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The Way of Jesus

by Dave Snapper | Associate Pastor on April 22, 2020

Don’t you love the way Jesus saw people who were lurking on the fringes of life even when they were in the middle of their world? He had a way of seeing people who were being overlooked.

Sometimes Jesus saw the single person lost in a crowd, who desperately needed attention.

Our story begins with a tree.

Take Zacchaeus, for example. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Jerichonians, paraded along the trade route through town. In that huge crowd exactly one man stood out – well, here is the irony – Zacchaeus was so short, he couldn’t stand out in a crowd.

To make it more intense, Zacchaeus normally avoided crowds. He was a despised man, for he was a Roman tax-farmer who purchased the franchise on a taxing district (Jericho.) He used his office and his connections to squeeze taxes out of the oppressed citizens. The more he squeezed, the wealthier he became. No, Zacchaeus is a man who avoided dark alleys and crowds of common people.

Luke tells us Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but not that he wanted to be seen by Jesus. See the difference? Zacchaeus wanted to satisfy his curiosity, but not get involved.

You see, Zacchaeus could have, if he had wanted, pushed to the front of the crowd to see Jesus. He didn’t do that. Didn’t have his servants make a way for him. Didn’t go to the end of the parade where he could see Jesus without the crowd interfering. None of that. Zacchaeus wanted to see, but not be seen. Watch, but not take part. Lost in the crowd. Picture

Zacchaeus was a taker not a giver. We know this because at the end of the story he admits as much and promises to return everything he has stolen, four-times over – which is the exact amount required by Exodus 22. He knew he was a taker and a crook and despised, and that Exodus 22 required him to undo his crimes, but Zacchaeus only wanted to take, not give.

In the ancient Near East wealthy men do not run. Nor do they climb trees. Dignified people have servants to do that sort of thing, So, Zacchaeus climbing in a tree was beyond strange. Zacchaeus did all three—ran ahead, climbed a tree, personally. He’s desperate and in trouble when Jesus comes to town. He pops his little periscope up so he can see as Jesus walks past. Coward.

I love it that Jesus saw Zacchaeus, the little man in a tree. The man with a shriveled soul.

You see, Jesus, unlike Zacchaeus, came to see and to be seen. He wanted Zacchaeus to see him. That’s the whole point of being born at Christmas and living among us. We’re hiders. He’s a finder.

He came, Jesus did, to the exact spot and looked up. “Come down, immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Don’t you love it that Jesus saw this strange, wicked man and then spoke to him.  No one else in town wanted Zacchaeus – or they would have welcomed him to the front of the crowd. No, Jesus is the one person in Jericho who wanted to see Zacchaeus as much as Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.

Is that really true? Did they despise Zacchaeus? Sure, it’s true. Notice that the crowd saw all of this: They noticed that Zacchaeus saw Jesus and that Jesus saw Zacchaeus. They saw, Luke says, and they were very unhappy.  They muttered, which is a polite Bible way for saying,
“Zacchaeus is such a dreadful sinner Jesus is demonstrating very low spiritual standards by going to the house of that horrible man. Jesus is about a bad as Zacchaeus.” And that is how we know the crowd disapproved of both Zacchaeus and Jesus.

They saw, that crowd did, and they complained that their hero, Jesus, had such low standards.

And that’s another reason we love Jesus so much. He has remarkably low standards for his friends. Zacchaeus was as low as you could go. But that didn’t bother Jesus, because he saw  more than the surface. He saw a man who was lost.

“Look,” said Zacchaeus to the crowd and to Jesus. Do you see that what that means? Do you get the point?  “Look,” said Zacchaeus. “See what I am doing. See me. See what has happened in my life.”  Zaccheus stood up – yes, stood up in front of the crowd and said, “Look at me! I am no longer hiding. I want you to see me.”

What? Is Zacchaeus now a narcissist demanding attention? No, not at all. H says, “See what I will do. Half my possession I give to the poor. What I have stolen (cheated) I will return four-fold.” He is not a narcissist. He is transformed. He has come out of hiding and shame.

Do the math.  If Zacchaeus started with a million dollars, he gave away half. Leaves him $500K.  Suppose he cheated people to the tune of 10% of his gross. That would be $100K. He gives back four-times – the damages component. He’s left with $100K – but that is the money he stole in the first place and he now must return that back as well.  He’s left dead broke at the end of the story.  Wow, his life is ruined. Everything he built up is destroyed as he speaks.

That’s why he’s so happy. He’s happy as only a reformed criminal can be. He gave it all up for Jesus.

Jesus saw this too. Jesus knew about Exodus 22 and returning what had been stolen. He saw Zacchaeus and he saw the changed life. Changed man. Jesus said, “Today – right now – salvation has come to this house. Because this man is a son of Abraham. I have come to seek and save what was lost.”


I love it that Jesus walks through Jericho and through our town. He’s sees what’s happening in the big parade. He sees you and me in our tree fortresses, hoping to see, but not be seen, hoping to get something from the experience, but not give our livcs.  

“Come on down, Zacchaeus,” says Jesus. “I see you. You’re exactly the person I was looking for.”

Don’t you love it that in the crazy crowd, Jesus sees one man. Don’t you love it that in this crazy time when many of us are locked in our homes, Jesus sees you. He’s saying, “Let’s have lunch. We’ll talk. I can help.”


Make a Zacchaeus tree with the kids:

This site has crafts for teaching kids the Zacchaeus story. A great site from NSUMC.