By Stan Counsell
Some 2,000 years ago, there was a man wearing the simple clothing of the working poor who was walking the rugged regions near Jericho on His way to Jerusalem, where He said He would be brutally killed but raised to life three days later.
This man, Jesus, had a rather motley gaggle of followers from much of the Jewish strata. Some women also followed Him, which certainly raised eyebrows in that male-dominated culture.
Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, yet many questioned His lifestyle as anything but heaven-sent royalty. For a self-proclaimed royal from heaven, He came from the despised area of Galilee, didn’t possess any handsome looks, and His height was just vanilla; He could get lost in a crowd. And, that’s God? Really?
If God, Jesus certainly wouldn’t be “sandal-walking” about in stifling, dusty heat. He would be wearing the extravagant clothing of royalty, an arresting robe, mounted on a mighty warrior’s white horse exhibiting its proud gait. Myriads of angels and prophets would have followed Him, in regal splendor, not this multifarious group of people that He somehow chose.
To many, Jesus was a pathetic fraud. He even had some of His followers forsake Him. Yet, throngs were mesmerized by Jesus. His teachings had incredible authority, unlike the self-righteous religious leaders. He healed many people without any disgusting sleight of hand motions or angles. He raised the dead, turned water into fine wine, and even walked on water during a violent storm at sea.
Still, Jesus continually stirred up the ire and hatred of religious leaders who couldn’t find even one pathetic answer to Jesus’ pointed questions. Was this Jesus nothing but trouble to the souls of the Jewish and gentile inhabitants of these regions?
One particular man had heard enough about Jesus that he was determined to know the complete truth about Him. This Jesus was either a genuine grifter or He was indeed the Son of God; there wasn’t any logical middle ground.
Why would it matter to him? His name was Zacchaeus. I’ll call him “Zac.” He was seen as a traitor to his Jewish brethren. He was a chief tax collector for the ruthless Roman Empire, gouging his own people for more taxes than they really owed. He was making a bountiful living ripping off his own people. “Charge more, get more!” could have been his heartless motto.
If that Galilean man, Jesus, was a con artist, Zac could go on cheating his people without any remorse. If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, how could Zac justify his evil deeds and resulting lavish lifestyle? It would be a terrible day of reckoning; the jig would be up. He needed to really know this man named Jesus.
Zac heard that Jesus was entering Jericho (Luke 19:1-10) and reasoned that this was the perfect opportunity to sort Jesus out. When we are confused, doubtful, broadsided by tragedies, hearing differing opinions about Jesus, or feel lost and fearful during these troubling times, do we truly want to see and know the truths about Jesus, the only Son of God? Was He but a good man, nicely religious, one of many good teachers, just part of the divine, or was He truly the only begotten Son of God, maker of heaven and earth? Zac needed to know, for his lifestyle depended on his careful findings.
It’s interesting that the gospel writer Luke records that Jesus made “His way” through town. Note that Jesus didn’t take “a way” but “His way.” The Greek showed this to be true. For “His way” meant “to come with a purpose.” Jesus was on a mission that required a particular goal. He was seeking one of the lost sons of Israel.
In verses 3-4, we observe the earnest desire of Zac to see Jesus. The Greek tells us that the word “see” meant “with eyes wide open, being earnestly sure, a continual inspection.” Zac didn’t want a glimpse, flimsy idea or brief visual of Jesus walking by; he wanted to see all of Jesus.
But, people crowded the road to such an extent that Zac, a very short man in stature, couldn’t see over those hording the street. Isn’t it sad that even today many block the view of others wanting to see the real Jesus? Many church people get caught up in themselves; the nearby needs of others are ignored, or not even noticed.
Whereas this would deter many a wandering soul, Zac would have nothing to do with quitting. He immediately climbed a nearby sycamore tree for an unobstructed view. Such a climb, in his splendor of clothing, would not be a modest task. Yet, verse 5 records that Jesus suddenly stopped right below that particular tree and looked up. He looked directly at Zac while the people always looked down on him. Oh, the unfathomable grace of Almighty God!
He called Zac by name. Isn’t it joyful to know that He knows our names, too? Jesus made it abundantly clear, “Come down.” That was a command that the Greek says meant, “to earnestly urge.” In that imperative command, Jesus also said, “I must stay at your house”. The proper rendering meant, “it is necessary” or “to remain in one’s presence.” He wants to remain in our lives, too, not just for an hour on Sunday.
Think of it: Jesus’ mission is to be the Lord and Savior of our lives. He wants to love, rescue from sin, lead, teach, reason and fellowship with us; to make us a vibrant new creation in Him (Revelation 3:20-21). When Jesus knocks, He doesn’t require our finest guest room during His stay. He’ll take a basement cot with a worn-out blanket, so humble and lowly of heart.
Will we, like the “good people” of Jericho, piously denounce Jesus for seeking after the lost, actually eating and staying with them? Or, will we also want to enter Zac’s house, stay and discover the real Jesus?
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