TODAY IS SALVATION DAY
"Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there...Zaccheus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way...so he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree...
"When Jesus got to the tree, He looked up and said, 'Zaccheus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest at your house.' Zaccheus scrambled out of the tree...delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant...'What business does He have getting cosy with this crook?'
"Zaccheus stammered apologetically, 'Master, I give away half my income to the poor...'
"Jesus said, 'Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zaccheus, son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.'" Luke 19:1-10 (The Message).
Another much-loved Sunday school story with so much in it that we can miss!
This incident epitomises the difference between the attitude of Jesus and the people around Him (and all of us as well because we are all infected with the same tunnel vision).
Zaccheus was a man with a conscience who did bad things. He made a comfortable living preying on the public who hated him but could do nothing about it. But there came a time when he became sick of his way of life and his alienation from his fellow Jews. How do we know that? What crook would climb a tree to catch a glimpse of a rabbi whose sheer goodness would be repulsive to him unless there was a deep-seated yearning to change?
Why did he climb a tree? Just to get a close-up view of Jesus, or because he was too embarrassed to get close to Him? What did he hope to achieve by getting a passing glimpse? To satisfy his curiosity or to fix in his imagination a picture of the person he would like to be? We don't know but, once again, Jesus' spiritual radar screen picked up the blip of a man who wanted to see Him.
As always, His response was immediate and, as always, He was not put off by the external trappings of the man's life. He zeroed in on Zaccheus' heart and stopped under the tree. Knowing that Zaccheus would feel too unworthy to invite Him home, He invited Himself, sweeping aside all the tax man's false notions and emotions about himself. Jesus saw him, not as a rotten, thieving henchman of the Roman government as those around Him did, but as a son of Abraham!
Zaccheus' response to Jesus' generous attitude towards him is startling. How could a greedy and conniving crook suddenly become generous and open-handed to the poor and to those he had outwitted? It just does not happen in the natural. Something had transpired in the man's heart in his encounter with Jesus that radically and permanently changed his disposition.
Light had exposed and dispelled darkness and the result was transformation! His money, unlike the other rich man who refused to let go of his wealth, even for the prize of eternal life, was tossed out of the way because it stood between him and Jesus and Jesus knew that Zaccheus had been rescued from his self-destroying choices and was back on the path to the Father.
There are so many beautiful lessons for those of us who are disciples of Jesus to learn. As disciples, we are called to be imitators of Jesus. Our first major lesson is to look at people through the eyes of our Master. To Him they had no past. His atoning sacrifice took care of that. He never accused or blamed. He accepted and embraced every returning prodigal with generosity and compassion. They were lost sons coming home.
Secondly, Jesus never saw failure but always, potential. As a son of Abraham, this one-time criminal had a renewed calling: "...All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:3b (NIV). With the Messiah in charge of his life, he could bless the very people he had robbed by sharing his faith and his wealth.
The crowd were indignant with Jesus for associating with a robber. Jesus was elated because the robber had returned home as a son!
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