"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.'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.' Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'"
Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)
It is easy to see what someone deems important [their purpose] because they make it a priority. Consider shopping with another person. There is often a conflict of two different purposes: One person seeking the best option for their budget (so needing to see all the options) and the other person seeking to be finished with the process as quickly as possible. Or you could consider the two different approaches in team sports: Some players hog the ball because their purpose is personal glory, while another player is willing to pass to a teammate in a good position with the purpose of team victory.
When Jesus was in the crowd, His purpose was different from the crowd. The crowd’s purpose was to uphold their Jewish traditions and ostracize anyone who worked for the Roman oppressors. Jesus’ purpose was to save sinners and rescue the lost. When we are in Christ, we need to move ourselves under Jesus’ purpose and not put our purposes onto Him because He is our King. Zacchaeus was hated because he worked for the Romans, taxing his own people and cheating them. Jesus came to bring him into the light so that many would see the power of God in transforming someone with such a bad reputation.
Zacchaeus would have been keeping a low profile in crowds. He was also short and he climbed the sycamore tree because he was desperate to see Jesus. Jesus was drawn to those hungry and needy for God, as He promises in Jeremiah 29:13. Jesus had an inner knowledge, not just of Zacchaeus’ name but also that he was the one to focus on for God’s kingdom that day. He said, “I must stay at your house today”. Who is the one that the Holy Spirit is drawing you to focus on at this time? It might be as simple as them coming to mind and you sending them a text. Are you going to stay with the 99 or join Jesus on the search for the one (Matthew 18:12-13 & Luke 15:4-7)?
When Jesus went off to Zacchaeus’ home the crowd muttered. A bunch of sinners complained that Jesus had gone to help another sinner. But we do this! We rank sins and overlook the fact that salvation is not about works. Salvation came to that house because Jesus came to that house. The church can’t change people, only Jesus, in the church changes people. Don’t mutter and gossip about people coming to church – let’s care about what Jesus cares about: saving the lost.
Jesus was the opposite of Zacchaeus: He was grace and truth. Truth means not downplaying sin, which is serious and separates us from God. Grace from God is what transforms us and sets us free. In the presence of grace and truth, Zacchaeus knew just what to do. We need to let as many people as possible experience the presence of Jesus!
Lastly, Jesus came to seek the lost so they might be saved. Seeking means actively looking for. Who has God called you to seek? People blinded by the world aren’t always actively looking for the light -they’re blind! Zacchaeus saw Jesus because of the tree. The crowd was blocking his view. Let’s never get in the way of people seeing Jesus. Let’s be like the tree, a vantage point for people to see Jesus. Let’s clear the way so all can see (Isaiah 40:3-5) and be planted in Christ to help those far away see Him (Psalm 1:3).
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
- Can you share an experience when someone was like the sycamore tree for you, giving you a clear view of Jesus?
- How can we, the church continue to seek the lost in a climate of “cancel culture”?
- Has God led you to focus on the one? It might be a different “one” each day so listen out for that prompting to reach out and keep praying for opportunities.
- What are some of the things about Jesus that He wants the lost to see clearly? How can you clear the way for them?