The pattern of Zacchaeus is insightful for how many people will come to the Lord. He was curious. He was found. He responded. He was changed. Have you noticed Sumas is growing? That means there are more neighbors, more people among us that need God. The houses being built…the people moving in… the growing school district… (We just got a new middle school, already they are projecting five years out or so and there won’t be enough space) Some of the people moving in are believers, but many are not committed Christians. Pray for our community, pray that our church will be a witness of the gospel and be bold in pointing the way to Jesus Christ.
For some, you need to be found. That you are here indicates you are curious. Climbing the tree of curiosity is a great beginning, you are positioning yourself to be seen by Christ, but now you need to let yourself be found. The bottom line of this scripture is Luke 19:10 READ. Zac was curious, he was found, he responded, he was changed.
Climb the tree of curiosity. Until people climb that tree they will not be found by Christ. Until people are asking questions, the best we can do is wait and pray and be patient. The tree of curiosity.
Zac is curious about Jesus. He heard Jesus was passing through Jericho, on his way to the great feast in Jerusalem. Jericho is on a major route to the capital city. When Sally and I were in the U-District in Seattle we used to enjoy going to Godfather’s Pizza on the Ave, sit in the picture window on the street and watch people walk back and forth… not so different from Zac’s Sycarmore tree. (I am completely guessing, but I bet that this is not the first time Zac climbed this tree!) Festival time, heightened awareness in Jericho as 1000’s of people passed through.
Luke 19:2 tells us about Zac. READ. That’s Zac’s story.
- Tax collectors were traitor to the Jewish people. The occupying Romans used Jews to collect taxes and allowed tax collectors to add a premium for themselves.
- And he was wealthy… his money came from the people. Resentment.
- One lesson: we must bless people to change. Often we write people off not expecting them to be different from what they are… There is no doubt most people cursed the wealthy tax collector, not believing he would ever be different… I know a wonderful young man that is trying to figure out life, he loves black, tattoos and piercings… he was in the grocery store and an older woman passed by and loudly said to “herself “ as they passed so all could hear, “gross, ugly.” In all likelihood this woman would never utter a swear word, but she did by cursing this young man.
- Another lesson: There is not a person alive that is not loved by Christ. He came to love the unlovely. He sees Zac. You may feel unworthy, / your sins are too great, but Christ sees you and loves you. He sees all as people who need salvation. He is looking to redeem all, even tax collectors. Woe to me if I ever respond like the crowd. READ Luke 19:7.
- Another lesson: nobody will change till they are ready.
Zac had another obstacle. He was short. READ Luke 19:3. Everyone has obstacles that could keep them from making a full commitment to Christ. For Zac it was his reputation, his wealth ~ he probably was in love with his money ~ and in practical terms, he was short and could not see. There are always a variety of obstacles to overcome for anyone to come to the Lord. The practical obstacles are sometimes the easiest. Zac was short so he climbed a tree. Maybe you can help the kid pay their way to a summer camp or retreat, some people may have the obstacle of transportation and they need a ride…
A key to Zac’s story is the first part of Luke 19:3… “He wanted to see who Jesus was…” Zac is curious… obviously he’d heard of Jesus. Climb the tree of curiosity to see Jesus. It’s a wonderful first step. Zac had obstacles of reputation, his own wealth, his shortness, so he climbed a tree to overcome the obstacles… READ Luke 19:4… Pray for folks to be curious, pay attention to those that are watching you, your relationship with Christ, if you are not yet a Christian and you are searching, do not let any obstacle hinder you, let go of your inhibitions keeping you from the Lord, climb the tree of curiosity.
Zac was found. READ Luke 19:5. This matches the caption at the end of this story in Luke 19:9-10. God is wild. The hunter becomes the hunted. We spend so much time searching, we are the ones that are working hard to get our life right. While Zac is looking for Jesus, it is the Lord that is searching for Him. In our lostness, we are searching for peace, we are searching for answers, we are desperate for wholeness/ purpose, yet the answer is more simple: let the Lord find you. The tree of curiosity is not a place to hide and look in on Christ as an observer, it is a place for the lord to find you…The Lord Jesus Christ came to find us and give us the gift of salvation. ~~ let the Lord Jesus Christ find you.
