He was a tax collector, not just any tax collector but the chief tax collector! He was a Cheater. A Thief. A Betrayer of his people. He was Selfish. Greedy. Rich.
He was considered a chief sinner by his people. He was Rejected. Scorned. Despised. Avoided. Disliked.
But as Jesus walked through the crowds of Jericho that day, Jesus invited Himself over to stay with this despised, unwanted, betrayer of his people, tax collector. Scandalous.
People complained. Noticed, it didn’t say the Pharisees complained. People. Ordinary people. Pew-sitting church folk. The same people who were seeking a blessing.
How could this ‘chief-sinner’ find favor before me? How can Jesus possibly stay with a sinner?
Jesus had this amazing way of seeing people not as they were at the moment but how they were created to be. He had this way of accepting people before they were acceptable to society. He loved people while they were still a mess. He fellowshipped with people while they were still making bad choices.
He didn’t unfriend. Even as Judas was betraying him, Jesus called him “friend.” He engaged with a women at the well WHILE she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. He offered forgiveness to the sinful woman WHILE she was still sinning.
Jesus’ loved extended to the Pharisees and the sinners.
Now I want you to think about how Jesus loved and let’s compare that to how we Love today.
We unfriend those with whom we disagree.
We disengage with those who vote differently.
We mock and criticize those we deem sinners.
We fellowship only with those of similar beliefs.
We separate to hear people who only think like we do.
We pray for unity but refuse to have the hard conversations to bring unity.
Jesus’ simple willingness to go to Zacchaeus’ house led to Zacchaeus’ repentance. Jesus’ kindness led to a change a man. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He didn’t come to condemn and criticize. Jesus is our model. Jesus is our goal.
“Lord help us to love like Jesus. Let us invite ourselves into fellowship with sinners. Teach us to see people not as they are but how you have created them to be. Let us friend and engage with those who society has said are unacceptable. Let us love the unlovable. We repent of a mocking and critical spirit. Teach us to encourage and lift up others out of their bad choices. Give us courage and strength to have those tough conversations. Teach us to love like Jesus. Give us a heart and wisdom to seek and save the lost.”
“When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house.” All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to stay with a sinful man.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.””
Luke 19:5, 7-10 CSB