IntroductionBefriended And Changed
Don Posterski, in his book "Re-inventing Evangelism" speaks about "Safety Zones." A safety zone, according to Posterski, is basically the sphere in which a person lives where they naturally feel safe A person who thrives on the energy of a big city may thrive on driving in Downtown Toronto that environment feels "safe" to that person. Others among us, dont feel safe anywhere near Toronto traffic let alone right downtown in the thick of it. For those people, "safety zone" would not include driving in downtown Toronto traffic
The reason why some people feel safe in one context and unsafe in another, is an
interesting discussion on nature and nurture
but all I want to consider is that we all have safety zones. For most people in the Church a very important "safety zone" is the church building.
For the Disciples, one of their safety zones would be the Synagogue whereas for Zacchaeus, in our story today. The synagogue may not have been within his "safety-zone". As was often the case during Jesus ministry word of his supernatural power traveled much faster than Jesus himself could travel
People wanted to see this Jesus. They wanted him over for dinner. Jesus was intriguing to them. Zacchaeus had obviously heard of Jesus because he wanted to go and see him in person as he passed through Jericho. What we witness in this text is, Zacchaeus. . .
Jesus was known as a prophet (Matt 21:11); an activist (Matt 21:12ff); a healer (Mk 6:56ff.); and a spiritual teacher (Rabbi). Now we always focus on how the faithful Jews in Jesus Day would not have been comfortable mixing company with a Tax Collector and this is true. But what I would like to point out at this point is that Tax-collectors" would not have been comfortable mixing company with Religious folk. It was and remains a two way street. What I find interesting is that Luke notes that Zacchaeus was no ordinary Tax-Collector". he was the "chief tax collector" a term which is not found anywhere else in Greek literature. There is some ambiguity in the prefix "chief"; it can mean that Zacchaeus was governing or managing other tax collectors in the area; or, it could mean that he was everything one would expect in a tax-collector -- an archetype if you will. We use the expression in much the same way. If being a deacons means being tired than I am chief Deacon.
What we mean by chief deacon there is not a literal leader but someone who fits the category well. I dont know which one is intended here. Zacchaeus is called literally "a person of small stature". And the negative twist on that expression exists in the Greek just as in English. Nevertheless, what we see in Zacchaeus is a man who is searching more than this he is searching beyond his own safety-zones for what he is looking for. We are told exactly what that "something" is however, we can make some basic conclusions based on human nature and thousands of years of evidence
We know that neither power or money will satisfy a persons inner need for peace and meaning
Since Zacchaeus seems to have achieved both wealth and power the fact that he is
looking to Jesus for something
shows that he is seeking for spiritual reasons. I want to highlight this because often we just assume that people
who are far away from God in their life-style will never turn around. We assume that it is easier to reach a person
who has it all together and fits our paradigm of someone who, like the rich young ruler, is not far from the kingdom
or as Luke records Jesus words "you lack one thing"
But whether some people lack a multitude of things or whether they lack just one thing both kinds of people are outside the kingdom. Both need to hear the message of Jesus love and both need to give up their personal plan of salvation and take up Gods plan of Salvation. As you look around you this week there will be people who are searching for inner peace searching for meaning. . . searching for significance. It is incumbent upon us to understand this and to be ready to share the hope that comes from trusting in Jesus Christ.
Just as Zacchaeus was Searching Beyond The Zone so too, we see him. . .
There can be no greater model for us in life that the example that Jesus gives to us with his life. In this instance we see Jesus accepting a person who everyone else around has rejected outright. It is clear that when Jesus looked up in the tree Jesus Accepted Zacchaeus. He did not join Zacchaeus in his lifestyle. He did not change himself be like Zacchaeus. He simply called out to him and gave Zacchaeus the opportunity to do something positive; something not stained by the stereotyping of others and his own greed
Zacchaeus was accepted; Zacchaeus was given an opportunity to serve Jesus, and that opportunity changed his life
We cannot understand fully what God does in the human heart at the moment of faith.
All we can know for sure is that God changes people when they put their faith in
Jesus Christ. That is something that we Baptists need reminding about from time to
time. God is sovereign! And while we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, it is
God who breaks through the hardest hearts
not our ingenuity or our thoughtfulness. It is the gift of God through the power of His Spirit.
Transformation, that is what we ultimately need isnt it? That the internal nature of a person be changed or transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
As we look around us we could do be more like Jesus. We could seek those who are truly interested in matters of faith. And to those who are in jobs that we think are tainted it is time to rethink our theology based on this text and the similar teaching of John the Baptist.
Who are we giving a chance?
Who are we reaching in this manner?
How are we following this pattern in our lives?
Zacchaeus story is amazing. The only thing more amazing is that this could be repeated in our own Church. If we would forget what the crowd says what the religious officials will say, and simple following the leading of Jesus on this our own lives would continue transforming into the likeness of Christ.
Let us Love our Neighbour; Let us Accept those who seek Christ; Let us rejoice at the transformation that occurs, when a person takes that step of faith and gives the control of their lives into the hands of Jesus.