Thursday, January 10, 2019

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name! “Zacchaeus!” he said. ‘Quick! Come down! For I am going to be a guest in your home today!’” Luke 19:5

When we were working with the church in Paris, France back in the early sixties, we had been to Brussels and were on our way home.  We knew a military couple stationed between those two points, so we dropped in for an unannounced visit.  They shared a meal with us, probably due to our unexpected visit rather than it being an invitation.  Different cultures have different ways of showing hospitality.  Luke 19:5 shows a first century Jew who woke up without “hospitality” on his mind.

Does a small statured man take a job that alienates him from his countrymen, but makes him rich, so he can show his peers that he is better than them?  Would such an individual bring attention to his condition by climbing a tree?  Wouldn’t that be humiliating to do that just to see someone who probably would not give him the time of day?  Yet, curiosity drove him up that tree!

Was Zacchaeus expecting Jesus to look up and notice him?  Hardly.  Did he believe his lofty perch would motivate Jesus to speak to him in a positive way?  Why should it?  Would someone make fun of him when he descended from his lofty lookout?  Probably.  Would his wealth and job position impress this traveling evangelist?  Should it?  Would his lofty position impress Jesus and produce respect in those beneath him?  Respect for a tax collector?  Never.

Notice, Zacchaeus did not invite Jesus to be his house guest.  Why would he?  He was not expecting a guest.  He didn’t expect Jesus to desire to be his guest.  He was just curious and wanted to see the man as someone today would look at a new model car but not wish to buy.  This curiosity made this “shorty,” who probably had been ribbed by friends and ridiculed by his foes, climb that well located tree.  Although the text doesn’t say it, he may have heard both negative and positive reports on this teacher.  He was a spectator much like children seeing their first circus parade coming down the street.

Can you imagine his shock when Jesus looked up and made eye contact with him?  Being short of stature, did Zacchaeus expect a snide remark from this Galilean preacher?  Why not?  He had heard such from so many others.  When Jesus spoke his name, did this wealthy tax collector almost lose his grip and fall from the limb that was supporting him?  Imagine the shock?  This traveling speaker did not mouth his name in contempt, but with respect.  Although this preacher was giving him a command, it was NOT a loathing one, but one connected to an unexpected statement.  “I’m going to be a guest in your home today.”  Wow!  Did Zacchaeus use his little finger to clear his ears to make sure he heard correctly?  How long did it take him to climb that tree and find a proper branch as a seat?  Was his descent any faster than his climb?  Did awe cause him to stumble as he approached Jesus?  What thoughts rushed through his mind during those moments?

As one reads these ten verses the implications of “hospitality” may slip by unnoticed.  When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home, he was also inviting his traveling companions.  That would be the twelve (Luke 18:31).  What some do not realize is that numerous women also followed Jesus and the apostles (Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3; 23:55-56).  If they were following at that time, they too would have been invited to be guests.  When Zacchaeus’ feet touched solid ground, inspiration tells us that he “welcomed” Jesus “gladly” (19:6).  This means he gladly welcomed Jesus’ entourage!

Sometimes the actions of our decisions collect the wrong responses.  When Jesus and company announced they were going to accept a tax collectors’ hospitality, the crowd’s response changed.  Even criticism can bath the righteous.  The crowd knew God loved them but thought He could not like Zacchaeus, much less love him.  Why would an itinerant preacher and his disciples want to eat with a “SINNER”?  Jesus with his command to Zacchaeus exposed the crowd’s pseudo righteousness.  They were offended by that revelation!  Before arriving at that Sycamore tree, had anyone in the crowd opened their doors to Jesus and his companions?  None.  The pre-offer had not been vocalized so Jesus invited himself and students to the tax collector’s table.  His announcement was hard for the crowd to swallow.  They thought that no self-respecting Rabbi would entertain such thoughts.  Can’t you hear their pious objections?  If you had been in that crowd, would Jesus’ command to that tax collector have disappointed you and changed your attitude toward him?

While the crowd was “grumbling,” Zacchaeus was making restitution (v.7, 8).  Zacchaeus fed Jesus and the apostles with a table full of food, but Jesus rewarded him with, “salvation” for his soul (V.9).  A short man grew up that day.  His day began with curiosity and ended with an eternal gift.   He went to view a man but fellowshipped with the Son of God.  If Zacchaeus grumbled because the crowd blocked his view, and made it necessary to climb that tree, surely the next day he thanked God for those obstacles that led him to the Savior.

Sometimes things viewed as obstacles, burdens, aggravations, or persecution can be used by God to bless you and me.  They did for a wee little man who lived in Jericho and climbed a Sycamore tree!