Saint Zacchaeus Lives Next Door

This Sunday we talked about Zacchaeus who was curious about Jesus. Who knows why? Maybe he wanted to see a miracle. Maybe he wanted to hear a great speech. Maybe Zacchaeus felt empty inside, was tired of life and just hoped there was more to it. Ironically, while Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus, Jesus looked for him, saw him and went to his home. It blew Zacchaeus’ mind that a holy man would come to his house! That is Jesus though. That is God, who loves the lost, forgives sinners, and restores the broken. We were once Zacchaeus until Jesus found us and came to our home!

Assignment: Look for Zacchaeus in your life! Look for the person who seems absolutely farthest from God’s love. Look for that person who seems absolutely farthest from Christianity. Pray for them. Listen to them. Do not be surprised if they too, are actually curious about Jesus. How surprised they might be when they hear Jesus loves them too!

They pretend not to be, but most human beings are curious about Jesus, what with all the miracles and legendary stories. They might not climb a sycamore tree to see Him, but they are peering in from the outside wondering what all the fuss is about. Even if their perception of Jesus is limited to some Christian’s poor caricature of Him as either a teacher of morality or a long-haired hippie, they would rush to the parade if someone said Jesus was in it.

Do not pretend Zacchaeus had some sort of virtue about him to climb a tree. He was just curious. That is all we know. Like Herod Junior who demanded Jesus do a little cabaret, or (and it is a big “or”) Zacchaeus, he was tired of life. He would not let anyone know it, but maybe (and it is a big “maybe”) he put on a huge show around town while feeling insecure inside. He was short after all. His dad may have put him down one too many times, resulting in Zacchaeus happily leaving the ‘community’ of saints at the synagogue and gladly working for the Empire. At some point he figured he was passed the point of turning back.

He planned on remaining an outsider to the whole thing. Just a glimpse and then, like the Grinch, he would sneak back to his self-made fiefdom. But before he saw Jesus, Jesus saw him! And instead of yelling at him or flipping him off as a traitor to the children of Abraham, Jesus told him He was coming to his house to eat!

Of all the people Jesus could have stayed with, he went to the Abortionist’s house! Almost as if Jesus had no clue he was any worse than the rest of the who’s-who of Jericho! Or did Jesus plan on this all along? Who is the least likely person to ever be His disciple? There is the person He will hang-out with!

Jesus did not ask any questions. He did not vet Zacchaeus or ask him to give his life to Christ. He did not dress Zacchaeus down and make him repent. He just went to His house like they were family. Turns out they probably had some connections way down the family tree, if you read their ancestry.

Zacchaeus did not get away with being an outsider. Jesus included him. He treated him just like any other son or daughter of Abraham who had lost their way. And for the first time ever, Zacchaeus felt safe to confess his sins, to admit he was wrong.

Salvation has come to this house! Not through any act on Zacchaeus’ part. It just crashed right through his door, ate at his table, and slept in his bed… like a tornado. And Zacchaeus was left a disciple! He was nothing less than a saint now.

No one knows if Zacchaeus followed through on his pledge. We are not told because it does not matter! He probably forgot it from time-to-time like every saint. And in his sorrow, he surely remembered Jesus, but not just the Jesus who visited him one day. But the same Jesus who days later went and not only ate with sinners but hung next to them, as them, on the cross! What wondrous love is this?

We have Zacchaeus’s in our midst today. Oh, do not think there is anyone too far gone. And do not think people are not curious about this Jesus. There is a darkness and an emptiness in everyone’s life, just like the sun and moon which come and go around us all. And there are a lot of people with Napoleonic syndrome, making up for insecurities, pretending everything is fine, overachieving, building empires of sand, secretly knowing it will all come down, secretly hoping that, maybe, just maybe, death is not the end and the past is not a prison.

So, do not march on by. Look for them. Do not leave them in their trees. Do not wait for them to come to you. Go to them, listen to them, treat them as someone Jesus died for. And do not be surprised if they are surprised to find out God is for them – like Zacchaeus.

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