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Changed by Grace

A tremendous thrill swept through Jericho in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.  This was nothing unusual.  An appearance by Jesus always caused some sort of commotion.  The sick came to be healed.  The hungry came to be fed.  Parents brought their children to be blessed.  Curious onlookers came to observe.  Even the enemies of Jesus were excited by the possibility that they might trap Jesus in some sort of theological argument that would expose him as the fraud they believed him to be.   Whenever Jesus traveled through any community in Palestine the result was overwhelming excitement.

During this journey through Jericho the excitement touched everyone—even a tax-collector named Zacchaeus.  Now please understand that Zacchaeus was not merely an IRS agent.  He was an IRS agent for the Roman government—the ruling force that had dominion over Israel.  As a born an bred Jew, Zacchaeus employment by Rome made him a despised traitor.  Everyone hated Zacchaeus.

The only comfort in Zacchaeus’ life was his money.  At first this was probably quite satisfying. In time, however, Zacchaeus realized that their were some things that money can’t buy.  He might be able to buy companionship, but not community.  He might be able to purchase pleasure, but not peace of mind.  He might be able to acquire power, but not respect.   Like all the other people in Jericho, Zacchaeus came to see Jesus.  He came in the hope that Jesus could add meaning and purpose to his life.   He came seeking Jesus.  Unfortunately for Him the crowd was not to accommodating.  Nobody wanted to let that little traitor get near Jesus.  Many in the crowd probably took great joy in “accidentally” elbowing Zacchaeus in the back of the head or stepping on his toes.  Zacchaeus was use to this type of abuse.  He refused to allow it to thwart his ambition for the day.  He would see Jesus.  He climbed into a sycamore tree that hug over the path on road on which Jesus would enter the city.

When he entered the community  Jesus noticed Zacchaeus out on the limb.  What would he do? Should he try to help him?  To change him, perhaps?  The townspeople would have thought the possibility of that to be completely  outrageous:  “You might as well turn water into wine as try to change that man.”  To everyone  the options were clear:  a)  harass Zaccheus for being a scoundrel; b) ignore Zaccheus to avoid the appearance of giving support to his dishonesty; or,  c) laugh at Zaccheus.  He must have been quite a spectacle perched in that sycamore tree.  Jesus chose another option.  He invited himself to dinner in Zacchaeus house and extended to him the gift of God’s grace.  Interesting, isn’t it?  Zacchaeus had come wanting to find Jesus, but Jesus found him instead.

Isn’t that the greatest truth of the gospel?  We don’t find God—we can’t.  God finds us.  Why do we love God?  Because God first loved us.  How does Jesus save us?  While we were sinners—alienated from God—He died for us.  This truth is evident throughout the Bible.  We don’t seek God—God seeks us.  We don’t receive God into our lives, God receives us in His.  We are saved by grace.  Jesus Christ is God seeking human beings.

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