Zacchaues

Does it ever feel like no matter what, you can’t see the face of Jesus? It’s like there’s a physical wall around you that’s blocking your vision? Or maybe others around you are dragging you down spiritually and preventing you from seeing Jesus?

I want to tell you about a man who, despite his physical limitations, did all he could to see Jesus.

Luke 19:1-6:

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 being a short man he could not, because of 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.

Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that Jesus could sense Zacchaeus’ yearning to see him. It may even be that Jesus was rewarding Zacchaeus for his zeal by having dinner at his house that night. I certainly know I’d love to have Jesus spend the night at my place!

But the question is, when we feel like there’s nothing we can do to see Jesus, when we feel spiritually exhausted or burnt out, what do you do? Do you simply let yourself stay that way, or do you put effort into having that relationship—that closeness with Jesus?

Zacchaeus could have simply let his chance slip past him. He could have decided that the crowd around him was too large and there was no way he would be able to see Jesus. He could have even felt sorry for himself and blamed God for making him so short in the first place.

The point is, when we want to see Jesus, we can; all that’s required of us is to put some effort into it! God may have made me short, but he also gave me the sycamore-fig tree to climb. Never let those around you stop you from seeing your Maker’s face!

So how can we apply this practically? I think Jesus helps us in Luke 13:24 when He tells us to “make every effort…”

Make every effort to be close to Jesus.

The sad thing is this puts a lot of responsibility on me to be close to Jesus. Ultimately, the question isn’t whether or not I can have a close relationship with God, but whether or not I’m willing to work for it. Am I willing to make every effort? Am I willing to be inventive and see the tree that I can climb?

And when I do get in a good spot, am I willing to keep looking? Am I willing to build up my endurance? I know for me, it’s easy to feel like I’ve arrived and I don’t have to keep on trying anymore. I feel like I’m finished earning my “Jesus points” and now I can just sit back and relax, but I have to keep on working. A fisherman doesn’t catch fish once and then think he’s finished. A farmer doesn’t have one successful harvest and then think his farm will just run itself.

Galatians 6:9 says:

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I think another area where many people fall short is not making time for God. It’s easy for us to make excuses about how busy we are, how unfair life is, how we’ll get to it “someday.” But that “someday I’ll be good enough” attitude is self-destructive because it destroys hope for today. Check out 1 Peter 2:9-10:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I remember how it felt the first time I read this. What I quickly realized was that it’s written in the present-tense. It doesn’t say ‘someday you will be a chosen people,” “someday you will be the people of God.”

No!

It says “you are a chosen people.” It says “but now you are the people of God.” Not someday far from now, but today…right now! The fact that God looks at us as royalty right this very moment motivates me to live up that that.

Live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted by God.

Read that again to make sure it sinks in…

Live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted by God.

If God considers you a royal priesthood, perhaps it’s time to make sure you’re living like one. So how do we do that? Well in the same passage it tells us to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness.” Praise Him. Let your whole life praise Him. Live your life in a way that praises Him to all who are around you.

I know you’ve met someone whose light just radiates. The moment you’re around them you know they’re a believer. I know a few people like this. After being around them for just a few minutes, I’m already in a great mood. I long to be one of these people—to have such a positive impact on those around me.

But for now, it helps to know that I’m one of God’s chosen; it helps to know that I’m part of a royal priesthood; that I’m part of His holy nation; that I belong to God.

So do you!

You’re chosen by God. You’re part of a royal priesthood. You’re a citizen of the same holy nation. You, too, belong to God.

I encourage you to live a life worthy of the title you’ve been granted.

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The Way

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Then came light, water, earth, plants, sky, stars. After all this had been made, God created life: animals, birds, fish. Finally, God created us in his own image. Genesis 1:31 says that “God saw all He had made and it was very good,”but this goodness didn’t last for long. Sin soon entered the world with the fall of man—with the eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God originally created everything “good” but evil had been introduced to His creation. Like a disease with no cure, evil has passed to all mankind since then. We’ve been born with this evil inside us and for thousands of years it seemed as though there was nothing that could be done.Then came Jesus. Not only did he save us from our sin, he set us free from it. Mankind was liberated from their bondage to sin. God’s grace is like a vaccine that can be spread if you have enough exposure to those who’ve already been cured (i.e. Christians). This cure wasn’t something you could be born with, but instead something you chose—like in the Matrix, when Neo chose to take the red pill to wake up, we have the option to wake up from our slumber and be liberated from sin. This option is now available to us all; to wake up from our slumber and live a new life.

But is that all? Are we simply saved to go to heaven while the formerly good creation continues to be infested with sin? Do we separate ourselves from everything around us and try to stay in spiritual quarantine?

Hardly! Salvation is just the beginning. Jesus came not only to save us, but to restore all creation to the peaceful way it was in the Garden of Eden! Romans 8:19-21 tells us:

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the son of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

I’m not trying to say that salvation is that bad of a gig, but if that’s all you’re interested in, you’ve missed half the point! Immediately after Jesus comes back to life we find the Garden of Eden being hinted at. In John 20:10-18, three days after Jesus had died, we find his mother, Mary, standing outside his tomb all by herself, weeping. Next two angels appear and talk to her. Mary turns around and bumps into Jesus. Thinking he’s the gardener, she makes conversation with him for a moment, then Jesus reveals who he is and tells her to go tell the others.

Isn’t it strange that Jesus’ own mother mistakes Him for a stranger? Or was it simply Jesus disguising himself somehow? I opt for the latter, I think Jesus wanted her to think he was the gardener. Why?

Because all the Jews of Jesus’ day had memorized the first five books of the Bible (the Septuagint) as thoroughly as most Americans have the Pledge of Allegiance memorized or as well as a lot of Christians have the Lord’s Prayer memorized. So if I mentioned a nation that was indivisible, it might make you think of the Pledge or if I said forgive us our trespasses you might think of the Lord’s Prayer, especially if it were something that we talked about on a daily basis!

So the point is, when the readers of the Gospel of John heard the word garden, it may have made them think of The Garden of Eden. The place where creation was in harmony and everything was the way it should have been. Sadly, man has been banned from the Garden of Eden. But is it possible for us to return all of creation to a place where we’re in Harmony with our Maker?

Maybe.

If you look at Genesis 3:21-24, you’ll find the story of us being banned from the Garden:

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

I think something goes unnoticed in the story of the Garden of Eden. Did you know there were two trees? Yes, two! In Genesis 2:9 it says that there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but there was also the tree of life! If you look carefully you’ll notice it says in Genesis 2:16, God tells Adam he can eat from ANY tree he wants. So originally we were allowed to eat from the tree of life. I’m not exactly sure what the fruit from the tree of life was, but have you ever had fresh pineapple? Dang!

Next thing we know, in Genesis 3, Satan convinces us that we can’t trust God. Satan tells us we should eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We foolishly believe him and next thing you know we’re being banished from the Garden of Eden.

Something interesting to note is that God says we must not be allowed to reach out and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever. There are other parts where God tells us if we eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil we will “surely die.” Many believe, and I agree, that man was originally supposed to live in the Garden forever and never die. We were made immortal. The way for us to attain this eternal life was to eat from the tree of life like it says in Genesis 3:22.

So back to my original question, could there be a way to restore harmony? Perhaps. If you read Genesis 3:24 very carefully, you’ll notice something interesting about the way it’s phrased. It says that the “way” to the tree of life is banned.

Where else does the Bible refer to the way? Look at John 14:6:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

Jesus is the way.

Jesus is the way to forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is the way to the tree of life.

Jesus is the way to eternal life.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that.