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Clergy View: Climbing down from the tree

The short man arrives to the meeting place where the teacher is said to be, and he’s late. Already crowds of people have gathered, the best vantage points in the front are taken and no one is willing to move or concede space for this tax collector. Coupled with the cold shoulders and stern glares from the people in the back of this flash mob style assembly, the man almost gives up his chances of hearing and seeing this teacher.

He almost gives up, that is, until he sees the tree. Looking up, he realizes not all of the best vantage points have in fact been taken, there’s still a box seat in the form of a sycamore tree that is yet available. After some hiking up of his robes, a skinned elbow and some mussed up hair, the man is finally perched upon the bow of a sturdy limb and the view is great.

Below he can see the teacher as he is instructing the crowd in the ways of godly living. Jesus (the teacher) speaks with such authority and truth that those that are gathered there remain still with bending ear.

All is going well until Jesus looks up and says to the short man perched upon that tree, “Zacchaeus come down right now, I want to come to your house.” Zacchaeus is surprised and shocked that Jesus calls him by name, let alone calls him at all. After all, he’s a chief tax collector, and no one likes tax collectors let alone the head of the tax collectors. For a few moments the sounds of grumbling can be heard throughout the crowd gathered there, they know Zacchaeus by name and by reputation. He’s cheated many a person out of money by charging more in the collection of taxes. Some must have thought why would Jesus want to visit a corrupt person like that? Others perhaps wondered if Jesus knew anything about the sort of man he had just called down to visit with. Yet, undisturbed by the mumblings and grumblings of the crowd, Jesus begins to walk side by side with Zacchaeus.

That day, as recorded in Luke 19:1-10, a man whom the crowd identified as a sinner, was greeted and welcomed by Jesus. But it doesn’t end with them walking to his house in the sunset. No, the gospel of Luke records that Zacchaeus in the presence of Jesus at his house is compelled to give half of his money to the poor and to repay anyone he had cheated through the collection of taxes. Luke doesn’t record here what Jesus said to Zacchaeus. I imagine it wasn’t a guilt trip or brow beating; but from what I know of the teachings of Jesus, he must have spoken the truth in love and the result was more about attitude then about monetary restitution.

You see when our sins are brought into the light of Christ action takes place. Romans 3:23 says, “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say some of us have fallen short, or a small percentage of us have fallen short, it says ALL. Every one of us has sinned. Romans 3:10 says that there’s “No one righteous, no not one.” What that means for us is that we all need to have Jesus come and visit us in our personal spaces and not just occasionally or once in a while, but every day. What Jesus did on the cross for us was forgive our sins, but the forgiving can’t take place unless we are willing to say, like King David said when he sinned; “Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Jesus wants to come to your house and whatever tree you’ve climbed or whatever bad thing you’ve done, his forgiveness is still available. He longs to have a loving relationship with you. I don’t pretend to know how this thing called grace works, but I do know God offers it to all of us not by anything we’ve done but by what Christ has done for us. Welcome him when he calls you and you’ll never be the same!