“Cutting to the Chase” Meditations 22: People Potential
Lk 19:5“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
We’re checking out who we are and can become. Zacchaeus is almost certainly a rogue, not merely a despised tax collector for the Romans but a chief tax collector, which meant he oversaw a big area and probably took handouts from all the others. Not a candidate for the Gospel one might think, but Jesus sees past the outward bravado and sees the heart yearning and invites himself for a meal. The response of this crook is amazing: “So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” Acceptance of others opens doors for love to flow. My life has been transformed more by love and acceptance than by all the years of preaching I’ve heard. From one who loves the Bible, that’s an amazing testimony!
Now when we come across a story such as this one about Zacchaeus there can always be two possible outworkings of it. First, if this was God interacting with a human being – and it was – what does it say about how He wants to interact with us and, second, how might that shine light on the sort of people we are and how He wants us to interact with one another.
So, first of all how Jesus interacted with Zacchaeus, to which we’ve already given some initial thought. Put most simply Jesus accepted this rogue exactly as he was. He didn’t start by saying, “Zacchaeus, put your life right before God, stop being a cheat and thief, repent and change your life,” as perhaps the Pharisees would have liked to have said if they had the courage to confront this associate of the Romans. No, instead he simply invites himself to lunch. You don’t do that with someone to whom you feel hostile. The fact that he used Zacchaeus’s name suggests he already knew who he was. Perhaps it was a divine word of knowledge or perhaps as he had eaten with other tax collectors, the subject of Zacchaeus had come up and the Father had prompted him to watch out for Zacchaeus because He saw he was ready to respond. So, second, does this provide a pattern or example for us to follow? Well if my last comment is correct, are we open to be prompted by the Father via His Spirit, to watch out for people who are seeking and ready to respond.
This is what the Spirit-led life is all about (see Jn 5:17,19). We might also ask ourselves, are we open to the Zacchaeus’s of this world, those to whom the legalistic side of us would like to demand, “Repent!” but whom the Father would like us to befriend? Now these, I would suggest, are fundamental issues to do with our lives, about how Jesus wants us to live out our lives of faith, not demanding, ‘This is what you must do’, but ‘this is what you could be’.