Curiosity is a beginning, but by itself it is not enough. I want the seeking world to know that you do not need to find Jesus Christ, you need to let him find you. This is a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, only unlike a cougar, it is a good reversal. The Lord Jesus Christ is looking in the trees, he’s looking for those that are willing to be found. Back in Genesis 3:8, after the creation of Adam and Eve, after sin entered the world, the response of Adam and Eve is so fascinating: READ. The good news is that like Zac, Adam allowed himself to be found by God READ Genesis 3:9-10.
Maybe you are curious, maybe you are searching… allow yourself to be found by the Lord Jesus Christ… “Where are you?” is a great question to Adam… “I was afraid, so I hid…” in the case of Zac he gave him simple instructions: “Come down…” READ Luke 19:5.
Climb the Tree of Curiosity, allow yourself to be found, and respond. READ Luke 19:6. It’s an unanswerable question and probably a wrong question, but I sometimes wonder at what moment does Zac receive the gift of salvation? Is it when he is curious and wants to see more of Christ? When the Lord spots Zac? When Zac responds and comes down from the tree, following the instruction of Jesus, or is it the last point when his life is actually transformed? Only God knows the heart. Only God knows that moment when a person is saved. From our perspective, it is a series of events… responding to Christ is important. Christ is more than a good idea. Living a life devoted to Christ is not something to put off to the tomorrow that never comes. Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship, it is a way of life, it is a life of discipleship… Respond now because you never know… Respond because now is the time. Respond to Christ. When he finds you be obedient and listen to Him.
To a searching world I say respond. Curiosity is a great beginning, being found by Christ is necessary, but the fullness of a changed life comes when you respond to Christ, admitting that there are obstacles/sins in your life, that you have made choices that are not pleasing to God, that sin is real, and you want to life for Christ. Jesus Christ is not one more program, Jesus Christ is the life changing answer!
The result of coming to Christ is a transformed life: You know the phrase, Curiosity killed a cat… interestingly, there is an old ending to the phrase that is less well known, but to me gives great hope…“Curiosity killed a cat, but satisfaction brought him back.”
When I look at Zac I see a man that climbs out of the tree and is SATISFIED. He was curious. He overcame the obstacles. He is bold as he ignores the cursing of the crowd. As soon as the Lord sees him and calls him to come down, instantly he figures out what is most important in his life. I hear satisfaction as he announces he is a changed man not only in heart but also in his life…The transformation in his soul makes a difference in his life. READ Luke 19:8.
When you fully give your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ it will make a practical difference. You will sacrifice the former life that you were in love with. Maybe it’s habits that need to change, patterns, attitudes, quit being so judgmental of others, your life decisions, maybe it’s to finally make that full commitment to the person you love. IN the case of Zac it’s his money. Salvation effects his pocket book, he seeks to set right the wrong he admits he has done to others, he wants to give away half his possessions to the needy… TRANSFORMATION is actual changing so that your life is no longer the same. The hardened heart is softened. The consuming energy draining habits are lifted. The cloud of darkness disappears.
Zac was curious. He was found. He responded. He was changed. What step are you on? Curiosity is a tremendous beginning. Now let yourself be found. Maybe you need to respond to Christ’s calling and climb out of the tree. That’s called commitment, one of the hard concepts we have in this present world because we’re taught to keep our options open. When Zac climbed out of the tree he is trusting Jesus. He goes from curiosity to commitment. If you’ve made a commitment to Christ, now you need to change. Even for Zac, his words need to be followed up by action. The change in a Christians life is a way of life. I imagine it took months, a lifetime, for Zac to set his wrongs right.
May we never forget the greatest purpose of our community of faith ~ we serve Jesus Christ who is searching for those that are lost. Amen.