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Up a Tree

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. Luke 19:5 NIV

Reading the gospels, we find familiar stories between Mark, Matthew, and Luke, though told somewhat differently. But some stories are unique to each; thanks to the author of Luke, we have the well-loved story of Zacchaeus. You may recall having heard the tale told as a child using flannel board pictures followed by coloring pictures of the height-challenged Zacchaeus in a tree. 

What we likely remember from those lessons is the length at which Zacchaeus went to see Jesus (19:1-5), and it's a good message, but the power of the story is really in Jesus' actions. Upon reaching the sycamore tree, Jesus looked up and invited himself to Zacchaeus' home. 

The people grumbled about this: why would Jesus want to dine with a tax collector? Earlier in Luke 15:1-2, the religious leaders place tax collectors in a separate category of sinners. In gathering what was owed to Rome, the tax collectors would attach an unregulated "handling fee" for their services. They made their leaving off the backs of oppressed and already overtaxed people. Yet, here was Jesus desiring to stay at his house.

The thing the people had yet to realize was that Jesus came to offer salvation to all sinners. In Luke 5:27-32, in the story of the calling of another tax collector, Levi, in response to the Pharisees and scribes asking why Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners, "Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"

Thanks to Jesus, he continues to look up in the trees today, calling all who are sick to repentance. He doesn't care what kind of sinner we are but wants us to humble ourselves, descend from our trees, and invite him into our houses. Not simply as a guest but as a permanent resident.

Having accepted his invitation, we must open ourselves to transformation like Zacchaeus. Here was Zacchaeus' reaction to accepting Jesus, "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" (19:8). How will we allow ourselves to be changed? Will we return to our tax collecting or submit to the radical conversion Christ has planned for us?

Lord, we pray that you help us to be like Zacchaeus, who was willing to repent and turn away from his sins. Help us to be humble and to seek You with all our hearts. We pray that You will come into our lives and transform us so that we can live a life that is pleasing to You. Thank You for Your love and grace and the gift of salvation that You have given us. In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.


Pastor Tim

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