Initially, I considered naming this post GOING OUT ON A LIMB for the LORD or BRANCHING OUT in 2010. Either way, it reminds us all what happens when we reach out to Jesus. Desperate men must take drastic measures to get to God.
Yes, prayer is a whisper away but obedience outstretched to the Omnipotent is OUTSTANDING! Deity delights in deliberate and obnoxious faith. The Bible in Luke 19:1-10, talks about a man named Zacchaeus. Studying this passage I learned a couple points.
For starters, we “SEE the SINNER” – Zacchaeus was not only short in stature but sophisticated in sinning. This brother was considered the lowest of the low by oppressing folks who were already down. The only folks worse were warped grave robbers but at least their victims couldn’t feel anything. They were dead! He was short in stature. Not just socially or economically but physically. Worse, spiritually! He was a dead man walking. He had money in the bank but no Savior in his tank. David Koresh was known as the Wacko in Waco. Now, we meet Zaccheaus, the “Sicko in the Sycamore.”
The Bible notes he was not only a tax collector but a chief tax collector. When the Lord is not living in us we are tempted to hide behind “titles.” God is not impressed with titles. Why? For one, when you own the cattle on a thousand hills, tossed the stars in their existence and at your Name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD” I am convinced God is not impressed with our “titles” but what catches His attention is our testimony.
We are a sin-sick society in desperate need not of health insurance but Heaven assurance! Ironically, the Sycamore Tree resembled Zaccheaus. How? Both were considered “un-clean.” The Sycamore is never noted as being elegant (not that trees are invited to galas or fashion runways). Despite his errors, to his credit it is evident that Zachaeus had some questions and heard that “The Answer” was coming to town. No, we are not talking about Allen Iverson 🙂
Secondly, we “SEE the WINNER”. Christ commanded a crowd wherever He went. This day was no exception, as the Almighty strolled through the street, He (like the Good Shepherd) willing to leave 99 to catch the one that was lost came to stop at this Sycamore tree. Picture this, The Treasure is now at the trunk of the tree and what does He see but a man desiring to encounter Eternity!
The beauty about this passage is that this man who was “short in stature” and soaked in sin scrambled up a Sycamore to see the Savior. Zacheaus did what no one else that day did or dared and ironically, the Lord did what no one thought imaginable. Zacchaeus in his search to see God and perhaps “find God” literally went “out on a limb” to look at the Lord, get a glimpse of God and see the Savior for himself. This is important because we cannot get to Heaven on anyone else’s coat-tails or shoulders but we must have a real relationship with the Redeemer. It has been said: “If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got.” Sometimes we have to BRANCH OUT and like Star Trek, “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Sure, everyone has sin but very few went to such lengths (limbs) to grab God.
The Bible says that Zacchaeus couldn’t see Him because of the “press.” I always thought it fitting the word the King James Version used because it was referring to the crowd but reporters in media (press) don’t want us to see God either these days. It was a disadvantage his whole adult life being short but the blessing about Zacchaeus being “small” is that it forced him to get out of his comfort zone, create a plan and climbed a tree. Call him crazy or creative but he had a crisis and for the first time in his life considered that perhaps Christ not the crowd could satisfy.
Zacchaeus, his entire life felt demoted but with his faith and God’s grace he was about to be PROMOTED. It is true: “The darkest hour of the night is always the hour before dawn.” Sometimes we got to get to the end of self before we can see God. Our “advantages” can make us immune to going to the next level in life and with the Lord. Sometimes, our past successes are more dangerous than future failures. We must come to a point where we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Bless his heart, Zacchaeus, paraded by day as a winner but hit his pillow at night knowing he was a wannabee. He was a loser in need of a Leader and a lover for his soul. God’s favor is not fair but is forwarded to those with great faith.
