Dramatic Change

August 29th, 2008 • Category: Gospel of Luke
by Robert Ferguson

Today’s scripture: Luke 19:1-10 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

Why do you think a man of Zaccheus’s wealth, stature, and power would be so eager to see our Lord?

Zaccheus was a very wealthy and powerful man, the chief tax collector in a town known as the tax capital. Zaccheus brings to my mind the image of Sam Stone, Danny Devito’s slimeball businessman character, in the movie Ruthless People. Marrying his wife, hilariously played by Bette Midler, only for her money, he devises a plot to kill her. Sam has already made a lot of money, but he wants more and he is willing to stoop to the lowest level to get it.

With both Sam and Zaccheus, we are reminded that it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. So what does a Zaccheus want with this Jesus who teaches sacrifice, humility, and treasures in Heaven?

Perhaps Zaccheus had come to that place in life where he realized that his wealth and grand lifestyle were not satisfying any longer. There was an itch in his heart that no amount of wealth could scratch. Perhaps Zaccheus had become burdened by the utter contempt that others in Jericho felt towards him.

Whatever the reason, we know that Zaccheus ran ahead and climbed the sycamore tree to have a private unique view of Jesus. When I was a child we use to climb trees. As an adult I can’t remember ever climbing a tree. It seems that unless we are threatened with imminent danger most of us never really see a tree as an opportunity to climb. Climbing a tree is an act of desperation. Zaccheus was desperate for Jesus!

And Jesus was desperate for Zaccheus. I love the fact that Jesus seeks out Zaccheus personally. He comes walking through the town, and one can easily imagine all the sick people — the lepers and outcasts — crowding the streets in hopes of being healed. In the midst of this scene Jesus says, “Zaccheus come down, you are having a guest for dinner!”

How would you react if Jesus called you by name?  Jesus, always walking with purpose and on a mission, had come that day to break bread with the most hated man in Jericho. What we are witness to here is Zaccheus seeking Jesus and Jesus seeking Zaccheus as part of Gods divine plan. This meeting was no accident, but one that was ordained before time. A camel was about to pass through the eye of a needle.

The tax collector rushes to Jesus and instantly knows that he must make a drastic change. Right there in the presence of God’s glory fulfilled he realizes that he has to confess and forsake his sin. I imagine a broken down and destroyed Sam Stone in Ruthless People. All of the extravagances his money could afford did not bring fulfillment to his life. Now at the end of the ordeal, he has a moment of clarity.

One of the most painful things we can do is to commit a wrong and then pretend it never happened or that it didn’t create any damage. Admitting wrong, asking for forgiveness, and making amends is like a spring shower that can open up possibilities of a fresh start, and a life dramatically changed.

Thought for the day: Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus takes our shame upon himself willingly, waiting, hoping that we will understand and repent. What grace! What mercy! Love changes people. Jesus’ love changes us. Our love for others can bring change to them.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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