By Dr. John A. Temple / Guest columnist
The Meridian Star
"Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich." — Luke 19:1-5
Most of us know the story of Zacchaeus, up the tree, meeting Jesus. This is an interesting story of a rich, powerful man running to keep ahead of the parade of a famous man passing through Jericho. Because he was short and couldn’t see, he climbed a tree to see.
Can you imagine some successful businessman in our town climbing a light pole to see a famous person come to town? Such action sounds more like a child than a man. But, several aspects of this event seem even more striking:
1. Zacchaeus is a man that did not live up to his name. Zacchaeus was rich because he was a tax collector. His riches had developed at the expense of the people he assessed taxes. His power produced a reputation that betrayed his name. Zacchaeus means, “Righteous one.”
2. The rich man wanted to see Jesus. Isn’t it surprising that a man with such power and privilege would care who is passing by? We don’t know why he is interested in Jesus. He may have heard of Jesus’ fame. He may have just been curious. He may have felt a need to know more. He could have thought that Jesus could help him respect himself. Even people that seem to have everything can feel like something is missing.
3. Jesus wanted to be with Zacchaeus. It is Jesus who initiated the contact. It is Jesus who invited himself to this sinner’s home. It is Jesus who didn’t care what others thought about His fellowship with such a man of disrepute. Some might have thought that Jesus would have sought the fellowship of the religious leaders in town. Instead he seeks the fellowship of the one rejected by all.
4. This was the only time Zacchaeus will have a chance to meet Jesus. This is the last time Jesus passes through Jericho. He is on the way to Jerusalem to lay down His life for the sin of man. If Zacchaeus misses Jesus on this visit, he will miss Jesus forever.
5. Jesus never speaks in judgment, only with encouragement. When Zacchaeus expresses a change of heart in how he treats others, Jesus celebrates the change of heart Zacchaeus shows. There is never a mention of Zacchaeus’ mistreatment of others in the past. His past was not the focus of Jesus. The Lord’s focus was his future.
Like Zacchaeus, all of us fail to live up to what we should be. We wish we could change or start over. The problem is that everyone knows us for what we have been.
Zacchaeus shows us that the Lord is looking for us and is seeking an audience with us in spite of our reputation. We need not fear the Lord’s intent. He does not come to condemn but to change and restore. Jesus is not so much keeping score as offering help to overcome our past.
One final thing; we never know when it is our last chance to meet Jesus. Now is all we have we can guarantee. If you feel a need to improve and don’t see any way to change, listen. You may be hearing Jesus calling for you.
When Jesus comes near, He wants more than to just pass by. He is trying to make an appointment where He can help us live with who we are. Through Jesus’ eyes we are seen for our potential, not our problems.
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.