Are you one of those “short people” who is always straining to see over the heads of the crowd? Or reaching up into a cupboard that is at least 8 inches above your reach? I am such a person and I can relate to the little fellow of scripture, Zaccheus, so very well.
As I think about the encounter Zaccheus had with Jesus, my mind goes back to the Jericho of long ago. I try to visualize the crowds that day as they waited along the road to see the itinerant preacher they have heard so much about. The chief tax-collector, the hated Zaccheus, was there and he was being squeezed out by the people. Somehow this little fellow had grown up in a “tall world”, the object of stares and much ridicule. Perhaps he grew up as the “kid who got pushed around”. We’ve all witnessed what happens to those the world labels as “runts”. Perhaps in growing up his childhood was trodden underfoot and the tender part of Zaccheus died. Maybe this made him compensate for that abuse by becoming a man of power that people had to “look up to” whether they liked it or not. True, Zaccheus gained stature in power and wealth…but no friendship…he was hated.
But Zaccheus heard stories about this Jesus who was coming to Jericho that day. He heard that Jesus was a friend…even to tax-collectors. Zaccheus longed for a look at this Jesus. His curiosity drove him to climb the sycamore tree and go out on a limb to see for himself.
All of Jericho was out on the dusty road. The business men, the housewives, the transients, teachers, bakers, holy men, were all elbow to elbow…except the chief tax-collector. (Let me put a parenthesis here. Zaccheus could have stayed home that day and avoided the crowd of people who hated him and whom he also hated.) But where did Jesus stop? He stopped right at the bottom of the sycamore tree! Whispers rippled over the crowd as people watched the Master in disbelief. Was Jesus actually asking to go home with this sinner? And He wasn’t asking for an audit or even and accounting. He was asking for the pleasure of Zaccheus’ company; the company of the chief tax-collector.
Can we even imagine the flood of repentance gushing from Zacchaus as he encounters Jesus Christ that day? Scripture bears out that he repented and turned his life over to Jesus immediately. His faith was followed by his immediate actions and life adjustments…WOW.
I think about coming-up short today in my life. Not short of stature, but spiritually short because of bad attitudes, broken relationships, broken commitments, or a critical spirit. I have to strain to see Jesus over this crowd of attitudes that crush me. But He is always there. He is ready to stop and call me to come down and meet Him, to commune with Him. What a joy.
I ask God to forgive me for trying to compensate for my “stunted spiritual” growth. Perhaps I have expected my works to increase my stature. Help me Lord, to see that I can increase only if I am willing to decrease. It is in losing my life that I find it. It is by dying that I live. It is in giving that I receive. If I am not willing to give up everything, I cannot be His disciple.
“Father, I confess to you that I am short in spiritual stature. To even see You I need something to stand on…just like Zaccheus. But I want to see Jesus; not just through the eyes of a pastor or a teacher or an evangelist. I want to hear Him; not just hear about Him on tapes and radio or TV. I don’t want a second-hand experience. I want to feel Him with my own Heart. I want to have faith that I can stand and “Look Full in His Wonderful Face”.
Lord, if I have to climb a tree to see you, I will gladly do so. Please come near Lord Jesus. I will be the one out on a limb, waiting. And as you come, overwhelm me with the awesome wonder that it is not I who seek you nearly as much as it is you who seeks me. Give me courage that I do not let anything crowd me out and lose the privilege of experiencing communion with Jesus. Amen”