Week 16 (April)
"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he..."
That little refrain brings back a lot of memories. Memories of VBS or of Sunday school or even of "junior society." I can still do the motions to the song.
The story of Zacchaeus, which only Luke records, is more than a catchy song, of course. It's more than a parable which conveniently provided the letter Z for alphabet rhymes in the New England Primer of the 1700s.
Luke's record is the very real story of a man who met Jesus. Zacchaeus had heard so much about the Messiah that he desperately wanted to see Jesus. Most important, this is the story of a man whose life was changed by meeting the Lord.
Bible study outlines on this story usually suggest that one lesson to be learned is: The gospel is for the rich as well as for the poor. That's OK, but I think Zacchaeus' story can teach us some other things.
You remember that Zacchaeus had a height problem. I can identify with him. I'm barely 5'7". It seems to me that most biblical commentators -- who are probably tall anyway like my seminary professor Dr. Ralph Earle -- pass lightly over what to us short people is one significant truth of the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus: The gospel is not only for the tall, dark, and handsome. It's also for the short and scrawny. The gospel is for the jaded rich as well as for the hopelessly poor.
Jesus loves us all, just as we are. Zacchaeus' story shows clearly the seeking and saving work of Jesus. In the face of withering criticism, Jesus seeks for the soul of Zacchaeus, the hated tax man. And Jesus wins him over.
The story is told simply by Luke. But what a moment it must have been as Zacchaeus realized the radical changes that were taking place inside him. Genuine repentance was for Zacchaeus a costly affair. Following Jesus had for Zacchaeus the high cost Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about in his book The Cost of Discipleship.
In fact, the restitution that Zacchaeus made was not simply to even out things in making wrongs right. He returned four for one in the spirit of the Old Testament restitution requirement.
There are, or course, a number of very sound reasons why restitution should be a part of our becoming a disciple of Christ:
Maybe the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about making something right. Is God leading you? Why not write a letter or an email right now, or pick up the telephone and call? You'll be glad you did.
I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the April 20, 1980 edition of Standard, a curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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