This past Saturday afternoon John McCain, Sarah Palin and their entourage came to Washington, PA.
We went to see them. It was almost unbearably hot, but we suffered thru waiting for them. Never having seen a presidential candidate "up close" we wanted to go. It was a big deal for little ole' Washington, PA!
There was a really short guy who danced on stage with his two cane sticks while country singer John Rich sang. Lynn Swann of Steeler fame made a dashing and articulate appearace before jumping off the stage and crashing to the ground when he slipped on the plywood. He quickly recovered, broke into a run and scrambled over the wall on his way to his son's ballgame.
In thinking about that little man on the stage and our long wait to see someone important, I also reflected on what it must have been like to travel with Jesus or wait to see him pass along the road. Many, many people followed Jesus. They liked to see the things He did and hear what He had to say. Sometimes there were so many people around Jesus that short people at the back just couldn’t see.
Amos is a friend. Amos is very short because Amos’ legs are all broken and don’t work. Amos gets around most of the time on a skateboard. Sometimes he uses a wheelchair. Amos says that sometimes all he can see when people stand up is their legs or bottoms because he is so short.
Saturday afternoon after our long, hot wait the McCain "Straight Talk Express" pulled onto the field and parked right in front of the people who had been sitting for hours in the heat in the bleachers waiting. The bus just sat there after the VIP's went on stage. Soon chants of "Move that bus, Move that bus!" were reverberating across the bleachers. FINALLY the bus moved so we could see.
My experience Saturday gave me a whole new perspective on an account from the life of Jesus in Luke 19:1 - 10. The McCain Rally helped me see the story of Zacchaeus in a new light. I could get more inside the story after my day waiting in the sun for a glimpse of the important persons - McCain and Palin - who were supposed to show up. I can now understand so much better what the crowds who followed Jesus must have been thinking and feeling. I can understand why Zacchaeus climbed the tree and hid in the leaves.
One day Jesus met a man who was very short, too - like Mr. Two-Foot-Tall at the McCain Rally. (Luke 19:1-10) This man’s legs worked but they were just very short. His name was Zacchaeus. Even when he stood as tall as he could on his tiptoes, he still couldn’t see. Even when Zacchaeus jumped up and down, he couldn’t see over the tall people around Jesus. When Zacchaeus asked people to move over and let him get to the front so he could see, they pushed closer together and wouldn’t let him past.
Why were people so mean to Zacchaeus? There was a reason. People in Jericho – where Zacchaeus lived – didn’t like Zacchaeus because he had stolen a lot of money from all the people in Jericho. Zacchaeus worked for the Romans. He collected taxes. He added to the amount of the taxes so he could take that off the top for himself. Zacchaeus was a cheat and a thief. He took money from all the people in Jericho. He gave the Romans their part and kept the rest for himself. SO Zacchaeus was a very rich man! He was rich on other people’s money he stole and cheated from them.
When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming to town, he really really wanted to SEE Jesus. So, when he couldn’t stand on tiptoe high enough or jump or push to the front, he ran ahead of the crowd around Jesus. He found a tree right by the road. Quickly Zacchaeus climbed up in the tree and waited. Zacchaeus knew how much people in Jericho hated him. He hid behind the tree leaves so he could see Jesus. Zacchaeus thought no one would be able to see where he was hiding. The crowd and Jesus came closer.
Finally Zacchaeus saw Jesus! Jesus was coming straight toward Zacchaeus’ tree. Jesus stopped right in front of the tree trunk, looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down right now. I am coming to your house to eat today.” Zacchaeus was so surprised and excited he almost fell out of the tree as he scrambled down. He almost skipped alongside of Jesus as they made their way to Zacchaeus’ house.
Jesus was always full of surprises! Boy! The people in Jericho were really surprised that Jesus wanted to eat with Zacchaeus. The people were also mad. They didn’t like Zacchaeus. They didn’t want Jesus to be nice to Zacchaeus either. They said, “What business does Jesus have getting cozy with this crook (Zacchaeus)?”
As Jesus ate lunch with Zacchaeus, they talked. Jesus must have told Zacchaeus that He is God’s Son. Zacchaeus got even more excited when he understood Who Jesus is. Jesus said to Zacchaeus: “Today is salvation day in this home!”
Jesus loved Zacchaeus and wanted to be his Savior. Zacchaeus knew he was a bad man who had cheated a lot of people and done other bad things. Zacchaeus knew He needed Jesus! Zacchaeus gave his heart to Jesus that day and loved Jesus from that day on. Zacchaeus is a member of God’s forever family!
Zacchaeus knew something else. Zacchaeus knew that he needed to do something really radical to show the people in Jericho that Jesus had changed his heart. So Zacchaeus gave away half of all his money to people who needed help and he promised to pay back the money he had cheated people out of. Zacchaeus did even better than just a pay-back. He paid back 4 times more than he stole! WOW!
Jesus really did change Zacchaeus’ heart, didn’t He?! Zacchaeus made a choice. He gave His heart to Jesus and made Jesus the King of his life. Kings rule. That means Zacchaeus gave up his rights to do what he wanted to do – like cheating people out of their money. Zacchaeus radically changed because Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ heart.
Jesus is still in the heart-changing business! He wants us to love Him and follow Him. He wants us to obey Him. He wants us to show we love Jesus by treating other people right, too – just like Zacchaeus did!
It is easy to say, “I love Jesus.” We can SHOW how much we love Jesus by loving other people! That might look like helping friends like Amos get a better view from low down. That might mean pushing someone's wheelchair or helping someone who shakes a lot eat. "Love for Jesus" changes our hearts in radical ways just like Zacchaeus and will show in how we act as well as what we say!