In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 19: 1-10
Earnest seekers did many unusual things to get close to Jesus. Some pushed their way through crowds to touch the hem of his garment. Others opened the canopy of the roof of a home to drop a paralytic friend into the center of the room so Jesus could heal him. In the story today we see Zacchaeus the tax collector climbing up a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus as he was coming his way. Very creative for the short man who knew he could not see Jesus because of the crowd.
When Jesus reached the spot where Zacchaeus was up in the tree, he noticed him and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down and welcomed Jesus with gladness of heart into his home. It must have been the thrill of his lifetime! But, when all of the towns’ people saw this they began to mutter silly slander, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Not a gross sinner for very long, however. Zacchaeus was so delighted to be in Jesus’ presence that he was convicted of his sin and openly confessed how he wanted to make things right. He said to Jesus, “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.” The tax collector was set free to become a child of God, releasing his well-earned possessions to the poor, and paying back any ill-earned money four times the original amount. What a great picture of repentance – a total turn around for this “sinner.”
No wonder Jesus loved hanging out with sinners! It was the sinners who knew they were in need of a Savior. The sinners were the ones who were broken, sick, hungry, poor of spirit, troubled of mind, greedy of gain, and prideful of heart. Those who were focused on the Law more than grace, pointed fingers of judgment and closed their hearts to the gospel. To be accused of associating with sinners was a badge of honor for Jesus, for he came to seek and to save what was lost.
Zacchaeus was found and saved by Jesus on that great day of joy. Jesus declares, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus believed and was considered righteous in God’s eyes, and was generous with his money, magnanimously offering it to the poor. The Son of Man declares this of Zacchaeus: he once was lost, but now is found.
Can you recall the time when you were seeking Jesus? When you received his outstretched arms of love? Perhaps you remember the joy and zeal you had as a new believer? Reclaim that once more! Behold the beauty of the Lord Jesus with a seekers heart; believe the transformation he desired for you then and now; belong to the fellowship of those who continue to seek Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; become a curious seeker once again, even if it means climbing a tree to see better.