Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

02/21/2018

Randall Caselman

 

Learning To See Jesus

 

  Zacchaeus was an outcast. In the eyes of his Jewish contemporaries, he was short in more ways than one. No doubt, when young, he was the butt of cruel jokes about his height. But somewhere along the way Zacchaeus learned to compensate. So, he climbed the professional ladder. Ambition drove him to step on anyone who got in his way. Now, he stood on top of the ladder; Chief Tax Collector. This man controlled the commerce in all of Jericho, the commerce capitol of the Palestinian world.

 

  But there was a price to pay. Zacchaeus was a traitor. He was an operative of the Roman and Herodian government. His riches were at the expense of his own people. He had power, wealth, privilege, and prestige. But the real stature he sought eluded him. Zacchaeus was friendless. When Zacchaeus walked down the street, no one said: “Good morning," "Hello," "How are you?" "How are the wife and children?" No one invited Zacchaeus to lunch or dinner. An outcast among his own people.

 

  But today it didn’t seem to matter. Zacchaeus appeared preoccupied. He had heard that Jesus was in town. Some were saying that perhaps He was the promised Messiah, King of the Jews. He was known for eating, drinking, socializing with tax collectors and sinners. Zacchaeus had heard how Jesus had completely changed the life of Matthew Levi, the tax-man up in Capernaum. How Levi had left everything, not for higher wages, but for no wages at all. Zacchaeus was captivated by such thinking. Why would a man give up such a lucrative position to follow a penniless Rabbi?

 

  So, in the claustrophobic press of the crowd, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore, crawls out on a limb for a better look at this Jesus of Nazareth. Then, there he was, right under the tree. Eyes met eyes! Zacchaeus begins to sweat. The ledger sheet was unbalanced: Money stolen. Money extorted. Money under the table. Profits skimmed off the top. Money robbed from God in his tithes and freewill offerings. Money was the bottom line for Zacchaeus, bottom line in an otherwise bankrupt life.

 

  But this Jesus wasn’t looking for an audit. He was looking for sinners to save, for souls to rescue. Jesus was seeking the lost, looking for people to go home with. Jesus was looking for a friend. Zacchaeus saw Jesus, really saw Jesus. Saw Him for who he was.

 

What does it take to see Jesus,

really see Jesus?

 

  We must see our need. We must see ourselves as the sinners we are. Romans chapter three tells us that “all are sinners, there is none righteous, no not one. All have come short of God’s glory.” Acceptance of Jesus always starts with this admission. Those on Pentecost saw Jesus and cried out: “Men and brethren what must we do?”When Saul saw Jesus for who He was on the Damascus Road, it was “Lord, what would you have me do?” The Jailer at Philippi said. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

 

  We must be obedient. Jesus said, Zacchaeus, “Come down from there,." Scripture tells us. “He obeyed, came down and received Jesus gladly, joyfully.” God’s Word is filled with promises. Promises that can be ours in obedience; if we, like Zacchaeus, will do what God asks of us.

 

• Obey My Word and you'll live in this paradise garden forever.

• Build an ark for the saving of you and your house.

• Abraham, leave this place and go where I will show you and I will make of you a great nation, bless the world through your seed.

• Israel, be My people, and I will lead you to the Promise Land.

• Come down Zacchaeus and I’ll go home with you.

• Those who overcome, I will give the crown of life, a white robe. My name will be on their forehead and they will reign with Me forever.

 

  But, know this, we cannot enjoy any of God’s promises outside of faith and obedience. This principle is redundantly taught, from Genesis chapter through Revelation. Indeed! Jesus is seen in obedience.

 

  We must be willing to take Him home with us. Christianity, genuine discipleship, is more than what we do in the church house! I know those who think the only time we worship God is in the church building. That’s because they want to claim Christianity on Sunday and live the way they want Monday through Saturday. Paul tells us in the Book of Romans that God is worshiped daily by our becoming His instrument of righteousness, His living sacrifice. Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, come down from there, I’m going home with you.” Jesus wants to be involved in our marriage, how we treat our spouse, raise our children, our entertainment choices, our business ethics. He wants to regulate our prejudices and politics. Jesus wants to be Lord of all or not Lord at all. Amen?

 

  We must become changed people. "I give half of my possessions to the poor.” “I will restore four fold to those I may have cheated.” Seeing Jesus changed Zacchaeus. He’s turned his life around. It’s called repentance. We’re seeing a rich man go through an eye of a needle. These verses teach that Biblical repentance demands restitution where possible. Just walking church aisles is not repentance; God wants a changed life.

 

  Well, go with me back to Jericho, some thirty, forty, years later. The sun is just coming up. An old man emerges from an ordinary Jewish household, small in stature, walks with a slow gait, bent over with age. He’s carrying a clay pot. He stops at the edge of town under a large sycamore, turns the clay pot upside down. Water runs along the roots. If we look closely, we can see his lips moving... Wonder what he is saying? As he walks back toward the house the sun is up, people are on the street: "Hi Zacchaeus!" "Good morning Zacchaeus." "How's the wife and those grandchildren?" "How about supper tonight at our house?"

 

  No longer an outcast. Zacchaeus has found the stature he once sought in vain: Happiness. Friendship. Fellowship. Peace. Contentment. Fulfillment. Forgiveness. Salvation. Zacchaeus found all this by seeing Jesus. Do we see Him?... Do we want to see Him?... Really?

 

—Randall Caselman