So . . . maybe I’ve been focusing on the wrong stuff when I come to the story of Zacchaeus, the rich chief tax collector, recorded in Luke 19. Typically he captures my imagination as this short and stubby guy with a sly, greedy grin plastered on his face as he extorts money from his own people. I wonder at the depths of the work of the Spirit in him as he throws caution to the wind in order to seek Jesus. Dignified businessmen, and not so dignified tax collectors, don’t typically hoist up their garments and run through a crowd . . . and certainly, you wouldn’t typically find them climbing trees. I’m often challenged by Zacchaeus’s intense desire to see Jesus. I have often thought I would benefit from the same “go all out” attitude to knowing the Savior.
But maybe I’ve been focusing on the wrong stuff for years. While the actions of Zacchaeus are “fun” to imagine, and the zeal of Zacchaeus is inspirational to imitate, maybe the point of the story is better captured by whoever “they” were that witnessed the Zacchaeus / Jesus encounter.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:5-7 ESV)
As amusing as thinking about Zacchaeus running and climbing a tree is, how amazing is it that Jesus says, “I must stay at your house today?” How incredible is it that the great I AM would want to be the guest of man who is a sinner?” Kind of amazing . . . pretty incredible!
I don’t know who the “they” were, exactly, who were choked that Jesus would desire to visit with Zacchaeus. Not unprecedented that it would be the scribes and Pharisees (Luke 15:2), but not inconceivable that it was the crowd at large . . . those who had flocked to see Jesus themselves . . . those who would have no love lost for such a man as Zacchaeus. But whoever “they” are, I think they got the real significance of the Zacchaeus / Jesus encounter . . . that Jesus goes to be the guest of sinners. Unreal!
They grumbled . . . they muttered under their breath . . . with indignation, they quietly complained among themselves . . . what is Jesus doing going into the house of someone like him? And I find myself asking the same question. But “him” is me . . . and it’s not with grumbling, but gratitude . . . not muttering, but in amazement . . . not complaining, but with awestruck contemplation.
Jesus desires to be the guest of sinners. He Himself secured the means for the holy God of heaven to commune with sin-marred men of earth. As the Lamb of God, He offered Himself a once for all sacrifice for the tax collector’s transgressions . . . His blood was shed to cover the rebels’ iniquities . . . His life was given for His enemies’ aggressions. And to all who would desire to know Him, He says let me cleanse you and be a guest in your house. Come to me and I will come to you. Receive me as you are and I will remake you into what I created you to be.
Isn’t that really the main point of the story? I’m thinkin’ . . .
The Guest of sinners . . . the great Savior for all who believe . . . the God to whom belongs all glory!