March 19 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 19)
Submitted by Conrad C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
This passage describing Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus follows His encounter with the rich young ruler of Luke 18. After the rich young ruler turned down Jesus’ offer and walked away sad, it closes with Jesus saying, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” And now in Chapter 19, there’s another rich man of similar wealth. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, a class of profession that though despised by the people, commanded power and wealth. Especially as Jesus was passing through Jericho, a significant city, Zacchaeus’ wealth must have been considerable, maybe even exceeding that of the rich young ruler. Yet though similar in purse, the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus had very different backgrounds. The rich young ruler was likely associated with some leadership position (perhaps at the local synagogue). He had influence and sway. He was also young, which amplifies the kind of accomplished and determined individual that he was. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, came from ill-repute. He was most likely much older than the rich young ruler. His short stature was probably a point of ridicule he often received, perhaps fueling his own ruthlessness to exact grueling taxes on an already impoverished people. I think the most striking thing that differentiates these two rich men, is how they approached Jesus because it speaks volumes as to how they saw themselves. The rich young ruler came directly to Jesus, properly addressed him as “good teacher,” and directly asked Jesus a massive life question with ease: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Zacchaeus, on the other hand, had no pretensions about who he was. He just wanted to see Jesus. He was curious, but he dare not approach Jesus personally. Tax collectors just don’t walk up to holy men like Jesus. Zacchaeus with all his power and mafia-like repute in the end knew who he was. The rich young ruler in his claim to have satisfied the commandments came with an air of confidence and self-assurance.
Seeing these two men come to Jesus, it warrants considering how I come to God, in terms of how I see myself as well as my view of God. I think about the words of one my favorite hymns, “I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord; No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.” Do I come to Jesus with a sense of deep neediness? Zacchaeus didn’t come with any theological inquiries compared to the rich young ruler, but because of his fundamental posture he was able to welcome Jesus into his life. This reminds me that when I come to Jesus that I come as I who am, without the accouterments of good deeds. If I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m a wreck inside, with many contradictory desires when my guard is down, and all kinds of inconsistencies and brokenness. Jesus’ voice is one that can “peace afford” in my life; to calm the worries and lift my cloud of self-centeredness to open my eyes to the world as He sees it.
Zaccheus came as a man was afflicted by his own sins. Jesus’ words, “I must at stay at your house,” reveal the heart of God for this poor soul. Typically, an invitation of hospitality by a host was an expression of deep honor and warmth. It’s still present in our contemporary culture, like saying to a friend, “Hey, stay over my place. I got an extra room you can use.” However, this is an invitation that wouldn’t even enter into Zacchaeus’ worldview, for holy people do not take up board at tax collectors’ homes. And so, Jesus flips everything around and just invites himself into Zacchaeus’ house. We see the eagerness of God’s heart to come fellowship with the broken. He thoroughly enjoys being the “guest of a sinner.” The crowd saw Zacchaeus as hopeless sinner. Jesus would have been better off staying at any of their own homes than this wretched man. However, Jesus sees it entirely differently. The only home fit for him is one of the sinners. And so I fundamentally have to ask myself what kind of person I am. Jesus stays in the homes of sinners. My confession today is that I’m just a sinner, comprehensively and in detail, and I need Jesus’ words extended to me, “I must stay at your house.” God is not repelled by my sinfulness. If anything from today’s passage, he’s curiously drawn to people who readily admit their darkness. He’s compelled to go to them. Almost 18 years ago, Jesus found me and today’s DT reminds me that it was by no means an incidental encounter. Jesus sought me and found a home of a sinner. He wanted to invite himself into my house, but borrowing from Revelation 3:20, I know he stood for quite a while knocking until I finally opened the door to let him in. This love is the heart of God. He’s seeking and looking for the lost like me.
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! … What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Because Zacchaeus, a rich man, had the right heart before God and welcomed Jesus into his life, he was able to do what the rich young ruler could not do. He was able to depart with his wealth, which was the bitter fruit of his corrupt past. How does a greedy chief tax collector suddenly become generous? What is impossible with men is possible with God. Though the rich younger ruler walked away sad, that is not the only possible outcome. With God, someone like Zacchaeus can experience the joy of heaven because of his relationship with Jesus. That wonderful transformation through relationship is what Jesus proclaims as salvation–the act of recovering what was lost. And so in my life there are seemingly impossible issues of character and habit that I know of. I do not have to walk away sad just because change isn’t happening fast enough or I know how stubbornly deep some of those things are. Jesus is staying at my house, so all will be well, for I have hope that what is impossible by my own strength is possible with God.