Jesus is the revealer and the renewer of life. How does He bring about this renewal? Jesus meeting a person or having an interaction with a person often led to a radically changed trajectory of their life path. If we look at the encounters of Jesus in the new testament there are either some physical, emotional, social or soul changes.
An encounter with Jesus should reflect a change in one’s life and it is not a one and done thing, we all know that it results in a life process of continuous renewal, refining and growth.
One such encounter we read in Luke 19: 1-10
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
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 save the lost.”
What can we learn from this encounter?
- Become a seeker
Zacchaeus is described as short man; he was a tax collector and was loathed by the people because of what he did. He was despised by his own people. I am sure Zacchaeus felt like an outsider and also felt like he did not belong. I am sure we have felt like we don’t belong at some point or the other. Zacchaeus refuses to be lost in the crowd. Instead he runs ahead and climbs a tree in his quest to see Jesus. He did not let what others thought of him or the anticipation of their behaviour towards him stop him from stepping out to get a glimpse of Jesus. May we not let anything come in our way of pursuing Jesus.
2. Spiritual Curiosity:
This encounter that changed the eternal destiny for him and his household began with an intention in Zacchaeus. There was a need within him but there was also a want from Zacchaeus. There is a need in all of us for Jesus, but a want from us propels us to take the next step, which is defined action.
3. Defined action
Neither his height nor the people around were in his favour but that did not stop him. What did Zacchaeus do? He runs ahead and climbs a tree to get a look. There is defined action in his life to see Jesus. Seeking Jesus is about clear intention followed by defined action.
For us: what are we doing to make sure the intention we have in us to know Jesus or grow in our knowledge of Him becomes a reality. Are we following up that intention with defined action? Are we intentionally spending more time with God in prayer and studying His word? If fellowship and church add value to our faith Journey, are we being intentional about ensuring we are consistently a part of it.
4. Our worth
In our culture we often assign value to a person based on their appearance, what they do or their monetary worth. That is exactly what was done to him by others. But we read that when Jesus sees him, he calls him by name, not ‘shorty’ or you- tax collector. Jesus made eye contact and spoke to him directly using his name. Jesus knows each one of us, has time for each one of those who earnestly seek Him and reminds us that our worth is not based on outward or earthly measures and not on what others think of us. Our worth comes from Jesus, who gave His life for us by dying on the cross, that is how valuable we are to Him.
5. Immediate response
Jesus tells Zacchaeus to come down immediately and says that “He must stay in his house”. There is an immediate response to Jesus’s call. In verse 6 we read that he came down at once How often do we tend to put off what God is nudging us to do. Do we come up with some excuses and put it off for later? Is Jesus calling you into a deeper relationship with Him, are we putting it off because we are caught up in busyness with work, family etc. And along with an immediate response we read that he welcomes Jesus gladly.
6. Welcome gladly
Well we would think that we would welcome Jesus gladly too. But let’s think for a moment – Yes, if we see Jesus right in front of us, we would, but Jesus allows situations and people in our life for a reason and do we welcome all things and all people in our life the same way or are there different degrees of gladness. A lot of the times we think- how much is this going to benefit or help me? Being prayerfully aware of His will and guidance helps us discern and respond to situations and people in a manner that would be pleasing to him and bring Him glory.
7. Fickle crowd
At the end of the previous chapter (18) we read that Jesus heals a blind man. In verse 43 of chapter 18 we see “When all the people saw it, they praised God. “This same crowd protested and began to mutter that “Jesus was going to the house of a sinner” – when Jesus goes with Zacchaeus. A reminder that if we give importance to others opinions, they will at one moment be on our side and the next grumble about us. They did that to Jesus in whom no fault can be found. How much more are the chances we face something similar, where fault would not be too hard to find. Let us remember that the one whose opinion truly matter is that of our saviour Jesus.
8. Behavioural renewal
At the end of the previous chapter (18) we read that Jesus heals a blind man. In verse 43 of chapter 18 we see “When all the people saw it, they praised God. “This same crowd protested and began to mutter that “Jesus was going to the house of a sinner” – when Jesus goes with Zacchaeus. A reminder that if we give importance to others opinions, they will at one moment be on our side and the next grumble about us. They did that to Jesus,who did not have any fault in Him. How much more can it happen to us when fault would be not be too hard to find. We should always remind ourselves that the one whose opinion truly matter is that of our saviour Jesus.
In verse 8 Zacchaeus calls Jesus ‘Lord’. He realises that Jesus is more than just a rabbi. We continue to read the behavioural change we see in Zacchaeus. He realises that his life must change and that is reflected in what he promises to do in verse 8. Everyone around knew that Jesus went with Zacchaeus. He spent time talking with Jesus, listening and learning from Him. To see a change in Zacchaeus will be a huge testimony of the effect of God’s saving grace in Zacchaeus life.
The effect of grace in one’s life is felt within us but our actions and behaviour are what others see and that is the testimony that they read. How many times do we see people who call themselves Christian but do not reflect Christ in their behaviour or actions? Do we reflect Christ? What we believe in, affects our values, our attitudes and infiltrates into our behaviour. The outward change in us starts for us from within -our belief. But what those around us first see is the behaviour and attitudes and when we get the chance, we get an opportunity to share the reason for those behaviours and attitudes -our faith in Jesus.
Notice that Zacchaeus did not stop being a tax collector after his encounter with Jesus. You do not have to be a vocational minister to follow Jesus with your whole heart. The kingdom of God needs each one of us to shine the light of the gospel wherever He has placed us.
Be a seeker, follow that intention with defined action, respond to God’s call and nudging immediately and without grumbling and most of all may the presence and work of the spirit in us be obvious for others to see and know that it is the saving work of Christ.