Focus: Moving toward Jesus
1 Peter 3:12 (NKJV) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
In the book of Luke, chapter 19, Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho, a center of power and prosperity. A man by the name of Zacchaeus lived there. Zacchaeus was a supervisor in tax collection for the Roman government in city of Jericho. Zacchaeus was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, Zacchaeus knew he wouldn’t be able get close to Jesus, or even see Him because of all the people. So Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore-fig tree so he would be able to see Jesus when he passed beneath the branches. When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus was, He looked up into the tree and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus climbed down and gladly welcomed Jesus to his home. All the people who were around Jesus saw this and began to grumble among themselves, “He is going 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 to save the lost.”
In this story, we see Zacchaeus, a man who was of small stature and rich–but unpopular because of his position and influence. During these times, the Roman government demanded heavy taxation on commerce in Jericho and Zacchaeus was the guy who was the overseer of this money collection. Zacchaeus must have been doing this work for a number of years to have become wealthy. He must have cooperated with the Romans to get his job. The Roman government was very oppressive—and for that reason, Zacchaeus was unliked by the citizens of Jericho.
Zacchaeus must have been getting tired of what he was doing. He had learned that even though he had accumulated a lot of material wealth—he didn’t have any friends. Most likely, he was lonely and lived an isolated life. All that he had was beginning to seem meaningless. Zacchaeus was experiencing a desire for change in his life. In fact, the name Zacchaeus means pure in heart.
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It could be that Zacchaeus’ life hadn’t turned out the way he thought it would. Maybe he never meant for things to become what they had. Possibly one thing led to another and before Zacchaeus knew it, he was ‘trapped’ in a life of treachery and deceit—doing things for his own gain at other’s expense. It might have been hard for him to sleep at night, knowing that his life of luxury was made possible because of the unfair financial burden he was able to impose on people who were at his mercy in the marketplace. It is further possible Zacchaeus had been hearing about the miracles Jesus was performing. When Zacchaeus learned that Jesus was coming to his city, he wanted to ‘have a look at him’.
The tree Zacchaeus climbed produced a fruit that was fed to pigs. It was considered an ‘unclean’ tree by the Jews. Zacchaeus was so eager to see Jesus that he was willing to climb that tree. He abandoned his pride in order to get where he could be as close as possible to Jesus.
In Bible commentaries, it is pointed out that Jesus knows Zacchaeus’ name without a formal introduction. He doesn’t just look up in the tree and say, “Hey you, come down here”. He knows Zacchaeus, and He calls Zacchaeus by his name. He not only tells Zacchaeus to come down, but publicly announces that it is His choice to spend personal time with Zacchaeus at his home. Jesus reveals to everyone present that because of Zacchaeus’ faith, He is forgiving him of his sins and has chosen to save him. Because of these events, Zacchaeus is so overcome with emotion that he repents of wrongdoing and commits to make restitution for his past.
This story is a classic example of the fact that no matter how far in sin you may have been in the past, Jesus wants to have an encounter with you that leads to a close, personal relationship. He doesn’t want you to be in a place of hiding. He wants to bring everything into the open and set you free.
Declaration: I will find new strength by continuing to move toward Jesus by living a life of honesty and openness.
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All NEW STRENGTH posts are Copyright by Christina Cook Lee 2012. Please request permission to re-post or re-blog.