One of my favorite Bible stories is that of Zachaeus from Luke 19:1-10.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.””
There is a lot of good theology in these verses, as there is with all of them, but what I like about these most is that they are a great example of Jesus blowing people’s minds by shattering expectations.
In the passages, Jesus didn’t simply nod at Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was hated by the people. He didn’t simply wave at him in passing or just issue a casual verbal greeting as He walked by. And, and I think this is most important, He didn’t just pretend not to notice.
No. Not only did Jesus stop, He called Zacchaeus down from the tree and invited himself over to the hated man’s house. In other words, He inserted himslef into the life of someone who was hard to love.
Think about that for a second and let it sink in.
Last night at church, we passed on our normal Wednesday night teaching and preaching, asked people to bring their leftover Halloween candy, filled up buckets, and went out into the neighborhood behind the chuch to pass it out and to get to know the people.
Sure, it was a small thing but it was particularly meaningful to me because we met a Zacchaeus, of sorts, in the flesh.
We walked up a drive and surprised a man in his garage.
“Oh man, church people.” He said, shocked.
“And here I am with a beer in my hand.” He said, visibly embarrassed, looking for a place to put it down.
“A beer.” I chuckled.
“We don’t care if you are drinking a beer, we came to chat for a minute, not to judge.”
“Wait? What? You aren’t going to say anything?”
“We are all sinners, who are we to judge someone else?”
The man, who had quite obviously had a few, was literally blown away that we didn’t condemn him and were, in fact, just there to chat.
He went on about church and his previous experiences and that he has always felt judged, looked down on, and that he believed he never quite measured up to a standard “church people” had imposed upon him. Sad but true story for far too many people and this man and his family lived right in the shadow of our church and we had no idea until we deliberately got outside the walls of the church building and our collective comfort zones and into a real life.
He said he would definately check out the church and only time will tell if he actually does. The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that we ( by the grace and through the power of God) shattered an expectation and potentialy changed a life and it took almost no time and very little effort.
Bottom line here is this. We should all be connected to a local chuch but we also need to get out every now and then, that’s where the magic happens.
*We talked to a few dozen people but this man is the one I remember the most. I am praying earnestly that I see him at a service soon.