Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If You're Lost...Climb a Tree (part 2)

We saw in yesterday’s blog that Luke 19:1-10 introduces us to a man named Zaccheus who was a tax collector and who was short. But there is one other thing about Zaccheus that really sticks out clearly. He wanted to see Jesus. He had obviously heard much about Jesus and was curious about what this guy was all about. Could Jesus possibly change Zaccheus’ life? Zaccheus had to get a closer look.

As Jesus entered the city of Jericho, Zaccheus ran into a major roadblock. Because of his small stature he was unable to get a look at Jesus over top of the towering crowds. As a result, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to get a look. This was not like Sycamore trees seen in North America today. Sycamore trees in that climate would grow 30-40 feet high and had wide lateral branches making it easy for climbing. What is important to note is that both the action of running and that of climbing a tree would have been highly undignified for a man of his means. Men didn’t run in that day in public because they wore long outer robes and to do so they had to hike up the robe, revealing their legs. This was highly undignified. In fact, the only thing more undignified for a man to do in that day may have been to climb a tree. But that is exactly what Zaccheus did. He could care less what other people thought. He had to get a better look at Jesus so he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree.

This led to quite the divine appointment. Jesus stops at that very tree to talk with Zaccheus and says tat He “must” stay at his house. The word “must” conveys a strong sense of urgency. This, by the way, is the only time Jesus invites Himself to someone’s house. Zaccheus responds by welcoming Jesus gladly. The word literally means “rejoicing.” Luke uses this word nine times to denote an attitude of joy accompanying faith and salvation. It is obvious that Zaccheus is seeing exactly who Jesus is.

This divine appointment led to a divine alteration. Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus resulted in a change in his life as he realizes his sinfulness and makes two commitments. He commits to give half of his possessions to the poor and he commits to make restitution at four times what he had taken. This was far more than even what the Old Testament Law demanded for restitution (Leviticus 5:16; Numbers 5:7). Jesus testifies to the genuineness of this change of heart by saying that salvation had come to Zaccheus’ home. This is not meaning that his acts of restitution saved him but that these actions were outward evidences of internal faith. Jesus now calls Zaccheus a true son of Abraham…he is a son of Abraham by faith. Paul used this term in Galatians 3:29.

Last Sunday on Easter I challenged the hundreds of visitors to Grace Church to do what Zaccheus did. I challenged them to climb a tree and get a better look at Jesus. The tree I pointed out to them was that of giving God one more Sunday. Make the tree you climb giving God two Sundays in a row. Ask God to use that in your life to help you see Jesus more clearly. Don’t worry about what people may think of you. Climb a tree. Come back to Grace next Sunday as well.

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