Friday, April 20, 2012

Divine Intrusion at Jericho

Divine Intrusion at Jericho
by John Miller

David stumbled as he stepped down from the tourist bus. He was steadied by the grip of an old man who seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  “Thanks for the helping hand, Mr.?” David remarked appreciatively.  “My name? Sir, it’s not unimportant,” replied the old man. In fact, David, I am not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. But I was in Jericho to see Jesus enter our ancient city.”

 The tourist stepped back, startled.  “Do I know you?” David barely uttered. Oh! I see that I have shocked you…that usually happens to everyone I meet,” the old man remarked. “No, I’m not crazy and you’re not dreaming. No need for panic…I’m harmless.” He continued.  I’m sure that you’ll probably never tell anyone of this encounter with me,” he chuckled. They wouldn’t believe you anyway. I see that you’re uneasy but I’d like to speak with you.”

David’s face was pale and he was unable to speak. He looked around to see if others were witnessing his encounter with the strange old man. “No worries, the others can’t see or hear me as you do,” the old man said. “But since they can see your face and reactions, perhaps we should step away from the crowd, so we can speak together in private. I’d like to tell you a story. Let’s walk slowly.  I’m an old man and a bit unsteady myself, as you can see. There’s plenty time for telling this story. In my day, we took time to let stories linger in our thoughts and on our lips, so that we would savor the meaning of even the smallest word. You needn’t worry about the tour bus leaving without you.”  Still, the wary tourist looked about nervously.

 “Why did he pick me? Will I get stuck with this weird old man and miss the tour?” David wondered.  He looked about but found no one interested in him or his mysterious host. ”Can they see him or not?” he wondered. He felt oddly compelled to go along with this stranger’s story. “

 The old man peered out from the tattered hood of a long, dusty robe. His white bearded, aged face and his ancient garb with worn leather sandals made him appear “in character for a play.   David wondered, “is he was accustomed to performing for the curious tourists who arrived by the bus loads?”  “Are you an actor? Have I stumbled upon a play of some sort,” David asked. He suspected that the old man would surely demand payment for his unsolicited story. “

 “No, there is no play. But I assure you that what I say is true, the old man replied, and there is no fee. “Now Sir, try not to interrupt, and I’ll be on with my story. David complied.

“You must be very curious about me,” continued the old man. “Well, I’m a poor Jew, born nearby. I was about 30 years old when I met Jesus.” David instinctively raised a hand, as if to stop him.  “Let me continue,” the elder said, ignoring the tourist’s response.  “I was a distant follower of Jesus; somewhat curious and just one of the many faces among the crowds sitting on the hillsides.” He read the question that came on David’s face. “Yes, I knew Jesus, at first as “Teacher,” as did most people at the time. I was there for his miraculous feedings of thousands. I was always a little curious about his parables. Jesus had a way of drawing people to him, a commanding presence about him that I’ll never forget. “The cautious but inquisitive look on David’s face brought further comment. “ You are wondering, “Did I become a member of “The Way?”  “I’ll tell you about that later.”

“Oh, before I go any further, allow me to address your avid interest in Jericho. You’ve come a long way to see the city. Well, the brochure you’re holding says that it’s the oldest city in the world. That’s true. It once was a prosperous commercial and agricultural region, heavily traveled by tradesmen and vendors in camel caravans from the nearby Jordan Valley and elsewhere. The old road entering the city was little more than a wide, dusty swath through our vineyards. Camel caravans and donkey carts had worn deep ruts in it, making walking a bit precarious. Closer to the square and shops were narrow, cobble stone streets. Still, keeping the dust down was a great problem. Look at that old shop there, its roof patio is typical of the times. Families ate their meals and spent leisure time high upon roof patios, away from the dust and dung of the crowded street.”  His comment seemed to raise a peculiar question in his head. He paused to add, “I’ll get to that later. “

