One day you will stop running, and the Lord will overtake you. That is the story of Zacceaus. It is a story that starts out with a man seeking Jesus, only to find out it is Jesus who is seeking him. Zaccheas has an opportunity to see Jesus, being short in stature, he shimmied up a tree, making himself vulnerable, a ridiculous sight, up a tree –
Keith Peterson and I used to climb a lot of trees, only one of my three favorite trees remains… one person commented that since Zac was rich, he had nothing else to prove, which is why rich people are sometimes eccentric – perhaps similar to those who reach a good age of maturity. Who is going to tell Kay Bishop what to do. I caught her outside weeding her flower bed this week – who of you is going to tell her to stop. Zac may lack stature in height, but he has stature in achievement. A chief tax collector. We met last week Matthew, the tax collectors were rejected by the Jews…
Stop running, and the Lord will overtake you. Like a wounded animal running from the rescuer who only wants to remove the thorn from his foot – only when when the animal falls in exhaustion, when the animal stops running, does help come. Stop running, stop resisting. Zac let’s his curiosity overcome his reluctance. The implicit question of so many people is what do I do to become a Christian. Zac provides a most profound answer, stop running. You think you are searching for Jesus, but it is Jesus that is searching for you. In Luke 19:3, Zac. “wanted to see who Jesus was…” and then in Luke 19:10 is the caption to the story: “For the son of man [Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost.” We spend so much energy trying to figure out how to be a better Christian, how to know God, and all the time, he is looking for us. When Jesus asks to come to your house, you say YES. Stop running, make yourself vulnerable, he’ll find you, he’ll find you even in a Sycamore tree.
While we are searching for Jesus, he finds us. When you are a kid playing hide and seek, the most lonely person is the one who hides too well and is never found. Running is overrated. Here’s a simple story of a kid running away: I remember packing up my Snoopy suitcase (I was about 3 1/2-4 years old). I thought "I'll show them!". I only made it a couple of blocks before I realized that I wanted to go home. I think the fight was over a Coke.
Listen to a more profound example of a poem by a runaway that speaks volumes to the emotions and the pain of a runaway.
The screams and anger and violence in my home,
the sound of glass hitting the wall after being thrown.
The cursing language and vulgar exchange of words,
I beg for it to stop but my pleadings aren't heard.
I sit in a dark, empty corner crying to myself,
if only I could be happy perhaps somewhere else.
I come to the point where I blame and hate myself for all this misery,
But what if I could leave all this behind and erase my past's memory?
So I'm through with all this I come to say,
I pack my belongings and I'm on my way.
I've been on my own since that day,
a young, unhappy, lost runaway.
Stop running, and allow the Lord to overtake you.
Jesus is passing through Jericho (Luke 19:1), a city on a major trade route, perhaps like Sumas, bigger than its size, because of the border – Sumas could not support two dairies if it were just a service to the residents – on a major highway, Jericho has people coming and going… Jesus is passing through we are told – like so many people, Jerusalem is certainly the more significant destination. But we find out Jericho is not a pit stop on the route to Jerusalem, Jesus mission is to seek those that are ready to be found. Like the kid playing hide and seek that starts making noise to give away the hiding place. Jesus is a man on a mission, but the mission is not a place, the mission is to seek and find those that have stopped running.
A year ago I heard one of you talk about the difference in car trips when you were younger and now that you are retired. You used to be in such a hurry to get to your destination two states away, driving like a madman, efficiently ticking off the miles. Now that you are retired, and your ride with your own grown children and don’t control the clock, your children stop at the roadside attractions, take in the scenery along the way, enjoying the process is so much nicer. That’s the Jesus way. We are driven to accomplish our objectives, yet Jesus cared about searching for people as he traveled along the road, caring about those who were ready to receive him… Jesus did not just come to die on the cross, but in the process, he was seeking those who were lost, and he even invited himself to stay in the house of a wee little man, I MUST, says Jesus. Nothing more important than to stay out the house of the chief tax collector of Jericho.
Here is a lesson in understanding Jesus: Jesus has time. You are who he is passionate about, he cares about you. He has time. One of the reasons I love the Clothesline because the doors are open, and people can come and the timeframe is there’s – those who serve have time – Jesus has time. I love the soup suppers because it is a leisurely time. Delivering food boxes, being available, Kim goes with me sometimes, my elf I call her, and we meet people. Jesus has time, his mission is to find those who are seeking. Those that are lost, those that are ready to be found. He’s listening for the noises lost people are making that have been hiding too long and want to be found. He’s looking for the grown man that went to the ridiculous length of climbing a tree. You and I run out of time, you and I run out of energy, but the living Lord is still searching, still seeking, and he has time. All the time in the world.