Zacheaus, the sinner is now Face to face with “The Winner” and now invited to dinner! The Lord looked, laughed and listened. Thank God for a Savior Who listens. Then God did the un-thinkable. The man who went “out on a limb” was now going to have a meal with the Master. Dinner for two. A sinner seated for supper with the Savior. The crowd would remain outside and for the first time in his life he who only knew of being an outsider looking in would be “in” while everyone else out.
God going to his house showed He was humble. The crowd cried: “Look, He is a friend of sinners.” Jesus knew that sinners need a Savior. Plus, Jesus went to his house on Earth so Zacchaeus could one day go to His Heavenly Home. The crowd was shocked, Christ smiled and this crook is stuffed (not just satisfied in the stomach but the soul). The Master knew that most meals made by man are temporal but breaking bread with the Bread of Life are ETERNAL!
Now, we “SEE the DINNER”. I imagine Jesus delights in “left overs.” Not so much in food but folks who have been “by-passed” for far too long. Regardless, if it was a leper who needed a healing, a woman caught in adultery needing forgiving or a man in a tree that needed a taste of Glory; all of us need the Lord. Jesus loves second chances and He specializes in grace. Everyone knows Him as the Great Physician and Wonderful Counsellor but Christ is also the consummate Chef. The Prince of Peace prepared a meal that no man or woman could make. For starters, it not only satisfied his stomach but saved his sin sick soul. Jesus meets both our outer and inner most needs. He ministers physically, spirtually but also by building community. Lordship loves fellowship!
Just like that Sycamore who’s nature is “unclean” we resemble Zachaeus more than we would like to admit. Our works fall far short of the Kingdom of God. We were “second class” citizens since the fall of Adam and Eve. We sold out in sin before stretching out and standing UP to see God. Jonathan Edwards wrote: “We are sinners in the Hands of an angry God” but this day; once again, we were ALL sinners in the Hands of a Gracious God. Standing at the base of that tree, the Lord could have thrown the book at him, the woman living in sin or you and me but “The Book” gave great grace opposed to grumbling or grief. The answer that day and today, was not the tree but that Zacchaeus met the Trinity.
Christ was looking for Zacchaeus all along and perhaps the reason why He stopped so quickly is because He could relate. How? Perhaps Jesus saw Himself in that tree. Not long after this encounter, Jesus would exit and embrace an old rugged tree. Zacchaeus got down and I am certain Jesus in His mind got up. At this moment, Zacchaeus had supper but Jesus began to suffer.
Trees are important to God. For one, He made them. Two, He used them to redeem us. Adam and Eve failed by eating forbidden fruit on a tree and Jesus won our victory on a tree (cross) at Mount Calvary. The Bible notes: “He that knew no sin became sin.” The unblemished Lamb (Jesus) inherited our shame and sin and like that Sycamore Tree was deduced to become unclean. Today, as you drive home from work or walk to school tomorrow do this homework assignment. STOP and STARE at the trees. Look closely, and if you gaze long enough you will see a man perched in a tree. That is Zacchaeus. Now look closer, and you begin to see me sitting with him. Don’t blink now, I know your eyes may be straining as you squint or tears blurrying your vision but you are in that Sycamore tree too!
We are sinners and here comes The Winner daydreaming about dinner. Skipping down the street we see the Savior, right up the road is the Redeemer and coming over the Hill is Him! The One who would rather die than live without you and He invites you to Dinner (The Marriage Supper of the Lamb). Today, is the day of Salvation and when the Savior speaks we need to listen. Jesus not only cooks but cleans. One AMAZING attribute of God is that He makes the “un-clean” clean.
Millions have been touched by the Master and He could be a “professional Savior” but He elected to be a PERSONAL SAVIOR. Each person comes to Christ one at a time. Zacchaeus was won by One. Today, souls are still won – one at a time. Jesus sole mission was to redeem souls. The Bible is clear: “He that winneth souls is wise.” May we all be willing to “branch out” and dare to be different, risk reaching for the Redeemer, stretch out to the Savior and go out on a limb for the Lord because like that Elvis classic: “Reach Out to Jesus because Jesus is Reaching Out to You.”