“You folks have had over two thousand years to read the Bible to learn about what happened when Jesus came to Jericho.  It seems like your generation is without excuse for not reading.  Nowadays, you carry around little devices loaded with of electronic books. There seems no end of ways for you to learn what’s important,” the old man said. “Being poor, I had little access to the ancient scrolls of my time. I learned to read and count using the writings and numbers scratched into pieces of broken clay by merchants and traders and in the shops,” he added. “Oh well, I promised you a story, and there’s a mighty important one about the big tree that standing there that has caught your eye. I believe that you want to know about the little man named Zacchaeus,” he stated emphatically. “Oh Yes, I noticed you staring at that tree as the bus arrived. That’s why I approached you. Let’s walk to that bench under its shade and I’ll get started.”

David followed the old man, still looking about the mingling crowd for any sign of a curious eye on them. There was none. “I’m sure that your tourist guide on the bus has told the story of Zacchaeus climbing a Sycamore-fig tree. It’s from the Bible. Luke 19:1-10, right? You’ve read Luke, I’m sure. That’s what “put Jericho on the map,” as you moderns like to say. I’m very amused by the vernacular of your day. I’ll fill in the blanks, so that you get the richest meaning of God’s message in those verses. Now, let me tell you about my Jewish friend Zacchaeus.”

“I guess if you knew Jesus you also new Zacchaeus,” David remarked in a quiet voice and with some sarcasm.”  He had gained his nerve to challenge this old man’s story.  “How far will this old man stretch his tale,” he wondered. The notion of the old man still demanding a fee at the last minute wasn’t far from David’s mind.

“Yes, of course I knew Zacchaeus!” the old man replied in a raised voice, causing David to pull back suddenly. He looked about for anyone who might be staring at him, apparently talking to himself.  No one had noticed.  “I do call Zacchaeus my friend now but in those early days, I usually kept my distance from him.  He had no Jewish friends and wasn’t all that friendly to the locals and passers-by, except to the rich Gentile traders. He was also friends with the Romans. Let me tell you a little more about Zacchaeus. It’s important that you understand his background.”

Something stirred in David and he listened to the old man. “Strange, he felt he must listen to him.”  Are others watching me?” he wondered.

The old man continued, “At the time of Christ, the Jewish nation was under rule and taxation by the Roman Empire.  These “dogs,” as we called them openly worshiped their many false gods displayed in their homes and the surrounding public buildings. And, they taxed our people who hated paying tribute to Rome.  They resented paying their hard-earned money to fund the “pagan foreigners” who had invaded their land and had long oppressed them. The Tax Collectors fell into 2 groups; both were Jews. The General Tax Collector group annually collected lawful taxes for property such as farms, land and houses, individuals and, income taxes. The second Tax Collector Group, were known as publicans. These Jewish publicans had become willing contractors to the Roman authorities and were allowed to collect taxes as they saw fit. They Jews sat at tax booths stationed alongside roads, bridges and at entrances to the public buildings and the main parts of town. Many were crooked men. They collected taxes from the all Jews and the traveling vendors of other nations who entered or exited the city. They extracted fees for the most unreasonable things such as each person crossing a bridge (in both directions) and, at times, even when exiting that bridge. There was no other way to enter certain properties or areas of the city. Carts and their contents were taxed, as was the animal pulling the cart and/or every person riding in them. The larger the cart or the greater number of its wheels, the more it might be taxed. These greedy tax collectors were allowed to keep part of the revenue for themselves. Most Jews considered the tax collectors to be robbers and thieves.” But truth be told, many Jews merchants and leaders were greedy and cheated their own people, and had come to live a lifestyle much like the Romans. The palatial homes of rich Jews built on the hillsides had adopted the Roman architectural themes.  You moderns might call it a “love-hate relationship.”

David was now caught up in the old man’s story. He lost track of time as the story turned to the little man in the tree he had read of in the Bible.  

