Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For we walk by faith, by our conviction respecting man’s relationship to God, with trust and holy fervor.”
II Corinthians 5: 7
“When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.”
Today’s Study Text:
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘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.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘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.’”
Luke 19: 1-10
“He’s My Friend” – Part 17
“My Only Salvation”
“On our own, apart from God, we are hindered from seeing and experiencing the grace of God. Our sinful condition eclipses the light of God from shining into our lives. However, when God speaks light into our hearts, God gives us knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.”
Feasting on the Word
Year C, Volume 4
What has the “Son of Man” done for me personally?
“God, still fully God, became fully man as well so that He could pour Himself out on an executioner’s cross as our representative. That’s who Jesus was – both Son of God and Son of Man – and that’s what Jesus did.”
“One day there was a man called Zacchaeus. He was working with his pen and paper. Zacchaeus said to the people pay twelve coins. He gave the Romans ten coins and kept two for himself and put them in his pocket. So he was rich. He had a beautiful house. One day Jesus came and Zacchaeus wanted to see him, but he had one problem, he was little so he could not see over people’s heads. He saw a tree and climbed up it. Jesus saw him and said, ‘What are you doing up there?’ Everyone was laughing. Jesus said, ‘Get down here Zacchaeus,’ so he got down. Jesus said, ‘I am coming to yours for tea.’ Zacchaeus was nervous. He got all his servants to tidy up. They got out all the best knives and forks and spoons and it all looked beautiful. Jesus and Zacchaeus sat at the table and were talking. They drank all the wine and ate the chicken. Zacchaeus said, ‘I’m sorry about all of the things I have took off the poor people. I will give them their money back.’ Jesus said, ‘That’s what I want to hear. You have got everything. Sort it out.’ Then they finished their tea.”
I’ve read many stories about the “wee little man,” Zacchaeus, who climbed up in a Sycamore for the Lord he wanted to see, but none was as captivating as the words penned by 8-year-old Veronica from England, of course. Hint: it’s the tea!
My favorite part of Veronica’s take on the story we find in Luke 19: 1-10, is when she writes about the promise Zacchaeus made to give half of what he owned to the poor and Jesus exclaims to Zacchaeus, “That’s what I want to hear. You have got everything. Sort it out!”
To better understand the events surrounding Jesus’ Sabbath lunch at Zacchaeus’ house, we must remember that just a few days before this incident occurred, a rich young ruler had come running to see Jesus, only to turn away in despair because he did not want to release his hands from the death-grip they had on his possessions. Jesus, we found, used this heart-breaking experience to let His disciples know that entering the kingdom of God while dragging a boat-load of booty along with us was not easy – in fact, Jesus said it was impossible.
Then just a few days later, on the Sabbath which was two weeks before Jesus’ death, Jesus used this valuable time to go to lunch with the “chief tax collector,” whom the Bible points out “was rich.” What touches my heart is that even with the knowledge that the cross was looming ahead, within just a few days, Jesus’ focus on each individual soul never wavered. He had come to “seek and to save the lost” and if there was ever anyone who needed “saving” it would be a hated tax-collector, the blight of Jewish society, a turn-coat who skimmed money from Roman taxes so he could live the high life. As Pastor Laura Sugg underscores, “Zacchaeus was the ‘chief’ tax-collector, he was particularly despised by his fellow Jews. The chief collectors were known for colluding with Rome and for taking advantage of others to make a good profit for themselves – think corrupt subprime mortgage agents on steroids!” Professor Elizabeth Johnson notes that, “the city of Jericho was a ‘big city’ – Herod had a grand palace there – and (the city) was therefore a major center of taxation…Zacchaeus’ prosperity was to be expected.” I share this information about the great wealth of this worldly-wise businessman for it needs to be contrasted with the “extravagance of divine love,” as Marjorie Procter-Smith, professor of Christian Worship, calls the gift bestowed upon Zacchaeus, and you and me as well. As Professor Smith so compassionately explains, “Jesus invites Himself in. Zacchaeus is, at least initially, apparently motivated by curiosity, but Jesus is motivated by love. Jesus meets Zacchaeus’ curiosity with invitation and ultimately with the declaration of salvation to his house. Importantly, Jesus’ desire for Zacchaeus’ salvation flies in the face of the normal expectations of the crowd. They grumble that Jesus is the guest of a notorious sinner like Zacchaeus…Jesus’ action, however, is consistent…Jesus time and time again acts against social expectations and religious decorum…In seeking out Zacchaeus, Jesus demonstrates the extravagant desire of God for the salvation of the lost, that is, for our salvation.” In the words of John Keble, “The salvation of one soul is worth more than the framing of a Magna Charta of a thousand worlds.”
