Lectionary Reflection| Luke 19:1-10
As a 6′-7″ tall dude, I’ve had a hard time relating to Zacchaeus, the “wee little man” who couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd. In a crowd of people, I am the “tree” that many are trying to see around! On another level, my heart goes out to people who may be missing out on an encounter with Jesus and his teachings because other things are crowding him out.
This Sunday we will share a bold and creative new vision for discipleship and spiritual formation in the 21st century that we believe will help people see Jesus who would otherwise miss him if we continue with traditional forms of church. Today, let’s read this familiar tale with fresh eyes and learn a few “missional” principles from Zacchaeus.
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
First, Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus because other things were crowding him out. The church needs to recognize and name the things that are crowding out Jesus and preventing spiritual seekers from encountering him. Busy schedules. Outdated ministry forms. Aligning the church with a political agenda. What’s blocking spiritual seekers from clearly seeing Jesus in all his beauty and brilliance?
Second, Zacchaeus didn’t make excuses (“I’m too short”). Nothing good comes from frustrated church leaders complaining about empty pews and making excuses for why nobody seems interested in Jesus and his message. It’s easy to blame others and self-righteously wait for them to “come to their senses and return to the church.” Let’s follow Zacchaeus and take action.
Third, Zacchaeus took bold and creative steps to get a new vantage point. If people are missing Jesus through conventional ministry approaches, are we willing to courageously experiment with unconventional ways of teaching and spiritual care that can give people a fresh look at Christianity? I’m sure people scoffed at him for climbing up a tree and showing everybody below his underwear. And a couple verses later the religious traditionalists grumble at the fact that Jesus would smile upon this sinner and approve of his reckless approach. Are we willing to risk the same?
Fourth, even today Jesus is passing through and people are missing their chance. The story has a tinge of urgency in it: “He was trying to see” (v. 3); “He ran ahead…because he was going to pass that way” (v. 4); “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down” (v. 5); “So he hurried down” (v. 6). Verse 1 says Jesus “entered Jericho and was passing through it.” Similarly, we are all quickly passing through this life, and there’s only a short window of time to see and show people Jesus. Let’s not sit on our hands.
Finally, the entire story emphasizes the fact that Jesus goes out to seek and save the lost. This man did not find his way to Salvation’s House; but Salvation came looking for him. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him” (v. 5-6). MainStreet Church was originally founded on the conviction that in a culture where less and less people are interested in “going to church,” the church needs to find creative ways to bring the message and teachings of Jesus to them?
For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (v. 10).
Let us go and do likewise – even if it requires climbing trees or tearing off roofs to give people a new vantage point or personal encounter Jesus and his Kingdom!