“Well,” continued the old man, “Zacchaeus was a rich Jew and a chief tax collector. He had sold himself out to the Romans and had become wealthy at the expense of his own people! That was his greedy game.  The Jews considered him to be a cheater, and sinner, although Scripture does not say that he cheated anyone,” the old man clarified. But Zacchaeus’ life changed one day---forever! I’ll never forget the day that Jesus came to Jericho. To use your vernacular, Jesus is a game changer!”

David’s mind turned to the central character of the story…Jesus. He felt a little embarrassed for having focused on the “little man in the tree,” and wanting to see the famous tree that was marked for all of history. “This old man has a convicting way of putting things in focus,” he thought.

“By the way, as I tell you these things, I want you to consider something important about Scripture,” the story teller instructed. “What I’m about to tell you is based entirely on God’s Word. It’s worth reminding you that every word of the Bible is alive, everlasting, truthful, meaningful and purposeful. In Isaiah 55:11, as elsewhere in Scripture, God declared the power and purpose of his faithful word for us. God's Word is precious to Him, as it goes forth with unstoppable power to execute His will in all things.  God's Word is integral to His grace and His justice, His omnipresence and His holiness, His majesty and His glory. These are not quiescent attributes, but are active, dynamic and infinitely perfect and purposeful.  And, as God is, so is His Word. It is only when we firmly trust His word that we dig deeply for its fullest meaning in our lives. I see that you brought along your Bible, so go ahead and read Luke 19:1-10. I’ll rest a bit while you read.”

David obliged the old man, and turned to read slowly, the Scripture as cited. When he had finished, he rested the bible in his lap. The old man returned to his story.

“The name Zacchaeus means “righteous one or pure one.” Did you know that?" the story teller asked David.  The tourist admitted that this meaning had escaped his reading. “I find it curious, that his name had such a sacred meaning, giving his chosen occupation,” the storyteller declared, “curious, I say!” “But then, you see, Zacchaeus’ parents must have expected something great of him to give him that name,” the old man added. “Can you imagine what alienation and hatred they suffered as a result of their son’s association with the Roman authorities as a tax collector?  His parents took the blunt of cruel jokes and ridicule from their neighbors. Some shops wouldn’t trade with them. Theirs was a hard life, despite the ample monies Zacchaeus often gave them. “

David found himself agreeing with the story teller. “Yes, I see their predicament,” he interjected.  An old lady sitting nearby took notice of David talking, apparently to himself.    “If he’s not on an ear phone, he’s an odd duck,” she thought.  She shifted away a few feet on the bench that surrounded the great tree.

“I’d say that Zacchaeus was well aware of the cost of his occupation to his parents and to himself,” the old man replied. “His lot was a mixed bag, as you folks might say.” “After all, he was rejected by family and friends and ultimately became one of the most despised people in the city. So, why do you suppose that he choose to be a tax collector? Was he ridiculed for his small size? Is that why he later opted to buy his acceptance among the rich? Did he choose friendship with the Romans who held less prejudice against him? Whatever the cause, I always assumed that his life was empty, despite his wealth. What does this say about love of money? Well, on with my story,” he added.

“Messianic fever ran high among the excited crowds who followed Jesus. They greeted him as he traveled to the holy city, attracted by his preaching and miracles; his very presence. His following was large, viewed by many as rebels, opposed to the well established Jewish customs. And there were the idly curious, scoffers and doubters scattered among the needy ones who anxiously hailed Jesus for His miracles. Some wondered if Jesus was the Messiah, who had come to save them from their Roman oppressors. Others were spies sent out by the Temple officials who weren’t buying Jesus’ story. They were expecting a strong military or political leader to break them away from the oppressive hold of the Romans.  Jesus knew their fickle and hardened hearts but loved them anyway. Did you know that when Jesus entered Jericho, he was only one week away from his crucifixion?” he asked.

“I…I’m not sure,” David replied. This was another fact that he had not considered in his reading of Luke.  The reality of Jesus’ ministry had just been raised a notch in his mind.

