Guest post by Michael Kelley:
The tax collector took a tentative step forward. Then another. Then
he grabbed hold of the low branches and swung a leg up. He looked around
briefly. The crowd was coming, the noise growing louder. Up and up and
up. His heart beat faster and faster and faster. Still he climbed. He
was sweating now through the weight of his clothes. He barely had enough
time to consider, once again, why he was pushing his way up this
sycamore tree, because the crowd was right below Him now, teeming with
excitement. The leaves got thicker as he edged forward… and then he saw
Him. And something burst inside of Zacchaeus.
He froze, like a squirrel caught on a limb too far from the next. It
was a feeling like he’d never experienced, for to his great surprise,
the man wasn’t looking at the crowd. He wasn’t glad-handing the people
around Him, nor was He looking forward where He was going. He was
looking into the tree. Right at Zacchaeus.
Can you imagine what went through his mind at that moment? Can you
fathom the insecurity of suddenly seeing not only Jesus, but every face
in the crowd turn upward? Can you see his face start to turn red as the
mouths of that crowd started to turn upward in jeering laughter?
But then Jesus spoke, and when Jesus speaks, everything changes:
“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
That’s a bit impolite, isn’t it? I mean, Jesus isn’t making a request
here. He begins with a command to come down and then continues not by
asking, but by declaring that He’s going to hang out at Casa del
Zacchaeus that night. He must do so.
I suppose you could look at that must as an imposition both
on the Son of God as well as the tax collector – that Jesus was saying
that much as He would like to stay in the home of someone more
reputable, He simply can’t. He has His orders, and like it or not, He’s
going to that house to stay. Yes, He’s going to that house to stay. You
could look at it like that, or you could see the beauty in that must.
The beautiful “must” of Luke 19 reminds us that Jesus didn’t have any
questions about what He was doing on the earth. He knew what He was
sent here for, and He was perfectly willing to sully His reputation by
hanging out with the likes of you and me and diminutive money-grabbers
like Zacchaeus. Jesus wasn’t on some rogue mission from the Father, but
instead was perfectly intentional about what was happening. He Himself
would go on to say: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the
lost” (Luke 19:10).
He must do this, and He must do it whether we like it or not. Indeed,
most of us do not like it. At least not at first. We don’t like Jesus’
intrusion into our lives. We don’t like His outlandish claim of Lordship
and dominion over our habits and thoughts. We don’t like His calls to
complete trust and obedience. He forces His way into our houses, and
it’s a bit uncomfortable. At least at first. But then, in retrospect, we
find that this is an invasion of grace. Of love. Of mercy. It is an
through His demands that we find true freedom and hope and joy.
We are sought. And because we are sought, we are found. And only when
we are found do we look back and realize just how lost we truly were.