Changed - In a Tree!

CHANGED - In a Tree!
Radio Message / Tract #10-M

a happy Zacchaeus standing next to the sycamore tree

There are just some people who nobody likes. Even if they are successful, they are still considered “losers”. Zacchaeus (Zack-key-us) was one of those people. His story is found in Luke 19:1-10. It starts like this. “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was chief among the publicans, and he was rich."

We already know that Zaccheus was very unpopular just because of his occupation. The publicans were tax collectors. These publicans worked for the Roman government. They were infamous for their dishonesty. They cheated the rich, and the poor alike. Zacchaeus was “chief among the publicans”. He was in charge of the whole dirty tax-collecting racket in Jericho. “And he was rich”, which in his case meant he was all out for money, no matter who he had to hurt to get it. He cared for no one but himself, and of course had no real friends. Did he find any lasting contentment in being a ‘rich loser’?  Would you?

On this particular day Zacchaeus had one thing working in his favor. It may have started as just a nagging curiosity, but when he heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho, the Bible says, “And he sought to see Jesus, who he was…”. Jesus was then, and still is the most controversial figure on earth. Something inside of Zacchaeus would not let this opportunity pass by without at least seeing for himself who Jesus was. So he went out to the main street.

He tried to see Jesus, “…but could not for the press [crowd], because he was little of stature.” Zacchaeus was a very short man, and couldn’t see over anyone’s head. He may have run along the street behind the crowd looking for an opening in the solid wall of backs and elbows. But he could not see through them to the street. “And he ran before and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.”

Zacchaeus was not a man who cared what other people thought about him. He was a man who was determined to get whatever he wanted, and for some reason, what he wanted this day was “to see Jesus”. He may have stepped on some heads to get his short body up into that tree, but whatever he did, he got the best seat available. Zacchaeus sat in his perch, his eyes now glued on the approaching group of men. His mind’s attention was completely focused on the figure he knew must be the Lord. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him…”

The hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…”. Nothing on earth can be more satisfying than that. But what happens when you realize that Jesus has turned his eyes upon you? Let’s watch this scene. A scene that was set up long before the world began. A scene in which the Son of God looks up... to a greedy, little loser perched in a sycamore tree. Their eyes connect for a moment... that seems like forever. And Zacchaeus suddenly realizes, as he looks into the eyes of Jesus, what a man was really meant to be. In that eternal moment, Zacchaeus silently searched the depths of his decadent soul. And, before he knew it, he came to the only conclusion -- the only decision -- that any sane, sensible man can make while they’re looking into the eyes of Jesus.

“Zacchaeus!” The silence was broken by a voice. Jesus had just called him – by name! They’d never been introduced. Zacchaeus had never laid eyes on Jesus before. But Jesus had always known Zacchaeus; in the same way that he’s always known you, friend. (Eph. 1:4,5; Rom. 8:29,30; etc.). Even if you have never been introduced to Jesus; even if you’ve never known him personally, still he has not only watched your whole life’s story as it’s unfolded, but he loves you, in spite of it all. If you’re desiring to know Jesus, his eyes have been on you since before the beginning. If you’re reaching out to Jesus, he’s reaching out to you. And if you’ll call on his name, you’ll realize that he’s already calling yours.

Jesus said, “Zacchaeus!”. But he said, “Zacchaeus” like no one in Jericho ever said “Zacchaeus”. He said it with tenderness, not with contempt. He said it as if he’d often said it before, as if he’d known him for a long, long time. In the ears of that crowd who knew and despised this deceitful little tax collector, Jesus said, “Zacchaeus! Hurry and come down; for today I must stay at your house.”

Jesus wanted everyone to know that he was going home with Zacchaeus. Verse 6 says, “And he hurried and came down and received him joyfully”. Everyone who receives Jesus receives him joyfully! How fast it all happened! How quickly Jesus won that man’s heart. What changes were made in a moment with hardly a word spoken. Zacchaeus now knew that he was a whole new man, with a whole new direction, and a whole new reason for living!

But nobody else knew it; only Zacchaeus and Jesus. “And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” The whole crowd was mad at both of them. They were disgusted with, yet envious of Zacchaeus. And they were outraged at Jesus, that he would befriend such a loser instead of Jericho’s important people. And so the parade ended. The disappointed crowd disappeared. But let’s just follow  Jesus  and  Zacchaeus  home.  Let’s  watch  them as they turn down Zacchaeus’ street.

Both of them are beaming with joy as they walk side by side toward Zacchaeus’ house. There was probably no prouder, more humbled man on earth that day than Zacchaeus.  So proud to have Jesus Christ as his friend for all the world to see. And so humbled that Jesus should have ever cared enough about him to stop under that sycamore tree and call his name. When they stopped at the house, “Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give unto the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”

The Bible teaches “restitution”; restoring what we’ve taken or used dishonestly without the owner’s permission. The Law in Exodus 22:9, required that something stolen should be returned in double amount. But double wasn’t good enough for Zacchaeus now.  He wanted  to make  up   for  all   his   past   dishonesty  by returning four times as much as he’d taken. But even before he did that, he was going to give half of what he owned to the poor. Zacchaeus  was  going  to be  a  far poorer  man  after  all this was done. But you can be sure that he became the happiest man in all of Jericho!

“And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house…  For the Son of man [Jesus] is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That means that Jesus was not looking for the “good” people. “For I am not come to call the righteous,” Jesus said, “but sinners to repentance”. (Mat. 9:13). Jesus will only save sinners! Those who are “righteous” (in their own eyes), and feel they have no need of Christ, must remain without Christ throughout all eternity. But, friend, if you know that you’re a sinner, Jesus Christ died for you and he is calling your name now. Zacchaeus had looked in the eyes of Jesus. He had seen his own wickedness. He turned completely away from his selfishness and deceit. And he received Jesus joyfully. If you have not yet experienced the kind of change Zacchaeus experienced, bow your head now and make this your prayer.

“Dear Lord, I know that I too have broken your commandments. I’ve sinned against you, and according to your Law, I deserve to die.  Yet, I know that you love me. I believe that you sent your only Son, Jesus, to die in my place and pay for my sins. I now accept that sacrifice. Forgive my sins. Come live in my heart. Make me a brand new person, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

If you have prayed that prayer and meant it with all your heart, you and Jesus now belong to each other. Pray every day. Read your Bible every day. Find a Bible believing church and attend there regularly.   B.T.

ecstatic man jumping down from a tree

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Roadmap To Heaven, Inc.
Your Bible Is Your Roadmap!
Radio Message  #10-M

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