 The old man leaned close and griped David’s forearm with boney fingers. The story became intense in tone. His weathered face and peering eyes added to the drama of the moment. “That day was hot and dry. I saw the dust cloud kicked up by the feet of the approaching throng of intruders to our city.  By its size, I knew this mob had to be Jesus and his followers. Others gathered looking for a show; merchants, traders and buyers at the edge of town had become curious.  Some of them tagged along behind and ahead of Jesus. The crowd swelled as customers left the town shops and ran ahead to join the mob. The crowd trekked the dusty road and came to this very square where we are seated.  Jesus’ presence was spellbinding for most of them; for me. For reasons I still don’t understand, I ran first to tell Zacchaeus.

You told Zacchaeus that Jesus was in town?” David blurted out the question.

“Yes, that’s right.  I told Zacchaeus that Jesus was coming… but I never expected his reaction!  Please, let me go on with my story,” snapped the old storyteller.

“Which one is this Jesus that I hear talk about?” Zacchaeus asked me excitedly, “I want to see him.” I had never seen my friend so excited, so worked up. He rose suddenly from his tax booth, spilling his tray of coins to the floor, and he ignored them….really!”

 “There, he is standing at the front of the crowd,” I replied to my friend. “Zacchaeus quickly closed up his booth and ran into the crowd. He was not alone. The local vendors, in increasing numbers, had left their shops unattended to join their friends who jammed the street to gawk at the noisy visitors. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Next thing I see is Zacchaeus perched high in this tree, his expensive outer garment dirty and torn by the tree limbs. He was a funny sight! One of the merchants stared up at him, sneering and murmuring snide comments, while others strained their necks to see Jesus over the shoulders of taller people. My little friend did well to climb the tree so quickly. Never was there such commotion in all of Jericho!”

“People have asked me, “Why did Zacchaeus run to climb the tree?”  “That’s a good question; one with many possible answers. Frankly, I wondered why he didn’t go up on a nearby shop roof for a good view. But then, he wasn’t welcome at those shops unless he was spending money. Storeowners usually overcharged him, just to get back at him for his own greed. Anyway, I can tell you that he should never have run in the street, because to do so, he lifted his skirt to expose his legs. Wealthy, well-dressed men never lifted their skirt in public. Such behavior would bring immediate ridicule and embarrassment upon the man. Although, I did hear Jesus speak of such a happening, when he told the parable of the Prodigal Son. Do you know that story, David?”

 Without waiting for David’s reply, the old man continued his story.  “Jesus said that the boy’s father ran to meet his long lost son, so I imagine that he raised his skirt or he would have tripped in the field. If Jesus said it, then I suspect that he was making an important point about the mindset of the father. But certainly, most Jews of the city would never climb a tree in the presence of others. We are a prideful bunch!”

“So, what do you think motivated Zacchaeus to drop his pride and climb the tree to see Jesus?  He asked David.   The tourist began a reply but was interrupted by the story teller. “Was he merely securing the best viewing post ahead of someone else? There were Gentiles in the crowd and any one of them might have climbed that tree without hesitation. Some books of your generation say that the Sycamore-fig tree of Judea was considered unclean because its fruits were used to feed the pigs. I won’t say one way or the other, but surely Zacchaeus would not have climbed that tree, if he hadn’t traded his pride and willingly suffered great embarrassment for the opportunity to see Jesus up close. Some people say he was merely curious. I prefer to think that he wasn’t going to let his wealth come between his soul and God. As a Jew, somewhere in the depths of his soul he knew his Maker. The talk of Jesus, the Messiah that had reached his ears had fulfilled Jesus’ plan for the appointed meeting at Jericho. The little rich man was tucked in a tree, his eyes glued on the Messiah trudging along in the dusty street. He didn’t know what to expect but his deliberate and risky action didn’t go unnoticed by Jesus. His was an impulsive act, not so much of his choosing.  Imagine that! God calling for Zacchaeus to be perched in a tree; some say an unclean tree, to meet his Beloved Son.  A lost sinner perched in an unclean tree….he was more than curious. He was compelled to seek what he couldn’t possibly understand as his need for forgiveness and unconditional acceptance. Jesus met Zacchaeus just that way…grace abounded for the sinner in the tree. Surely the Holy Spirit was at work.” The old man paused at length to let his words soak into David’s mind.

