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“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’”” (Luke 19:5-7, NIV)
I love the story of Zacchaeus. When I read it I see it in my mind’s eye: a 2-D flannel graph.
The only thing I don’t love about the story of Zacchaeus is that I can’t read it without getting the children’s song stuck in my head for the rest of the day (“Zacchaeus was a wee little man…”).
Some two thousand years ago Jesus entered Jericho and encountered this tax-collector. It happened around this time of year as the Lord was headed to Jerusalem…a week before Palm Sunday…two weeks before Easter.
I love this story for two reasons. First, as we know, Jesus was after the world (Jn. 3:16) and his own nation (Jn. 1:11). But you might not know that watching him. His wasn’t a national campaign. There were no book tours. There was no conference circuit. No viral blogs. No NYT best-sellers. Jesus went after the world one individual at a time…person by person by person.
And often it seems like Jesus was going after the wrong person. Zacchaeus was a tax-collector: a traitor in the eyes of his Jewish countrymen. In fact Jesus ignored the crowd of “good” people and stopped to talk to Zacchaeus. That says a lot about Jesus in my book.
The other reason I love this story is that it is accompanied by a celebration. It starts with the angels in heaven: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (Lk.15:7). But the heavenly celebration continues down here. There was a celebration at Zacchaeus’ house like there was at Matthew’s (Mt. 9:9-13). I’m sure Mary Magdalene celebrated her deliverance with her friends. I imagine the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well celebrating the new starts Jesus gave them. The list goes on.
The beginning of renewal—the budding of the Kingdom of God—like the springtime is a happy time. It is a time to rejoice! It is a time to bloom. It is a time to start again.
The story ends with Jesus’ closing remarks, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV). It doesn’t matter who…and that is cause for celebration!
If you need a new start or a cause to celebrate, let me introduce you to Jesus. I’ll see you in church.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit New Life’s website: www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.