Zacchaeus, Come Down Immediately!

1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ” 8But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus had a problem in trying to see Jesus–he was small of stature. The crowd along the road would not let him push through. I am sure that when people saw who was struggling to get through the crowd, that there was an elbow or a kick designed to hurt him, but his curiosity could not be satisfied until he had seen Jesus. He ran ahead along the road to the place where there was a significant Sycamore Fig tree and hastily climbed up the short trunk and hid in the full branches. Which one was Jesus? Zacchaeus did not know Jesus, but the Lord knew him. Perhaps Christ had come this very way because he knew where Zacchaeus would be waiting.

Do you think he knew which one was Jesus as he looked down from the tree? I’m sure his heart skipped a beat when the crowd stopped as the Lord looked up into the tree, saying: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

I am amazed at the condescension of Christ. Not only did He look down from heaven but He also came down and entered into our painful world. Furthermore, here He is looking up to Zacchaeus and asking him to come down. God always humbles a soul before he brings him to heaven. We must let go of every branch that we hold on to and come down. There is a need for all of us to come down in our estimation of ourselves. Zacchaeus would have felt very humbled that the Lord knew him by name. He had lived his life climbing to the top of the ladder and realized that the ladder was against the wrong wall. Zacchaeus had chased money all his life but had become hated by the people around him. He had lost all self-respect due to the way he had treated people, yet Jesus valued him so much that Christ would come to his house!

Do you realize that the God of the universe knows you by name and values you profoundly? He wants to come and live inside your house. He values us so profoundly that He calls each one of us individually in the midst of our circumstances. Zacchaeus was singled out by Jesus and directly called by name. He is told by Christ “I must stay at your house today.” There doesn’t seem to be an act of faith that brought Christ to his door, except, perhaps, his curiosity in wanting to see Christ. Jesus deliberately came to the place where Zacchaeus was and initiated the conversation that brought a saving response. The phrase “must stay” (NIV) or “must abide” (KJV) is used. It denotes a compulsion of any kind, such as unavoidable, urgent, compulsory necessity.”[1]It seems that it was all written into God’s plan, the calling of Zacchaeus.

He directly calls each one of us: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The Bible tells us that God has ordained (To prearrange unalterably; predestine: by fate ordained beforehand those who are saved. We may think that we are the ones searching for God, but He is the Shepherd, searching for His lost sheep. God orders our circumstances to cause us to call out to Him. We cannot say that God ordered the depths of sin that we got into, our own choices were involved, but the Bible declares that God uses all things to work together for our good to bring us to Christ(Romans 8:28). What do we mean by the word election? Wayne Grudem in his book, Systematic Theology, defines the election as “an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any unforeseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure.”[3]Zacchaeus and all those of us that have been born again, were called and chosen before the foundation of the world to be His elected ones.

4For he chose us in him before the creation of the worldto be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sonsthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).

What marvelous grace God has lavished on us! It boggles the mind to think that He has planned to call us out before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless, adopted as His sons and daughters. Zacchaeus as well as you and I were called before the beginning of the world ever took place. He had us in His mind and heart. Zacchaeus was one of the last people would think would be saved. This encounter came about in the city of Jericho, a cursed city (Joshua 6:26), yet Christ came there and called Zacchaeus. He called the worst of sinners from the worst of cities with the worst of trades. Maybe He’s doing the same for you today! Keith Thomas

[1]Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Notes on Page 1604.

[2]Dictionary.com

[3]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Published by Zondervan, page 670.

 

An Appointment with Death

We have been meditating on the subject of eternity over the last few weeks (scroll down for other meditations). Erwin Lutzer tells the fable about a Baghdad merchant who sent his servant to the marketplace to run an errand. When the servant had completed his assignment and was about to leave the marketplace, he turned a corner and unexpectedly met Lady Death. The look on her face so frightened him that he left the marketplace and hurried home. He told his master what had happened and requested his fastest horse so that he could get as far from Lady Death as possible—a horse that would get him to Sumera before nightfall. Later that same afternoon, the merchant also went to the marketplace and also met Lady Death. “Why did you startle my servant this morning?” he asked. “I didn’t intend to startle your servant—it was I who was startled,” replied Lady Death. “I was surprised to see your servant in Baghdad this morning, because I have an appointment with him in Sumera tonight.”[1]

You and I have an appointment with death. We cannot run from it, and we cannot hide from it. We can only face it. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We needn’t face death alone. Christ has told us that He will be with us until the end of the age.

When George Bush Senior was Vice President, he represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Communist Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, that this life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.[2] There was the leader of a Communist country trying to stamp out all knowledge of Christ and His Word, yet even his wife was a secret believer with the thoughts of eternity in her heart.

We have come a long way over the last few weeks as we have explored what God says about our destiny and where we will spend eternity. We are made for more than the way this world is set up! We have an enemy that seeks to keep our minds occupied with things of this world alone. That enemy, Satan, desires to stamp out all thoughts of another life in Christ, a life that is better by far. He does not want us to focus on the eternal, but he wants us to be mesmerized only by the physical, material world in which we are in to keep us “duped” and ineffective. The enemy does not want us to consider that we are only passing through this present life and being prepared for another. Jesus said that, even though a man dies, yet shall he live (John 11:25). You can deny the thoughts about eternity, and you can tell them to shut up, but that inner knowledge that death is not the end cannot be extinguished. There is a God in heaven Who has not given up on you; He calls to you that you may find your way to His home. You shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Over the next few days we will take a look at who we are and where we are going. Who are we? Jesus calls us His Bride, and He is preparing us for eternity with Him.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

[1] One Minute After You Die, Erwin W. Lutzer, Moody Publishers, Page 119.

[2] Gary Thomas, in Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26