Zacchaeus called Jesus by name, and it, quite literally, changed everything.
The reason it’s such a big deal is because Jesus calls each of us by name, too, including Zacchaeus.
Jesus always calls us with grace, not condemnation, even when we deserve it. If you hear a condemning voice, that’s not Jesus.
But we need to realize something here. This is great for the person receiving grace but is wildly unpopular with everyone else. We are good with it when we’re the recipients, but not when other underserving people get grace.
Look at the response from the crowd.
Sometimes the most straightforward yet challenging acts of worship we can offer God is our “yes.” So, we are just like Zacchaeus in this story. The person who doesn’t feel worthy, qualified, or ready. But the one who Jesus calls.
And sometimes we’re the crowd. So we see Jesus do this with someone else we don’t think deserves it.
Here’s a guy who everyone hated:
Meanwhile, all the other folks got there early. They camped out. They got the good spots to see Jesus. It’s like showing up to New Year’s Eve in Times Square hours before with signs, chanting, “we love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus, how ‘bout you?”
Jesus doesn’t go to any of their houses. He doesn’t even tell this tax collector guy to repent or cast down judgment on him. It seems like a missed opportunity to call out sin. It seems so unfair.
This is an area we really struggle with when it comes to God.
Because we meant well, we slipped up, or it wasn’t that big of a deal. We look at our intentions. It’s easy to do, and it also has the effect of making us feel morally superior. Whether we admit it or not, we play this game where we subtly figure out the people who are “worse” than we are.
But it turns out Jesus has a very different vision of how this works – with Zacchaeus and us. Look how one of the other early church leaders, the Apostle Paul, himself a recipient of incredible grace, frames it:
Paul wrote these words after a discourse in the previous chapter about sin – the fact that we all fall short of the glory of a holy God and that sin has consequences.
Christian people love bringing that section up to discuss “the world” and “sinners.” Specifically other people’s sin. But they rarely connect it to this section, which comes right after.
We see a very different picture in these words and Jesus’ actions.
If we decided to call out sin, we’d run out of time before even being done with our own. Sometimes we’re Zacchaeus, and we like that part. But sometimes we’re the crowd. It’s really easy to miss Jesus and how He operates when we’re in the crowd.
Look at that last phrase. God’s kindness leads us to repentance. Not condemnation, embrace. And that’s what Jesus does in the story.
8 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.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
It’s such a simple, powerful act. Jesus is calling a man, and by all accounts, an unworthy man. It changes everything.
There’s something profoundly powerful about being seen, addressed personally, spoken to, or embraced.
So, how does Jesus call us by name? Most of us want that deep down. We don’t want to be just another face in the crowd.
We often pray, “God show up, God speak to me.” When what we really mean is, “I don’t want to move an inch, God come into the place I’ve already decided.” Now, God covers the distance between, but we have to be willing to move, let go, risk looking silly, and get into a position where we’re ready to be seen and to be called.
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