After a moment, David raised his head to look high into the sycamore tree.  He could almost see Zacchaeus leaning down to see Jesus as the Messiah closed onto the scene. Zacchaeus’ eyes strained through tears to behold the upward gaze of Jesus, smiling brightly with a love that overwhelmed the little man. David was mesmerized by the scene and choked back his own tears as the storyteller continued.

“I think that Jesus anticipated finding the strange little man sitting up in a tree. He fully intended to intrude into Zacchaeus’ life of pride and greed. After all, as you read in the Bible, Jesus is the Good Shepherd searching for his wayward sheep. Just a short time before, Jesus had told that parable to the unbelieving Pharisees. You’ll find that in Luke 15:1-2,” the storyteller added.

Anticipating David’s next question, he continued, “Yes, I was there among the crowd on the hillside to hear Jesus’ teaching.  That day, The Good Shepherd must have been anticipating who Zacchaeus would become, once he embraced His limitless love! Jesus divinely intruded into Jericho and straight into Zacchaeus’ life to show him unconditional acceptance; to show him how to live through him. Yes, I say “intruded” because the people of Jericho had been busy with their own lives, never expecting to experience the commanding presence of Christ. Most were not willing to acknowledge their Master, even when the stories of His miraculous healings preceded Him in every town he entered.  His spoken truths had all but fallen on deaf ears of those hearing of those accounts.  Jesus entered this ungodly environment of Jericho and upset their pervasive ignorance, prejudice and pride. He always had a plan to advance His ministry. Jesus came and worked all things in truth and love. He is a game changer, you know. You can read about that in 1 John 4:9. The little man in the tree never expected what followed, when Jesus looked up and spoke to him.” The old man paused to let David lean closer to hear the unfolding story. He observed the tear-filled eyes of the tourist. 

“Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” I remember the surprised look on Zacchaeus’ face when Jesus called him from that tree. Shock and inexpressible joy combined in his facial features, as he jumped down from the tree limb, scraping his knees on the ground. Ignoring the dust on his garment, he rose awkwardly to his feet to stand before Jesus.

 “Look Lord,” I heard him say, as he claimed responsibility for his sinful past and offered to make restitution for his cheating. Do you understand by his use of the title “Lord,” that Zacchaeus had suddenly recognized Jesus as his Master?”

David paused to think. “Yes, I did see that in an earlier reading,” he commented. The old man didn’t respond to David but continued his story.

“The little man’s gratitude for God’s outpouring of saving grace revealed that Jesus had radically changed the life of the hated tax collector. I saw the effect of a newfound faith, expressed in unashamed joy, as my friend Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus to go to his home. Obviously, Jesus saw it too, because something supreme happened at that moment.”

“What happened,” David asked loudly. He was spellbound by the story unfolding before him.  The old woman seated nearby had heard his open question, her face revealing her displeasure at her own thoughts being disturbed.  “He’s probably still on the phone, she thought to herself. “ Why can’t people leave those things at home!” She grunted, as she turned away.

“I saw it! The storyteller exclaimed in a sharp, elevated tone. “It happened right before me!  It was written all over Zacchaeus’ face!   His facial expression revealed that his hardened heart was instantly changed; its door had swung wide open and the little man was filled with God’s grace. The tax collector who had been controlled by greed was now mastered by Jesus’ inexpressible, heavenly love. His repentant confession of cheating the public and his fervent offer of future works of charity were lost on the judgmental Jews that surrounded him at that tree. Blinded to the truth, they missed the miracle of salvation... Zacchaeus had surrendered to his Lord, Christ Jesus!”

“Hey, were you listening?” The old man asked when he saw David’s head turned down, his hands covering his face.

