The Bible tells the story of a prominent resident of the city of Jericho. He was made rich because of his position as the Chief Tax Collector. Jericho was a well-placed city on the road map. It was located on a trade route and was in possession of some terrific balsam groves. The resident’s name is Zacchaeus. He was disgusting to the community of Jericho.
Zacchaeus heard Jesus was passing through his town. He ran to a tree he knew and climbed it, hoping to get a look at the famous teacher. When Jesus approached the tree, He pointed Zacchaeus out and told him to come down. Jesus altered His plans to pass through the town and announced to everyone around that He must go to Zacchaeus’ house.
The crowd grumbled at Jesus’ announcement. Why would such a famous teacher want to spend time in the home of such a sinner? But Jesus’ visit to Zacchaeus’ house proved fruitful for the Kingdom and the residents of Jericho. As a result of Jesus’ invitation to come into Him, Zacchaeus announced he would give half of his goods to the poor and repay those whom he had wronged four times over!
Have we forgotten the Zacchaeus’ around us? Do you realize there are people all over Hempstead Co who long for the presence of Jesus but have received mixed messages from the Church? Cross looks, grumbling remarks, folded arms when they got up the gumption to come to Church, or a simple refusal to pursue them with the Gospel has placed our Zach’s in the position of outcasts. Many of these people find solace in watching a TV program on Sunday mornings or reading some of the lately prolifically published material on the Bible, but this is not nearly enough to sustain them. They long for Living Water. They long for the very same face time with Jesus Zach had. The only problem with that is the Body of Christ has all but denied them access.
Do you realize the privilege and joy we have as the Church of taking the position of Jesus and saying to the lost world “I am coming to your house today!” It is not enough to us to say “Come to Church.” The lost world has tried that, at least in the South, and it hasn’t worked out too well for them. We must go to them. And we must approach them with glad hearts, graceful eyes, and compassionate hands. We must prove to them, as Jesus proved to Zacchaeus, that we are excited about them being a part of the family. There is simply no other option for us as the Church. We must do this.
Did you hear that part about Zacchaeus running to Jesus? He wanted to be near Him so badly he was willing to lay down any pretense or fussiness he has amassed for himself in Jericho. His vulnerability was rewarded. Do you realize that if you are a part of the Kingdom of God it is not because of your honor or influence? God does not need you in Heaven. He wants you there, but not because of your fame. He desires your relationship because He created you. In that sense, you and I are no different from any other breathing human being on the face of the earth. How dare we look the other way when we see an individual who smells differently, dresses differently, or talks differently than us. We have been invited into the Kingdom by the King. His rules demand our active involvement in the future inviting of our world residents.
What will you do? Will you humble yourself, turn a deaf ear to the grumbling we were once a part of and invite the hurting man in? Or will you pretend you don’t see his hunger or see his hurt and walk on by? We are surrounded by Zacchaeus’.
Zacchaeus’ come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and colors. We have no way of knowing when God is working in a heart, softening it to the point of being hungry for the truth. Our place is not to decide who comes in and who doesn’t get access. Our place is to throw open the doors to our buildings and our lives, inviting a searching world to find the answers we’ve been given.
We were once Zacchaeus’. Someone invited us in. Will you return the favor?