I love how we get to follow up yesterday’s blog with another that explores a similar concept. I don’t want to spoil it before we see the verse, so let’s just get to the verse and then I’ll explain more.
Luke 19:1-4 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
As we read yesterday, Jesus arrived in Jericho and found a blind man who was willing to do whatever it took to get Jesus’ attention. And now that Jesus is entering into Jericho, we find another man who isn’t going to let anything stand in his way. He’s determined to get a glimpse of Jesus, no matter what he has to do to make it happen.
One thing to remember is just how high of a station tax collectors held in these days. These guys were hated bureaucrats, most of them were crooked and unfair, but this was a higher level position that commanded authority. And Zacchaeus wasn’t just a regular tax collector, he was the chief regional tax collector, a position that carried with it a certain level of reputation and had made him a very rich man. He held a high station in life.
But then Jesus comes to town, and something comes over my man Zacchaeus. His dignity goes out the window. In this moment, he could care less about his station in life. Your station in life means nothing when Jesus is involved. The things that normally matter no longer matter and it all comes down getting that glimpse of God by whatever means necessary.
Think about how impulsive of a decision it was for Zacchaeus to climb the tree. He was almost certainly the richest guy around and everyone there almost certainly knew who he was. He probably could’ve commanded people to get out of his way. He could’ve tossed a few coins to the nearby people and had them hoist him up on their shoulders. He could’ve done a lot of things, but rational thought was not operating here. The draw of Jesus had Zacchaeus so strongly that he just goes scrambling up a tree. It’s an impulsive decision made by a man who almost certainly lived his life in a very measured manner. It was possibly the first impulsive decision he’d made in a long time. But, just like a child, up the tree he went, because Jesus was passing by and nothing else matters but finding a way to see and connect with Jesus.
Where would our churches and our nations be if we all operated with the same desperate, unrestrained desire to see Jesus that coursed through Zacchaeus in this moment? Willing to sacrifice what others thought of us, willing to stand in open rebellion to the social standards placed on us by the popular culture, willing to do whatever it took to remove all obstacles that stand between us and our loving savior. Nothing matters more than that clear, unobstructed path to Jesus, and we should be willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
You know, one final thing to take away from this moment in the life of Jesus is the placement of the tree that Zacchaeus climbed. Look at that last verse.
Luke 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
It’s not just about where Jesus is now, it’s about where is he going to be next. I’m really into this because the first four times I read these verses I didn’t catch the fact that Zacchaeus ran ahead to get to the tree. He quickly charted out the route that Jesus was taking and ran ahead so he’d have time to get up in the tree and be ready. What does that look like for us today? Jesus may not be walking down the streets of our cities but his spirit is most certainly moving through our world still. Where is it going?
This question puts a visual in my mind that I want to share. In it, I’m standing at a fork in a path in the middle of the forest. There’s a direction that looks appealing to my eyes and one that does not look very nice at all. But the importance isn’t on what I want, it’s about going down the path where Jesus will be traveling. What relationship/friendship is Jesus going to be the focus of and bless and be magnified in? That’s the relationship/friendship I want to choose. I know I’m taking a physical moment in the Bible and assigning a spiritual meaning to it, but I believe this is a very relevant meaning. Our eyes and our culture and our personal desires are often in conflict with our spirit and the will of God. I want to go to the air-conditioned place, but I sense the spirit of God moving in the desert. I want to go to the popular place, but I can see a move of the Lord about to happen in the unpopular place.
It’s shockingly easy to know when you are on the pathway of the Lord and when you aren’t. When you are, you will be challenged and tested, but through it all you’ll have a peace deep within you and you’ll see the fruits of the spirit alive in your life (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). The presence of Jesus is what brings these gifts into bloom, and if you don’t sense them growing inside of you then pray about where they are blooming and get yourself there. They bloom in his presence and in his word. They bloom at home in the quiet study times and on the move as you follow God’s lead through your life. Find a spot in a tree and prepare yourself for the goodness that comes from being in step with our Lord.
I love all of you. I hope the week is treating you well so far!
If you need prayer or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org