Several months ago, I came upon an old, used book filled with the sermons of one of England’s eloquent pastors, Frederick W. Robertson. One particular sermon dated October 21, 1849 and entitled “Triumph Over Hindrances, was about Jesus’ friend, the tax-collector Zacchaeus. Pastor Robertson, at the end of his sermon, asks this very direct question: “What was the power of Jesus’ sympathy on Zacchaeus’ character?” And then he continues with a few more pointed questions to his listeners:
“Salvation that day came to Zacchaeus’ house. What brought it? What touched him? Of course, ‘the gospel.’ Yes; but what is the gospel? What was his gospel? Speculations or revelations concerning the Divine Nature? The atonement? The incarnation? Baptismal regeneration? Nay, but the Divine Sympathy of the Divinest Man. The personal love of God, manifested in the face of Jesus Christ. The floodgates of (Zacchaeus’) soul were opened, and the whole force that was in the man flowed forth.”
As I read these words it got me to thinking about my own life and the witness I bear to others of my heavenly Father’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ. As Pastor Robertson instructed his own congregation over 150 years ago, he stated, “Learn this! It was the manifested fellowship with the Son of Man, which brought salvation to Zacchaeus’ house. When we live the gospel so, and preach the gospel so, sinners will be brought to God. We know not yet the gospel power: for who trusts, as Jesus did? Who ventures, as He did, upon the power of Love, in sanguine hopefulness of the most irreclaimable. More than by eloquence…more than by doctrine trusted to the most earnest and holy men (and women), shall we, sinful rebels, outcasts, be won to Christ, (but) by that central truth of all the gospel – the entireness of the Redeemer’s sympathy – In other words, the Love of Jesus.”
It may be that each of us has someone like Zacchaeus in our lives, who from all outward appearances appears to be living a life that scoffs at the call of Jesus. But just what if you and I follow Jesus’ example and go out of our way to reach out to that one whom others think isn’t worth the time or energy. This is what Jesus did. He placed His feet toward Jericho. He kept His eyes on the wee man as he scurried up the trunk of a tree. And then, with a face filled with heavenly love and a tender voice of gracious kindness, He called out, “Zacchaeus, you and I have an appointment today. I’m coming to your home. I claim you as mine.” And without hesitation, the rich tax-man followed Jesus by giving more than he had to – because when salvation came into Zacchaeus’ life, he knew he must give all, for this is what Jesus had given him – His all!
“The story of Zacchaeus tells us something about looking for Jesus, even as He is looking for each one of us. It is comforting to remember the last words Jesus says in this story, ‘For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost’ (Luke 19: 10, N.R.S.V.). Our salvation is not contingent on our efforts – thanks be to God! This reassurance does not mean that we may remain totally passive, going about life without a thought how we can take a step toward Jesus as He walks miles to find us time and again.”
Laura S. Sugg
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness;’ has shone in our hearts so as to beam forth, the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.”
II Corinthians 4: 6
Son of Man – A World’s Salvation
“Jesus through the gates was passing,
In the flush of evening calm
Of the oft-rebuilded city
With its groves of fragrant balm;
When Zacchaeus, small of stature,
Who had never once before
Met the far-famed Jewish Prophet
Climbs a wayside sycamore;
There to see this only Teacher
Who refused to share the hate
For the class which all the nation
Never failed to execrate.
In life’s retrospect, that moment,
Phantom visions seem to rise,
Grasping dealings, mean extortions,
Haunting shapes of avarice.
Would the Lord one look of favour
Cast? His sordid deeds condone?
Or, still leave him to be reaper
Of the seed which he had sown?
Christ decries him through the branches,
Calls him from the leafy height;
Soon the publican descending
Owns the Saviour’s love and might.
“Son of Man!” the Master tells him,
Came lost sinners to redeem.
“Son of Man!” a nature human,
What that name to him must seem!
“Son of Man,” not “Son of Nation”
Bound by narrow sect or space.
“Son of Man!” a world’s salvation,
Friend and Brother of the race!
Then Zacchaeus, all time coming,
Mourning past dishonest gains,
Of his heart makes full surrender,
And the life that still remains.
Doomed no longer in his blindness
Through the deepening shades to grope,
Conquered by redeeming kindness,
‘Achor is a door of hope!’
Let all those who, conscience-wounded,
Gospel peace have failed to know;
Heart and hope take from this latest
‘Memory of old Jericho.’”
The Story of Jesus in Verse
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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