Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sought. Found. Redefined in Christ.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he....

I've been on hiatus; summer time doesn't lend itself to a whole lotta focused writing time, but I have been writing.  I'm plugging away at the first book in my series on Matthew 22:37-40, Life of Grace.  Pray for me, I'd like to have a manuscript in order by New Year's......

Yesterday, I went to the beginning of book study at church.  The book is called How Is It With Your Soul?  It's based on Wesleyan class meetings, what we would today call community groups.  These gatherings were the heart of Methodist teachings - the catalyst of the movement (that became a whole denomination).  That question was meant to set the tone - so the members of the "class" could be real in their support and encouragement of one another.

Each table explored this question.  My soul was in a very good place.  I shared that we'd just come from Sophia's eye check up, part of her post-treatment follow up.  She continues to have no effects on her eye, especially from the radiation (minus a little cataract in the corner, which isn't messing with anything).  She has 20/20 vision in both eyes!  Praise God!

Then, the leader of the lesson took us through  Luke 19:1-10.  You might have guessed it was the story of Zaccheaus' seeking of Jesus, by my little ditty at the beginning.  (I know you are singing the rest, maybe even doing the hand motions.)  To the right is a great visual that describes the story from Brian Chalmers.

As we dug in, I was struck with new truth.  Zaccheaus was the chief tax collector.  Not just a regular sinner (and a traitor in the eyes of the community at large.  As a result, he was excluded from the Temple.)  No, he was the chief of traitors/sinners.  We also know Zacchaeus was a short man.  But I wonder if he was a little person?  If he was born a dwarf, would that confirm his sinful nature?  (See John 9 for details on the cultural inference of sin as the cause of infirmity or abnormality). 

I pondered the level of insecurity Zacchaeus must have had.  He was a Jew, but kept from the community by chance, and also choice.  Physically speaking, he was the low man on the totem pole, so he tried to made up for it with money, position and power.  Still, he'd reached a point when nothing would satisfy.  What kind of state of mind, what level of desperation had he reached that provoked him, a very rich and powerful man who spent his whole life trying to make up for his short-comings (pun intended), to climb a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus?

Zacchaeus was seeking hard after God.  His current life was no longer enough. 

It is significant Zacchaeus didn't approach Christ.  Jesus took a detour to come to him. Jesus was just passing through Jericho, but this little man was on His spiritual radar.  He humbled himself.  He didn't try to buy his way into Jesus' presence, he climbed a tree.

He had a hunger that could no longer be satisfied by things of earth.  He was desperate.  Not desperate enough to come to Jesus directly, but that's no matter to the Lord.  Jesus desires to find us where we are, however good or bad, because He isn't going to leave us that way.  Zaachaeus might have thought he was seeking Jesus, but most assuredly, the Savoir was seeking him.

As we constantly see Jesus do (in Scripture and today), He changed Zacchaeus' heart and circumstance.  He comes to the base of that tree and orders Zacchaeus to come down, He is under a new master now.  It was time for a party!  Total reversal of fortune and I think Zacchaeus knew it.

So, now, of course, the haters try to rain on the parade.  (They always do.)

Here the mettle of our new man Z is revealed.  He declares he will not only give half of his possessions to the poor; to anyone he's cheated, he will pay back four times.  That is WAY above and beyond what the Law in Leviticus called for.  WAY MORE.  Contrasting this with the story of the Rich Young Ruler who went away depressed because he couldn't give up his wealth for a new identity as a disciple of Jesus; Zacchaeus makes a bold statement and puts his money where his mouth was. 

Jesus recognizes the faith and love of this man.  I think that is what truly motivated Zacchaeus - love for the Savior.  Love makes us do crazy things.  Giving away half of all we own, repaying all of our physical, emotional and spiritual debts four-times-over definitely qualifies as nuts.  Jesus restores Zacchaeus' relationship with God (even if nothing changed with his fellow Jews) and our man Z makes good on it.  

(I speculate Zacchaeus made a huge difference in the early Church.  He isn't mentioned again in Scripture, but I hope he was one of the hundred in the Upper Room; one of the ones Jesus breathed His Spirit on after His resurrection.  I imagine his wealth would have gone a long way to support all that happened in Acts.  I wish I knew that for sure.)

The heart of this passage is this: if you currently live in the identity of your insecurities, Christ can and will redefine you.  It is His speciality, what He came to do, what He still loves to do today.  He is redeeming, restoring, renewing lives that should be left on the trash heap.  Yet, in the hands of Christ, those same lives are made new; to glorify and show others the right, best way.

Zacchaeus went from being a wee little man, seeking glory of the world, to heart-soul-mind-and-money dedicated to the Kingdom of God.  That's remarkable salvation; putting away eternal treasure. That's what redemption looks like.

That's what Jesus can do for all of us too.

I pray we all reach a moment like Zacchaeus.  I pray we are all so desperate for Jesus to redefine us, that we seek Him.  Scripture promises when we seek Him, we will find Him.  I pray we all end up like Zacchaeus - once a wee little man but used to bless others because of our trust, faith and love of Christ.

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