Have you ever had a chance encounter that changed your life? As a child in Sunday school, I learned the children’s song:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in the sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.
And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree and He said, Zacchaeus you come down, for I’m going to your house today.
Luke’s story of the wee man Zacchaeus is just such an encounter story. Zacchaeus was arguably the most despised man in all of Jericho. He was a chief tax collector who had a reputation for swindling large sums of money out of his fellow countrymen. He also squeezed as much as he could out of those who worked for him. Zacchaeus had sold out to the enemy, he had betrayed his own people. He had betrayed his integrity and character and worst of all, he had betrayed God.
And then along came the chance encounter with Jesus. Zacchaeus was called out of that tree and he and Jesus dined together at Zacchaeus’ home that evening. I have always wondered what the conversation between these two men must have been. What was it that Jesus said to Zacchaeus that caused this hated and reviled man to have a complete transformation of heart and mind? What did Jesus do that prompted this man who had made a fortune on the backs of others suddenly turn from his wicked ways and offer to give back fourfold to all of those whom he had swindled in the past?
That’s the beauty of this chance encounter and of God’s love through Jesus Christ for all of us modern-day wayward souls. “For the Son of Man comes to seek and save that which was lost.” You may have heard the saying, “Jesus loves you just the way you are”…. and that’s certainly true. But Jesus loves you too much to leave you just the way you are!
At the beginning of the chance encounter, Zacchaeus sees Jesus from a distance. At the end of the story, Zacchaeus sees Jesus up close and personal. And so it can be with us. The love of God does not change us from who we are into some other better person. The love of God calls from deep down within our souls the essence of the person God created us to be in the first place and that which God intended for us to be all along. To be lost is to be disassociated from this person God created. Salvation is to discover, or perhaps re-discover who we are and who we can become because of and through the love of God in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to make ourselves into anything. Because it is the power of God that will create from within.
“To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thessalonians 12:11-12 Thanks be to God!