Tears formed in David’s eyes at the telling of this miracle. He could feel Jesus’ presence and love even then, as the old man unwound his story. Suddenly, it was some two thousand years ago and David was there, in that unclean tree, himself unclean, looking into the face of Jesus.  Called down from his perch, he stood before Jesus and the pressing crowd in the town square. The mystery of Scripture revealed in this vivid storytelling had changed this tourist into a witness of salvation. Now, David saw the working of Christ’s divine intrusion at Jericho. The tax collector and he, the sinner, stood together with Christ and understood God’s immeasurable, loving grace. The Savior, on the way to His Cross and the sinner now saved, talked quietly beneath the sycamore tree. Scripture had come alive for this curious tourist. The presence of Jesus overwhelmed him.  His mind could not comprehend the loving grace that was pouring out onto him. He had known Jesus but not like this, ever.  Here was the reality of the Shepherd’s loving mercy, of sins long ago forgiven and forgotten and of God’s incomprehensible love and acceptance.  David felt his heart would explode with joy. 

“Do you need a minute to collect yourself? “the old man inquired. His question brought David back to the setting and he quickly dried his weeping eyes.  He could barely look at the old man.  Choking a reply, he asked, “Please, continue your story.”

David was enraptured by the words of the strange storyteller. He could almost see the stirring reaction of the crowd surrounding Jesus and the tax collector. They were stunned by Jesus inviting himself to the home of a sinner of Zacchaeus. They muttered in self-righteous condemnation of Zacchaeus and ridiculed Jesus for speaking with the sinner. David’s heart ached for Christ. “Can’t they see His heart? Can’t they feel His passionate love of all lost souls?” Had Jesus not fed most of them earlier on the nearby hillsides? Had not many of them walked for days with Jesus and heard him speak truth time and again? Had they not spoken of Jesus at their own family tables? Why do they deny him as the Messiah? Why do they treat him so badly?  Why do so many people still men hate him, deny him or ignore him?”  David softly cried his inquiry to the storyteller.  This tourist no longer cared what others standing nearby might think as they gawked at him. David wanted answers. The time seemed urgent.

“I suppose that hardened hearts were incapable of seeing the very work of God before them,” the old man replied. “By the way, do you know that there is no other biblically recorded case where Jesus invited himself to a home? How about that!  Now, let me tell you more.”

“Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus’ confession was not to judge him nor offer approval of his works of charity. I could see that in his face, and he had no word of rebuke for Zacchaeus. I think that he already knew all about the little man in the tree. I was plain to me that Jesus was there to save his soul. There was the open wound of sin and the heavenly care of forgiveness.  Christ needed nothing from Zacchaeus in order to grant him the healing gift of forgiveness and acceptance, where only despise and hate had existed among his own family. Jesus’ divine intrusion at Jericho had great purpose; to show this sinful tax collector and the entire world His incomprehensible love, forgiveness and mercy.” The storyteller again paused to let David absorb the fullness of the message.

The storyteller continued, his voice lowered and deepened. “What Jesus said next shocked the crowd. He declared that Zacchaeus, who had been lost, was a son of Abraham. I know now that it was because of his newfound seed of faith. Had you considered that?” he asked David.

“His newfound seed of faith,” David reflected on those profound words from the storyteller. The term “seed of faith” took on a greater meaning in David’s mind.

 “The crowd really got stirred up by Jesus’ words,” the old man added. “Their self righteousness and spiritual blindness fueled their anger and envy. “Some at that scene would never believe that a tax collector and sinner could be saved. The blessed reality of God’s grace escaped their thinking; was overlooked while selfish anger rose in their hearts. Still others didn’t seem to fully recognize that they had just witnessed a miracle of salvation.  The conversion of Zacchaeus, the saving of the tax collector’s lost soul, was but one testament of Christ’s purpose for coming into the world.  Sadly, over the following years, few of this town’s people ever admitted that the city’s most despised outcast was bound for heaven,” the old man noted.

