How Grace Changes You

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 I Palestine, the result was overwhelming excitement.

During this journey through Jericho the excitement touched everyone – even a tax collector named Zacchaeus (read Luke 19:1-10).

Now please understand that Zacchaeus was not merely an Internal Revenue Service agent. He was an IRS agent for the Roman government – the ruling force that had dominion over Israel. As a born-and-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 there were some things that money couldn’t buy. He might have been able to buy companionship but not community. He might have been able to purchase pleasure but not peace of mind.

He might have been 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 too accommodating. Nobody wanted to let little Zacchaeus 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 used 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 hung over the path on the road 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 Zacchaeus for being a scoundrel; b) ignore Zacchaeus to avoid the appearance of giving support to his dishonesty; or c) laugh at Zacchaeus. He must have been quite a spectacle perched in that sycamore tree.

Jesus chose a fourth 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 into His. We are saved by grace. Jesus Christ is God seeking us out.

The power of grace did a tremendous work in Zacchaeus life. He came to Jericho, seeking a glance of Jesus. Jesus came to Jericho seeking to reveal the Father’s love, acceptance, and inclusion of Zacchaeus (and all the other town residents). Jesus came to reveal the gracious love of the Father. When Zacchaeus realize the power of this love that had taken hold of him, and responded to that love with trust and faith, then he became a vehicle for the communication of that grace to others. As his life was changed by grace, his life began to have an impact on the lives of others. After being found by Jesus, Zacchaeus responded with grace and mercy: “Half of my possession, Lord, I will give to the poor – and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much,” (v. 8).

The vast majority of you who read will read this blog are confessed Christians. You realize that you have been found by and responded to God’s grace. In Jesus you see that the true nature of the Father is love. Through Jesus you understand that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Right now, because of God’s amazing grace, you have been brought into relationship with our Triune God.

Now the next question is this: how it this relationship with God affecting your relationship with others? Are you graceful, loving, merciful and giving – or judgmental, arrogant, merciless and stingy? If you fall under the latter list, perhaps you are still having a hard time believing that God’s grace really has found you and redeemed you. Grace can’t change us if we don’t believe it is real – if we don’t believe the Trinity really love us. Check out Jesus again. He is the perfect representation of the character and nature of the Father. He is the source through which we find life from the Holy Spirit.

You really are loved by God.

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