1He entered and was passing through Jericho. 2There was a man named Zaccheus, a supervisor of tax collectors, and he was rich. 3He tried to see who Jesus was, but he couldn’t since he was too short to see over the crowd. 4He ran ahead and climbed into a sycamore so he could see when Jesus passed by. 5And as Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus! Hurry down! Because I must stay at your house today.” 6Zaccheus hurried down and received Jesus joyfully. 7But the crowd was indignant. They said, “He’s going to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” 8But Zaccheus stood and said to the Lord, “Look! Half of what I own, sir, I’m giving to the poor, and if I have improperly charged anyone I will give it back to him four-fold. 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a child of Abraham. 10For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Luke 19:1-10
Zaccheus is one of those Bible stories you can use to teach quite a number of different lessons. Out of the whole crowd in Jericho, who is it that gets special attention from Jesus? Who catches the attention of those who later remember Jesus and tell his story? There are lessons there for our service to God in church and home.
One reason I like Zaccheus is that he doesn’t manage himself very well in crowds. When Jody and I are walking together in a relatively clear area, I have to pay attention to my pace, because I’ll leave her behind or rush her. I have two speeds for walkingâ€”stopped or full speed ahead. But when we come to a crowd, our situations are reversed. She flows through crowds. She knows which way people will move and can dodge between them and get to where she is going. In crowds I’m the one left behind. It seems to me that wherever I turn there’s another body in my way.
In church, we have the front row people and the back row people. Do you run into church and head straight for one of the front rows? What about a class or conference room. The stereotype is that the ones up front are interested, prepared, and eager to please. Personally, I’m more of a middle range person. I like to be fairly inconspicuous in a crowd.
Spiritual seekers also seem to fall into categories. There are those who show up at every event at their home church. Prayer meetingâ€”they are there. Sunday Schoolâ€”you can count on them. Worship services? 52 weeks per year. Others seek all over the place. If there is a revival at a neighboring church, they are there to visit. Special speaker? Off they go. A chance for someone new to pray for them? They’re on their way.
I’m not concerned today with the best way to find God. I just want us to notice how different we each are in the way we go about these things. I don’t think the particular way we search is important. Sometimes I like to think about how a story might have gone. What if Zaccheus had been blocked by more people and had not made it to the tree in time? What if he climbed up and then a limb broke? Silly ideas, perhaps, but they interest me.
I think the ending of this story would have been the same in all those cases. Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and Zaccheus was lost and ready to be found. I think Jesus would have found him if he’d fallen and been trampled by the crowd.
One of the joys of seeking God is that we know he’s seeking us. Sometimes we forget this, and we become stressed over friends who have not found God. But God is seeking them too, and he knows even better than you do how to get there. Like Zaccheus, whether you’re seeking for yourself or someone else, don’t give up. But trust God, the great Seeker, to make sure you find him.