“Jesus and Zacchaeus went about their way, heckled by the pressing crowd as they tread through the dusty town to the taxpayer’s home. What a conversation the two must have enjoyed.  I can tell you, Zacchaeus was a changed man from that day on.  He never cheated again, and his family accepted him back into their fold. My friend cried bitterly when hearing of Jesus’ crucifixion.  But don’t you just know that the little man jumped with joy when Jesus’ was resurrected and ascended into heaven?  I sure did!” he added.

 Zacchaeus and I became good friends for many years,” declared the old man. We shared many long talks about the love of Jesus and the heavenly reward that awaited us.  For the rest of his life, Zacchaeus couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. I’d say that some folks turned to Christ because of my friends’ witnessing to them.

“Well, that’s my story,” declared the old man as he folded his wrinkled hands and looked deeply into the tear stained eyes of the tourist. The message of what happened here over 2000 years ago belongs to the world.  It’s a picture of Jesus Christ’s love and forgiving grace that we all need to accept….right where we are today.  Everyone is a sinner and needs to turn to Jesus…climb a tree if they have too!  That’s what this bible story is all about. I’m glad that you let me share it with you, David.

David sat a few moments looking at the storyteller, incapable of uttering words. He had listened; he had for a moment, been there with Jesus at the tree; he had been an un-expectant witness to what Scripture had revealed of a divine encounter at Jericho eons ago. His trembling voice allowed no clear speech. He managed only a sincere nod of deep appreciation to his storyteller. The old man understood.

“You asked me earlier if I had become a member of “The Way,” the old man said. Well yes, I did that very day. How could I not? I found myself fully and completely in love with Jesus Christ. I don’t think he saw me near the tree; at least he wasn’t looking my direction. But I felt drawn into his presence, into his love. I knew I needed forgiveness of my own sins. I wanted what Zacchaeus had just received. I knew with certainty that I could never live without Jesus anymore than could the little man who had climbed a tree to see Him. I quickly went to the home of my friend Zacchaeus to surrender fully to my Lord.” Jesus saw me coming. He came to me when I entered the room.  I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to be saved. I understood that Jesus’ divine intrusion into Jericho was for me as well.

The old man turned to David to make his closing remarks. “So, let me ask you…what do you think would have happened if Zacchaeus had held to his pride and ignored the pre-destined call from Jesus? What if he had opted to stay at his tax booth and kept his false religion of stolen money to himself?” he asked.

David started to speak but the storyteller continued without waiting for an answer. “I can see by your face that you would never entertain that thought. Well, let me tell you. No one in Jericho would have known that Jesus could change the most despised man in the city to become his follower. I and others might have missed out on a miracle of salvation that day. Scripture would not have told this story. You would have never read about the miracle of a lost soul converted in Jericho. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit did not let that happen. God had a plan; God owns grace and poured it out on us that day. That was the work of God in Jesus Christ! “Do you know the truth of receiving God’s grace, my son?” he asked. His question choked David, so badly that he couldn’t speak.

“Receiving God’s grace has to be a conscious act, a willingness to desire it and allow it to accomplish God’s will in your life.  God owns grace and we are so blessed to receive it from Him.  I think you will have a far better grasp of grace after our visit today.  Well, I see that your bus is loading, so you better get aboard. Let me leave you with this thought: Imagine what a follower of Christ might have said about Zacchaeus at this point: “Today, Zacchaeus, the rich man and sinner has become a child of God.  Oh yes, it was the most splendid day. For, there had been a divine intrusion at Jericho,” declared the old man.

“Thank you for telling me the story,” the David said with some effort, his tears now uncontrollably filled his eyes.  He rose and turned to go to the tour bus. It wasn’t there. He quickly looked back to see that the old man wasn’t there either. All that was before him was the familiar surroundings of his home seen from his favorite chair; his Bible resting in his lap was opened to Luke Chapter 19.

(© 2011 John Miller – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)


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