My favorite part of the newspaper is the comic page. It gives a slice of life. Baby Blues has some insightful family moments. One in particular has stuck with me. The mother looks in the mirror and exclaims in horror that she’s just found a hair on her chin. Her daughter walks by and says, “Oh, you mean “Chinny”? We named him last week.”
It can be embarrassing to be caught unaware!
I’m so grateful that God is always aware. He doesn’t just see what’s going on right now but what has been and what will be in the future. He perceives the long view of our lives and knows who we will become.
A very familiar story of God’s awareness in one man’s life comes to us in Luke 19:1-10. Here’s how the story of Zacchaeus reads in the Message:
Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way – he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by. When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”
Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.’”
Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
I notice a few things about Zacchaeus that could cause him to be ashamed:
- Short. I’m not sure what social stigma this may have caused but Luke did mention it.
- Head tax man. If you’re a Jew this is not a good occupation. He worked for Rome collecting taxes but charged extra for himself. Being the head tax man and quite rich, Zacchaeus must have been good at gouging his countrymen and family out of money.
- He would have been an outcast among this own people, the Jews.
- He wasn’t welcome anywhere, pushed to the back of the crowd where he couldn’t see, he had one last option: Run ahead and climb a tree.
What kind of a wealthy businessman runs ahead and climbs a tree? Seriously, think about what that would look like in today’s society. Then realize that it was very improper for a man in Zacchaeus’ day to run at all for fear his robe would come open. Then he climbs a tree on top of it!
Maybe he thought he could hide among the leaves. I’m sure he planned for everyone to be looking at Jesus, not up in trees.
Imagine his surprise when Jesus stopped at his tree and looked up.
Imagine his embarrassment.
Until Jesus recognized him.
The one person in Jericho who everyone wanted to see, the man of the hour, that’s the One who called his name. Not to scold him, not to embarrass him or make fun of him like so many in the crowd.
Jesus called Zacchaeus out of his place of shame and chose to spend time just with him. No crowds, no pressure, just a friendly dinner in his home.
Jesus knew the root of Zacchaeus’ shame. It wasn’t his job or his shortness, but the fact that he was an outcast. Jesus knows shame has kept Zacchaeus in the trees. The shame was erased when Jesus chose him.
Then, when the crowd complained and Zach tried to defend himself Jesus steps in again. He called Zacchaeus out of his life of shame into salvation. He confirmed his true identity and proclaimed him restored.
My friends, when we are ashamed our loving God is aware.
He sees how desperate we are to rid ourselves of the shame in our lives. We will climb our own trees in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Jesus.
Perfectionism and control
Busyness and striving
Self-loathing and hiding
What we don’t realize while we’re climbing higher and higher in our own strength is that Jesus planned in advance to visit us. Not just for an evening meal, but for eternity. We are the reason He came.
You are the reason Jesus walked into town. He chose you.
And when Jesus is your savior, He doesn’t just call you what everyone else does.
He confirms that you are a daughter of the King and proclaims you restored.
I found Romans 9:25-26 in the Message and it just might become my life verse.
“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, ‘You’re nobody!’
they’re calling you ‘God’s living children!”
Is there a place in your life where you hear the voices of the crowd yelling, “you’re nobody, you’re unlovable!”? Maybe, like me, it’s right in your own head.
Trust God with me to hear His voice above the crowd.
Listen for the many ways He calls you Beloved.