Pardon Mwansa, President, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, Harare, Zimbabwe

Summary: You cannot read this story without seeing the truth—you cannot love without giving. You cannot fall in love with Jesus and be negligent of the things that matter to Christ.

Introduction

Solomon says there are four things that he cannot understand: the soar of an eagle in the air; the slither of a serpent on a rock; the sail of a ship in the sea; and the way of a man with a maid (Pv 30:18, 19). When you fall in love, you cannot help but give yourself to the one you love. When you fall in love, you do not mind doing anything for the one you love. You cannot love without giving—not just gifts—but your entire being. I want to share with you a love story, the story of a man who fell in love with Jesus. We often hear of people falling in and out of love. But when you fall in love with Jesus Christ and then you fall out of that love, it is because of you, not because of Him. Because Jesus will never give up, irrespective of what you do or who you are.

His name and reputation

Hard work and perseverance made Zacchaeus chief tax collector of the Roman government. His position came with control and power. Soon he began taking bribes. He would give half to the Roman government and keep the other half for himself. Zacchaeus became so wealthy from cheating and robbing the people that he earned himself a name in Jericho— sinner (Lk 19: 2, 8). To earn a name, you don’t have to do much—you just have to major in your behavior and people will give you a name. If your behavior is good, you get a good name. Zacchaeus’ behavior was really bad, so he got the name ?sinner.? In Jericho, Zacchaeus was synonymous with sinner.

His need for forgiveness

Jesus, whose main mission was to save the lost, was passing through Jericho (v. 10). Some of us think Jesus only loves righteous people. But God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him could have eternal life (Jn 3:16). When Jesus walked down the streets of Jericho, He was looking for an opportunity to save sinners.

Zacchaeus had heard about Christ Jesus. He had heard of Jesus’ power to heal. He had heard of Jesus’ power to raise the dead. He had heard of Jesus’ power to forgive. And Zacchaeus was the sinner in Jericho. When Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is coming to town, he feels an urgency to meet Him. He leaves the tax booth, oblivious of his responsibilities. He spots the crowd up ahead. Jesus is surrounded by hoards of people, and Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus. He’s too short.

Driven by an overpowering feeling of love, Zacchaeus climbs a tree just to see Christ. Caught up in the excitement, the people below beckon to those to their left, others to their right. But no one looks up. No one looks up in the tree. Why would anyone look up into a tree? But with His divine eyes, Jesus was drawn to look up into the tree, into the seeking heart of Zacchaeus.

Calling him by name, Jesus says, ?Zacchaeus, I want to eat at your place.? Amazed, Zacchaeus exclaims: ?Jesus, is coming to my home, the sinner’s home!? And Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus gladly because he has finally found someone who loves him just as he is. He had never felt forgiveness and love until now.

We can imagine the crowd following Jesus and Zacchaeus at an uncomfortable distance. They hang around an open window, eaves-dropping on the sinner and Jesus. They wonder what the two men have in common. They cannot imagine why Jesus would want to be seen with a man like Zacchaeus.

His response to love

Zacchaeus does not hear Jesus call him a sinner. He only hears words of love and acceptance and his heart is touched. The love of Jesus comes into his heart and he falls in love with Jesus. He falls so in love that he stands up and makes a declaration: ?Look, my Lord? (v 8). The word Lord in Greek means ?master.? Zacchaeus calls Jesus Master. He says, ?Look! My Lord. Right now I give half of my possessions to the poor.? Who preached stewardship to Zacchaeus? Did he attend a stewardship seminar? Did he receive counsel from the General Conference Stewardship Director? Zacchaeus sits at the feet of Jesus. And as he beholds Jesus; he beholds a man whose entire life speaks giving—giving love to others.

Half of one’s bank balance; half of one’s investment—that’s a lot of money! But when you are touched by love, the gift is measured neither by size nor value.And Zacchaeus was touched by the love of God. His magnanimous gesture says, ?If you, Jesus, love the poor, and I am in love with you, I will love the poor too!? But Zacchaeus does not stop at giving. He continues to say ?And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay them back four times the amount I took from them.? Now that was not an easy task. Keeping his pledge to Jesus would cost him much time in recalculating his account ledger of past years of embezzlement and put himself through a lot of humiliation and embarrassment.

When you become a child of God, when you are in love with Jesus, your heart is changed so dramatically that you want to make things right with anyone you may have wronged. What was Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus’ pledge of love? ?Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham? (v 9).

Conclusion

You cannot read this story without seeing the truth—you cannot love without giving. You cannot fall in love with Jesus and be negligent of the things that Christ is mindful about. As you look at this story, I want you to imagine the town of Jericho the day after Jesus’ visit. Imagine what Zacchaeus does. He gathers up half of his possessions, loads them, perhaps on a donkey. People see him nudging the heavyladen donkey down to the marketplace. And he sets up shop, not to sell, but to give away. He encourages the poor to come without fear. He says I promised the Lord yesterday. I made a commitment to the Lord. I love Jesus and I’m asking you to take that silk scarf, or that brass vase, or ivory bowl . . . .

Now imagine what happens the next Sabbath. Zacchaeus goes to church and the church is packed. Everybody is wondering what he will do next. One from the crowd boldly approaches Zacchaeus and asks him, ?What has happened to you? Why the change?? Zacchaeus responds with a glow on his face, with a big smile, ?I’m in love. I’m in love with Jesus! He has become my Lord and I am His steward! The things that I have, I give to my Lord to use as He desires. And I have seen that He loves the poor, so I choose to give my possessions to the poor.? The bold one responds, ?If that is what Jesus can do for you, Zacchaeus, then He can do it for me!?

Continue imagining. It’s the first business day since Zacchaeus met Jesus. He knocks at the door of a businessman. The door opens. The man angrily says, ?What do you want from me now, Zacchaeus? I have done my duty! I’ve paid all my taxes!?

But Zacchaeus says, ?I haven’t come to collect anything. I’ve come to apologize. I’ve been overcharging you. I’m very sorry. I’ve come to return the money I owe you. You see, I have fallen in love with the Lord Jesus. And because I love Him, I have accepted His philosophies and principles.?

Soon Jericho witnesses the testimony of him who once was a sinner but is now one of the greatest givers in recorded Scripture. Zacchaeus is no longer synonymous with sinner. Zacchaeus is now a reflection of the Master. Zacchaeus is now living proof of the power of the Holy Spirit!

When Jesus comes into your life, you can no longer be the same. Are you in love with Him? If you are, do your works and your behavior speak of your love for Jesus?

You may pray: ?My Lord Jesus, make me fall in love like I’ve never fallen in love before. Make me a new person. Change me. Give me a name. Come abide in my home, in my family, in my heart, from now and forever more. Amen.

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July–September, 2005

Discipleship