When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
Today we will conclude our four-part series of articles on the unusual, unique, and even “odd” ways of God when He calls and commissions His people into His service. As always, my prayerful intent is that these messages will provide you with biblical hope and encouragement, but I also I hope that this “Odd God” series will motivate you to do two things: First, to look back and prayerfully consider how God has worked in your life; and second, to look ahead to make sure you do not miss something special God might be doing in your life right now.
Today we will look at the calling of the tax collector in a tree, a calling every bit as odd as the callings of Moses, Gideon, and Jonah. Zacchaeus was despised by his fellow Israelites because he was a Jew who had sold his services to the hated Roman occupiers, who levied heavy taxes on Israel and all the nations under their rule. The Israelites hated paying taxes to the pagan Roman government, but when those who collected those taxes were their own countrymen, they hated those tax collectors even more. Men like Zacchaeus were regarded as traitors at best and heartless thieves at worst, because they were allowed to collect as much tax money as they could get, just as long as they paid the agreed-upon tax to their Roman overlords. Thus many of these tax collectors had become very wealthy on the backs of their fellow Israelites. Luke’s gospel is careful to point out that Zacchaeus “was a chief tax collector and was wealthy” (Luke 19:2). Oh, there was a lot about this man to dislike!
But then Jesus showed up. When Jesus entered Jericho, huge crowds gathered to see the son of David, whom many believed had come to overthrow the hated Roman rulers. Zacchaeus wanted to see this Man, but due to his short stature, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree so that he could get a better look at Jesus as He passed by. But to his great surprise, Jesus stopped directly under his tree, looked up, and called Zacchaeus out of the tree and into the Truth.
Naturally, the people watching were not happy that Jesus would even speak to this loathsome traitor to the Jewish nation, but Jesus was not done yet. The next thing He did was invite Himself to Zacchaeus’ house. And at that meal, Zacchaeus’ surprise turned into sold-out submission and surrender to his Savior.
Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “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.” (Luke 19:8)
As you look back in your life, has Jesus been calling you down from any “tree” to in order to move you from spectator to servant? Perhaps, like Zacchaeus, you have been “out on a limb,” more concerned about meeting your own needs than the needs of others? Perhaps our loving Lord is reminding you to love your neighbor as yourself?
Remember, our “Odd God” is in the business of calling His people into service in unexpected and unprecedented ways. Be on the lookout for His call on your life! And when you hear that call, I pray that you will eagerly respond, just as the little man with the big heart for God did.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!