What do we know about Zac? Zac is wealthy, he is described as rich… Clearly Zac is to be compared to the rich young ruler introduced in Luke 18:18-30… which includes this well known saying: Luke 18:24-25 -- how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom… it’s as if this is a set up for Zac… if we stopped there, we might easily conclude that rich people can’t be saved… but Jesus unequivocally pronounces that this Rich Man is saved (READ Luke 19:9). Whatever is meant be the rich man having a hard time entering the Kingdom, has to include Zac as an example of a rich man that is given the gift of salvation through Christ. What did he do? He was curious, he stopped running long enough to be found by Jesus.
Zac is curious about the Lord, and he is faced with obstacles: three strikes
* Strike one: he is rch, -- how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom.
* Strike two: low social status considered a “sinner,” when the people find out that Zacheous is dismissed as a sinner. He may have been rich but he was an outcast.
* Strike three: the crowds were too large and being short in stature Zac could not get close to him. Some people believe Zac was barred by the crowd from getting close to Jesus: this was a way to get back at Zac – a crowd mentality.
Three strikes. What plagues you keeping you from being found by Christ. Your past/ bad decisions/ personality/ habits/ haven’t given up trying to find peace in your life by digging in your heels and being strong on your own/ stubbornness/ peers…
You can break the rules of baseball: Zac had three strikes, and he is not out.
Luke 19:3-6 shows a man on a quest… Zac wanted to “see who Jesus was”. Zac may have three strikes, but he does not give up. The crowd was moving along with Jesus as he walked through Jericho, more like the secret service moving along with the president, rather than a parade. Zac sprinted ahead and climbed a tree.
To climb a tree is a ridiculous act.. a grown man, a leader, a tax collector, shows the eagerness of his quest, resourcefulness… In Sumas I noticed tents spring up in the ballpark half a week before the fireworks show last night… people staking out a place to get what they considered the best view… people who will wait in line for concerts, or to buy tickets to opening shows… I went to midnight show of Pirates of the Caribean III with Esther several years ago – maybe climbing a tree isn’t so ridiculous. Zac is persistent… and his persistence is rewarded…
Luke 19:5. Come down immediately, come down to earth. I MUST STAY at your HOUSE TODAY. There is the key phrase. “Lord, Come to My Messy House” is the series, and today, we see Jesus inviting himself over. Has anyone ever panicked when the pastor has called and asked if he could come over, I don’t think I could ever be as bold as Jesus, I MUST STAY AT YOUR HOUSE. – suddenly this is an imperative of his mission… more important than anything else, I doubt that Jesus invited himself over to get pointers on how to climb a tree, I doubt if Jesus was late in paying his income tax and wanted to know how to file an extension, I doubt Jesus wanted anything at all from Zac. The topic was surely Zac.
“I must stay at your house today,” is a statement to each one of us. Zac was in the perfect position to hear. He stopped running, he wanted to find out who Jesus was, he was persistent, he was curious. Jesus found the one that was looking for him. Like the child hidden too well, Zac made himself visible/vulnerable in a tree so he could be found.
Zac responds immediately to Jesus invitation to take Jesus home with him. he is happy and thrilled and excited…that’s the second verse of Zac. was a wee little man… And in Luke 19:7, the crowd grumbles… “all the people” who saw grumbled/ complained/ red flags. I’ve noticed there are those who criticize the church because sinners are part of the church. Jesus is diminished in the eyes of the crowd because of his sudden association in Zac. Marginal people are not welcome according to the crowd. I like Jesus way -- lets fill this place up to overflowing with “marginal” people, let’s fill up JJ Fryes with marginal people …
Luke 19:8 – an immediate change. The payback four times commitment is the standard punishment, the commitment to sell half his possessions is the above and beyond. Zac’s response, an immediate change, a commitment to do that which is right as a response to the freedom and blessing he has found from Jesus.
Let the Lord Jesus Christ find you. While you are searching for answers to the problems of your life, while you have this curiosity about Christ and Christianity, it is the Lord that is searching for you. Stop running and let him catch up. Start making some noise so you can be found. Change your patterns – I know people who say they want Christ in their life, but they never seem to have time. How common it is for people to want Christ, even desperately want Christ, but they don’t really want any changes, or at least not bad enough to do anything about it. Zac climbs a tree of all things, his life is transformed instantly by Christ. The risen Lord, Lord of all creation, Lord of the heavens and the earth, has the same mission: I must come to stay at your house today. You are the reason Jesus Christ came to earth. He is still seeking those who are lost, those who struggling. Stop running, make yourself vulnerable, allow yourself to be found, and let the Lord Jesus Christ overtake you.