Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 36 | Outrageous Grace

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”   So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.   For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19.1-10

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he fully knows what awaits him – arrest, mocking, spit upon, flogged, a torturous crucifixion.  On the way he rolls into the town of Jericho.  A crowd has gathered to see the “Miracle Man” and amongst the curious is a man named Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus is not just any man in Jericho; he is a tax collector…the chief tax collector.  Being chief tax collector he is well known and very wealthy at the expense of the Jews living in Jericho.

Upon approaching Zacchaeus, Jesus invites himself over to his house rather boldly.  Notice Jesus doesn’t ask Zacchaeus if he can come to his house.  Jesus doesn’t suggest he come to his house.  Jesus says, “I must stay at your house today.”
Zacchaeus enthusiastically and immediately welcomes the One all have come to see.
Given his position as chief tax collector I wonder if anyone has been a guest at Zacchaeus’ house.  Judging from the crowd’s reaction to Jesus hanging out at Zacchaeus’ house makes me wonder if Zacchaeus has even a single friend in this town.
Perhaps this is the reason for Zacchaeus’ eagerness to welcome Jesus into his home.
Whatever the case, it’s clear those in attendance are not happy.  And it’s safe to say they are shocked and even outraged.
What happens next is even more outrageous.
The wealthy tax collector shockingly declares he is giving half his possessions to the poor.  HALF!  What’s more, he promises to pay back four times the amount to anyone he has cheated.  FOUR TIMES!
Nowhere in the account of Luke’s telling of this scene does Jesus lean over and whisper in Zacchaeus’ ear, “Hey buddy…people are quite upset that I’m here with you.  Dude…if I’m going to hang out with you I’m going to need you to do something.  I’m going to need you to change your ways and start fixing all you have broken.  I’m going to need you to show people that my presence in your life is really making a difference.”
Jesus entered into Zacchaeus’ life purely out of an extension of undeserved grace. 
Zacchaeus’ response to this grace was to surrender that which was likely most important to him – his money.
The very thing that enslaved Zacchaeus was now the very thing he was liberated from.
This was not a prerequisite to a relationship with Jesus.  This was the result of beginning a relationship with Jesus.
It’s an outrageous response to outrageous grace.
How are you responding?
- Kevin Baker

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