by Tad Lindley
I’m going to take you straight to the source on this one: And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
And Jesus said unto him, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
People blocked Zacchaeus’ view of Jesus
Here comes Jesus. He is walking through Jericho. Much like the Fourth of July parade in Bethel, if you are not in the front of the crowd, you don’t get any candy, and it can be hard to see what is going on at ground level. Throw in the fact that you are a short person and it gets all the more frustrating. This is the position that Zacchaeus found himself in.
Seeing past the people
Zacchaeus did some calculation in his head. He anticipated which way Jesus would go, and ran on ahead. Once he was there he looked for a way to overcome his height deficit. He saw a tree and climbed it. When the crowd approached he was now able to see past the people and could quite clearly see Jesus. Then something amazing happened: Jesus stopped and took notice of Zacchaeus.
Did Jesus make a mistake?
As you read above in the scripture passage, Jesus begins to talk with Zacchaeus. He tells him, come down from the tree, I’m going to have dinner at your house. The Bible tells us that Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree and began to repent to Jesus of his sinful life. Now the people suddenly lost their focus on Jesus. You need to understand that Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He was a short man in a powerful position. He used his position to extort money and goods from the people, all in the name of the Roman government. The people hated him for it.
Zacchaeus blocked the people’s view of Jesus
Look carefully at the scripture. Now the tables are turned. Even though Zacchaeus is a very short man, the people are so completely focused on him and his faults and his weaknesses, that they can no longer see the power of God right in front of them. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7) At the beginning of chapter 19, Zacchaeus was the one who was lost and could not see Jesus, but now it is the crowd who has lost sight of the Lord.
Who is blocking your view of Jesus?
Just like the crowd, we can lose sight of Jesus, because we get so focused on people. Here are three ways that people can block our view of Jesus.
1. If we judge people based on their faults and their issues, they begin to block our view of Jesus: Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:1-2)
2. If we cannot forgive people in our past, we are allowing them to block our view of Jesus. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15 CEV)
3. If we live in fear of people. When the Israelite spies went to investigate the promised land 10 of the spies came back so focused on the enemy, that they could no longer see the God that brought them through the Red Sea; their enemy became bigger than their God. They said, We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” (Numbers 13:33)
Seeing past the people
In no way do I mean to make light of your victimhood, of the pains of the past, of the heartbreaks of yesterday, or of the fears of your tomorrow. But if we want to see Jesus face to face someday, we must learn to see past the people around us. How do we do that, we pray for them and we bless them. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44) As hard as it may seem to do this, it is the Biblical remedy for clearing up our spiritual vision problem!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.