Friday, 8 May 2015

The 'Zaccheus' Factor

Most of us probably know the story of Zaccheus, the short man who climbed up a Sycamore tree to see Jesus (Luke19:1-10). He was not only short, he was a tax collector for the Romans.

He was considered a traitor by many Jews who hated the way the Romans oppressed them by harsh rules and taxes. People like Zaccheus also collected extra to line their own pockets. You can see why he and many like him were unpopular.

But, perhaps there is more to Zaccheus than what many people saw. Perhaps the greed of Zaccheus and treachery was the symptom of a much deeper problem?

I like to think that being a short man, he was probably the butt of jokes when he was younger. He perhaps longed to be accepted in the basketball team (or whatever sport they played then), but was scorned or just tolerated due to his height deficiency. I imagined he longed for acceptance and respect, but he most likely didn't get that all the time, especially in a culture where physical appearances (wealth, religious displays/rituals, etc) were held high.

Since as a person (with his height issues) was not appreciated, he must have thought wealth would give him the sense of belonging he needed. At least with wealth he could have opportunities to make more friends, marry the prettiest girl, live a flamboyant lifestyle, etc. Sadly his pursuit of wealth made him treacherous to his own people and he realised that his life was still in shambles. Wealth, especially the ill-gotten one did not fill the emptiness and worthlessness inside.

The religious people shunned him and it must have felt like God shunned him too, afterall he was a sinner, undeserving of God's love. Or so it seemed, until Jesus, unarguably a prophet of the Most High God, (who performed miracles and spoke with more wisdom and conviction than the Pharisees and Sadducees combined), noticed him!

Can you imagine for a second what that meant to Zaccheus the Sinner, who could never ever measure up to man's standard, let alone God's? Jesus did not only notice him, but he dined with him! Oh the joy! He was worth something to the greatest man ever to walk the face of the earth, the man people called Messiah! This couldn't be happening. He had to pinch himself to make sure it was real.

But Jesus wasn't done with him, He even defended him against those nosey, judgemental religious folks! Jesus knew who Zaccheus was but he stood up for him because he mattered to God. Finally Zaccheus got the affirmation he had always longed for. He was valued by God the Most High!

Suddenly wealth didn't matter anymore, buying the friendship of others was useless. He was loved, not for what he could give, or his connections, his performance, his obeying the laws, etc. He was loved simply because he was the son of Abraham, a child of God! Simple.

What did this do to him? His greed stopped forthwith. He declared “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.” 

Unconditional love always does that. It makes you realise how trivial hoarding up wealth and chasing after vanity is. Like the parable of the business man who sells off everything he has to buy the pearl of inestimable value (Matthew 13:45-46), knowing the depth of God's love for us and the value He attaches to us, makes us willing to give up the world just to remain in that love. Suddenly greed veiled as materialism, illicit pleasure, hedonism, selfishness, etc become woefully inadequate in comparison to the things of the Kingdom of God.  It makes you want to share whatever you have to others who have less: Money, knowledge, skills, love, joy, peace, etc

Have you encountered the unconditional love of the Father who has a Mother's heart yet? Follow Jesus as He leads you to the Father who loves you with an everlasting love. But you have to accept His invitation. Jesus will never gatecrash, He is a gentleman. He says in Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." 

You don't have to go through life like Zaccheus, trying desperately to make up for the deficiency you have suffered. There is Someone who loves you just the way you are, warts and all. He considers you so valuable that He gave His only begotten son just for your sake. Your value does not consist in the things you have, but in who you are as a person, a child of the Most High God. Let His love flood your soul and give you true meaning to life. It's never too late to experience true love and true life. 


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