. Huge crowds. Jesus doing unbelievable things. However, unlike our childhood heroes, Jesus invited others to follow Him. To be like Him. To do the great things that He was doing.
You may be thinking, “I can’t really be like Jesus!” But, because of God’s love and redemptive plan for us, because of the work of the Holy Spirit moving and guiding us in our lives, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we can really be like Jesus!
Jesus Himself said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12).
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus, in one of his final acts before His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, displays the wonderful message of His ministry. Jesus knows that in a short time, He will take His final breath before His death on a tree. Everything at this point in His ministry has been an accumulation of all He wants His followers to model. Knowing the shortness of His remaining time, Jesus still stops to call to a sinner, a man named Zacchaeus. A man who was considered trash by the Romans, and was hated by the Jews. What kind of message was Jesus trying to send His followers? What was so important about this man that Jesus would stop in the last days of His mission for him?
How we respond to Jesus matters.
Jesus sees Zacchaeus and calls him to come close. How is Jesus going to respond to this social pariah? Will He write Zacchaeus off ? Jesus, to the amazement and disdain of the crowd, invites Himself to stay with Zacchaeus! Zacchaeus gladly approaches Jesus at once. Jesus does not miss the opportunity to welcome one who is open to God.
What we think about Jesus matters.
Who does Zacchaeus think Jesus is in this moment? Is He a good teacher? A good leader? Zacchaeus declares Him, “Lord!” Zacchaeus is no longer the same person he once was. He is a new person, with a new heart, following orders in a new Kingdom. The crowd looking on with disapproval, is amazed that this man, of all people, is standing transformed before the Messiah King. For to those who humble themselves and call Jesus “Lord”, restoration and salvation await.
Who we lead to Jesus matters.
What is Jesus’ mission? To seek and save the lost! Jesus is looking to reclaim the prodigals and to lift up the humble. Zacchaeus was simply trying to see Jesus, but Jesus saved him instead. God’s initiating work is to accept those who are guilty and distant but looking for a Rescuer. A Rescuer from sin, bondage, judgment, and death.
What message did Jesus’ followers hear that day? That God wants all people to be saved! The salvation message is for the lonely, lost, forgotten, and strayed. Zacchaeus was not the last spiritual wanderer to be found by God. From that moment, until this day, God is actively using His people to look for those who are trying to see Jesus. Those who are ready to embrace the acceptance and grace of Jesus.
As Easter approaches, who are the Zacchaeus’s in our lives? Those people who are standing just beyond the notice of the crowd, trying to get a glimpse. Invite them to come and see!
Bock, Darrell L. The NIV Application Commentary: Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
Losch, Richard R. All the People in the Bible: An A–Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.