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Jesus’ Secret

Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he/ He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see/ The Lord said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today.”

I’m sure your head is now swimming with memories of star charts and flannel graph stories. If your childhood was anything like mine, this song was a staple part of your Sunday mornings. You sang all those fun songs—complete with hand motions—heard a Bible story, colored a picture, and before you knew it, Mom and Dad were there to pick you up.

The story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus is such a simple one; I’ve heard it—and sung it—a million times. Yet lately, I can’t get it off my mind. There is something very remarkable about this meeting.

The story goes something like this: Jesus is walking through town, surrounded by a huge crowd of people hanging on his every word. Meanwhile Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector for that region and a very short man, hears about this and wants to go check things out. He can’t see anything because of his height, so he climbs up a tree to get a better view. Jesus walks by, sees him and invites himself over to his house. Zacchaeus climbs down and immediately repents of his sin and promises to pay back everything he ever stole or cheated from people. It’s all in Luke 19 if you want the real story.

What strikes me about this story is how little is said between these two, and yet how great the change is that happens in Zacchaeus as a result. Notice, first of all, that it is Zacchaeus who seeks out Jesus. Even though Jesus said He came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), it seems like a lot of society’s outcasts came seeking after Him. What was it about Jesus that drew people to Him? Why was it that some of the lowliest of sinners ran to Him, while some of the most religious kept their distance?

When Jesus sees Zacchaeus in the tree, He says all of 13 words to him: "Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your house today." Jesus invites Himself over for dinner, and as usual, this ticks everyone off because everyone hates Zacchaeus. He has been robbing and cheating them for years, and Jesus wants to go to his house! It seems like Jesus was always going to "bad" people’s houses. Either they invited him over, or in this case Jesus invited Himself over. Come to think of it, aside from a few of His good friends, He hardly ever went to good, religious people’s houses. And when He was at these people’s houses, a woman of ill repute usually showed up to anoint Jesus’ head or wash his feet. I wonder why that was.

Those 13 little words—which could be seen as rather presumptuous—rock the world of this outcast tax collector. Jesus didn’t even get a chance to tell him to repent. No “brood of vipers,” “white-washed sepulchers” or even a “for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Just, "I’m coming over," and right then and there, before even having the dinner Jesus invited himself to, Zacchaeus is a brand new man. He repents of his sin and promises to make full restitution to anyone he had cheated. That’s a pretty big promise. He’s about to shell out thousands of dollars.

Zacchaeus, the wee little man, is now a new man. The one-time lying, cheating, tax-collecting low life is changed. This, after Jesus simply inviting Himself over. Pretty dang incredible if you ask me. But it leaves me asking, how did Jesus do it? Sure He’s God and all, but what was it that sent Zacchaeus up a tree just to catch a glimpse of Him? Then, after a simple, "Get down here, I’m coming over tonight," he experiences a complete 180 degree turn-around. What was the secret?

What seems even more astounding is that all throughout the New Testament, we are called to imitate Christ. We’re told that we are indwelt and empowered by the same Spirit that indwelt and empowered Christ. So, we too could just walk through town, attracting crowds like Jesus did. We too could invite ourselves over to someone’s house, and by that simple act, see a changed life.

So why don’t we? Maybe that was His secret, just getting out there where the people are, where the needs are. Maybe that’s the reason a simple imposition proved to be life altering for a vertically challenged tax collector. Maybe if they truly see Jesus in us, perhaps we will see the same response Jesus did.

See Also

RELATED LINKS:

HOW TO KNOW THE REAL JESUS, PART 1

HOW TO KNOW THE REAL JESUS, PART 2

WHAT WE FORGET ABOUT JESUS

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