Yesterday, we learned about a stubby tax collector named Zacchaeus and how he went to great lengths to see Jesus. Today, I want to examine the Lord’s unconventional response to his effort. Though he was a member of a hated and immoral profession and was held in low esteem because of his short stature, Jesus stopped right under the tree into which he had climbed. Rather than reprimand or judge him, He instructed him to come down, because He was going over to his house that very day! This was shocking not only because of who he was, but also because Jews typically didn’t invite themselves to the home of another, especially one who was considered so sinful. Knowing this, we can imagine the disbelief Zacchaeus felt when Christ said to him (and I paraphrase), “Hey, I want to hang out with you. Can I come to your house for lunch?” To put it in modern terms, it would be like the late Billy Graham arriving in a town and a bunch of important people were gathered there to meet him. The president, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa were in attendance, but he walked right by them and up to someone like Bernie Madoff. Ignoring the most righteous, high-profile, and honorable people in his midst, he befriended and embraced a criminal. This is how scandalous and unheard of God’s acceptance of Zacchaeus was, and it teaches us a lot about His heart as we live as His ambassadors today.
My friend, Jesus makes religious people uncomfortable. His interactions with everyone, including the most disdained in society’s eyes, prove just how unswayed He was by title, background, or past sins. His love for people of all kinds blew cultural norms and conventions out of the water, and He invites you to follow in His footsteps. By embracing the ones who are certain they’ll never belong, you have the power to invoke healing, overcome the sting of rejection, and partner with the Lord in changing eternal destinies. Though doing so may lead to judgment from the watching world, the peace you gain through obeying the Holy Spirit’s voice will make it all worthwhile!