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Tax collectors must have been really good dinner hosts or sponsors, choosing only the best cuisines and drinks for their guests. Jesus loved food (like I do) so a lot of his stories are on food. In fact, some people thought he was a glutton [Matthew 11.19]. Thus, he may have anticipated a swell dinner at Zacchaeus' place, so he invited himself to it. I would, too.
But Jesus saw in Zacchaeus something more.
I've always admired Zacchaeus for what he did just to see Jesus. It's a very rare scene seeing a rich man climb up a tree just to see someone passing by. A lot of times, we just read past things like this in the bible. We don't stop awhile and ponder---"Hey wait a sec. A rich guy climbing up a tree? Why?"
When meditating the Word, we have to see things clearly or "see them live" so to speak. Sometimes we treat Scripture like fairy tale. We like the happy-endings but don't really believe them. It's totally unusual for rich guys to climb trees. I doubt if Bill Gates, Robert Kiyosaki or Jack Ma would do it for someone, even the president of a powerful country, much less allow a poor-looking stranger like Jesus eat dinner in their homes, (or allow a stranger to invite himself to the same).
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Yes, Jesus was getting popular at the time, but he was a stranger to Zacchaeus nonetheless. Who was Jesus to invite himself to Zacchaeus' house? And who was he to Zacchaeus---the wealthy and influential guy---that he should climb up trees for him? I can't imagine the rich and famous today doing this for Jesus even if the Lord is now a famous world figure. It's even hard to imagine rich born-again Christians doing the same.
I mean, many today in church wouldn't even raise their voices in praise for Jesus or worship him expressively. In their religiosity, they wouldn't want to be seen in such "undignified" appearance as Michal scorned David's worship as unbecoming a king. Zacchaeus was willing to go all the way with Jesus (and I mean all the way!), wherever and whatever the cost. Many "believers" would prefer to keep their respectability intact (as if there was such a thing) than offer God their ego sacrificially.
And what better way to offer your ego as a "whole burnt offering" than to risk looking like a fool for Jesus. It says somewhere...
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
I'm not saying being wild and crazy during worship services is proof we're all-out for Jesus. But the principle here is, Zacchaeus was willing to throw off all pretensions and do whatever it took to satiate his desperation and dire need for Jesus. Are we? Or do we prefer to hide behind our imagined self-dignity? All we deserve is to be thrown like rotten trash in hell, burned there forever, if not for Jesus. So what dignity are we talking about? We're all stinking putrid. Can't we risk all for Jesus? Anyway, we have nothing but garbage. Zacchaeus understood all this. So he just climbed up the tree and didn't care one hoot.
There was a big crowd when Jesus was passing through Jericho. But why notice only Zacchaeus? Because he alone was willing to go through extremes with Jesus. The rest just wanted to gather around and watch a parade (pretty much like church today). The majority just wanted to remain acceptable and safe and dignified---safe from the censure or disapproval of man's religion. In Elisha's time, the rest of the company of the prophets remained at a distance while Elisha alone dared walk with Elijah and get the double portion.
Double (or triple) portions are received with concomitant faith risks, often involving image-wrecking commitments, like Jesus emptying himself and taking the form of a slave, John the baptizer dwelling in the desert and looking like a caveman, and Zacchaeus climbing up trees. If you prefer the safety of your respectable image you get what ordinary "blessed" people get---blessings. A lot of people are 'blessed" but few get the double portion.
In his delight, Jesus declared: “Today salvation has come to this house." As far as I know, aside from the apostles, only two persons got this assurance of salvation from Jesus---Zacchaeus and the thief crucified with Jesus. The rest, like Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman, didn't get that statement from him. A lot were healed physically but were not assured that "today salvation has come" to their houses. Zacchaeus got it because he was willing to lose a lot as Jesus was.
There is this common wavelength God-desperate people share and which makes them easy to identify each other. One look and Jesus knew exactly where Zacchaeus was. And once Jesus detects that wavelength, it makes him stop. You can't stop God when he's determined to head to a direction, except when he discerns the wavelength in you. The same wavelength was in the woman with issue of blood for 12 years. Jesus felt it and stopped to see who it was.
Can your excitement for God stop Jesus?
Can your excitement for God stop Jesus?
With this wavelength, you'd stop Jesus even if he's scheduled somewhere, and he'd call you by name and stay at your place to dine with you. What people know as "blessings" cannot compare to this favor.
Salvation is FREE but it costs a lot (this is another reversal in the Kingdom). You cannot have Jesus without giving up some things dear to you. What some churches offer today is Jesus plus the world. You don't have to give up anything. You get the best from both worlds. All you have to do is find out what your purpose and potential is. No wonder people go after them.
Jesus goes all-out for folks like Zacchaeus---willing to lose a lot for him. We think Jesus is all-out for us because of our ministry achievements or trophies. Probably. But somewhere in Scripture he says that what servants accomplish in ministry are just what's expected of them. They should not expect reward.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” [Luke 17.7]
Zacchaeus didn't have any such accomplishments "for God" and yet Jesus went all-out to him. All he did was to wholeheartedly watch for Jesus as he passed by. As simple as that. Imagine the Lord stopping exactly where you are, calling you by name and telling you he "must" stay at your place today. In the Kingdom, it's more profitable to fondly watch Jesus and listen to him (like Mary did at Jesus' feet) than be busy trying to accomplish things for him (as Martha did).
Jesus does say somewhere that...
It will be good for those servants whose master finds them WATCHING (just eagerly watching as Zacchaeus did) when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. [Luke 12.37]Now, don't get me wrong, folks. I'm not downplaying ministry. We should all do God's work and do it seriously. But it is not by works that we please God. NEVER. It is by faith---and the simple act of throwing off all pretensions and risking everything just to get a good glimpse of Jesus is a giant step of faith. Let's not belittle this---because in this day and age of worshiping anything stressful and big and glamorous, simple faith like this is mocked and disparaged as worthless.
Faith and love are tons heavier than any big, remarkable, plausible and glitzy accomplishment for God. Zacchaeus was willing to pay four times what he owed people and give half of his wealth. That's love. It's lots better than saying you love people, the brethren or the church. Or that you're praying for them. Lots of rich church people are "prayerful" and sometimes "generous" but they wouldn't give anything without securing an ROI. Some even "donate" as long as they get some tax exemption. How can Jesus be impressed, stop awhile and call them by name?
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