Tag Archives: encounter with Jesus

Lessons from a short guy

 

If you ever went to Sunday School or Bible Camp, probably know the story of Zaccheus. Maybe you sang the kid’s song:

“Zaccheus was a wee, little man,
And a wee, little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
For the Lord he wanted to see.”

 

If so, you might be tempted to skim over the familiar passage in Luke 19. But there is more to the story than a man of small stature who climbed a tree to see Jesus. It’s a story that has life application lessons for you and me today.

 

What do we know about Zaccheus?
Zaccheus was a tax collector. In fact he was in charge of other “lesser” tax collectors. As such, Zaccheus had acquired a great wealth, perhaps some of it by over-charging the poor. Probably most of us who live in America do not consider ourselves rich nor robbers. Most of us work hard to make what we consider to be a modest living. Yet, none of us have to do much study to discover that we are in fact rich in the sight of much of the world. And a little more research would reveal that many of our gains come at the expense of those who have little. We buy cheaply priced goods that are made by workers in slave-like conditions and who are paid little for their efforts. I don’t make the point to belittle or shame anyone, but merely to help us see that we are more similar to Zaccheus than we might think and to show how this little story applies directly to us.

 

Zaccheus was short. Yet he did not let his physical stature hold him back, not in advancing his career or in overcoming the challenges of seeing Jesus when everyone taller blocked his view. I know a lot of people who are small in stature yet are big-hearted and full of spirit. Others of us are challenged by other shortcomings. But these challenges in themselves do not stand as impenetrable barriers to those who have the deep desire to overcome them.

 

Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus and was thrilled to come to know him. Have you ever noticed that those who are curious about Jesus often end up becoming more excited about knowing him more? It is a common theme of those who have genuine encounters with Jesus. We sing “Open my eyes, Lord; I want to see Jesus.” But those who truly want to see Jesus will go to great heights to get to know him more. Is that your real desire? What are some barriers that stand between you and your walk with the Lord? What steps could you take to overcome these?

 

Zaccheus received Jesus with eagerness and joy! He rushed down and welcomed Jesus into his house. Zaccheus was put in a place of honor when Jesus came to his house. Imagine any high profile public figure singling you out in a crowd, calling you by name, and saying he must come to your house! Jesus knows his followers by name. And he generously and eagerly offers to grace us with the gift of his presence, to come into our “house” – even into the depths of our heart.

 

Zaccheus responded to the condemnation of others with both repentance and joy. Judging by the lavish generosity of his willingness to make restitution to anyone he cheated, perhaps he was “not as bad” as others judged him to be. His eagerness to know Jesus deeply compelled him to generosity. And he didn’t leave a future bequest; he acted IMMEDIATELY! He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of knowing Jesus more. In reflection, I wonder how many people I may have judged wrongly, and I ponder the evidence of my own repentant heart. I recognize that a joyful heart and generous spirit does not always automatically flow as an extension of my own blessings. Zaccheus spurs me on to climb to greater heights in my own faith.

 

Be blessed in becoming a little lower in stature today, in humbling yourself, in spending time encountering the real Jesus who knows you by name, and by responding immediately to his call on your life…with joy!

 

Finding treasure and leaving it behind

 

Imagine winning a contest with a big cash reward but instead of collecting your prize, leaving it unclaimed. Or imagine a realtor showing you the perfect house, saying “It’s yours, free of charge.” But instead of moving in, you walk away. Crazy, right?

 

But that’s what happened to Simon, James, and John. Fishing was their livelihood. It was all they knew. But on this certain day they hadn’t caught anything. Jesus showed up and told them to lower their nets one more time and they caught such an abundance of fish it took two boats to bring in the bountiful catch! What would you do if you were them? Would you rush to market to collect your profits? Would you ask Jesus, “Show me your favor!” Would you plead with him to make you even more successful? Perhaps many would think that way. But that’s not the response of these men. Instead, they “left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11)

 

Astounding! Here, they just received what they had been diligently pursuing and then they just leave their treasure to rot on the shore. Why? Because they recognized something of greater value. They had a genuine encounter with the real Jesus. ¬†They recognized him for who we was. His authority, power, and compassion were so real that they were compelled to follow him, leaving all other treasure for the sake of being with him and to become “fishers of men.”

 

It’s what Paul experienced: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

 

All the world’s profits are like a huge catch of fish rotting on the shore, compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. I wonder if you’ve had such an encounter with the real Jesus.

 

We’re sometimes persuaded to think we have to make Jesus more “appealing” to others. But that’s never how he presented himself. He saw people and met them with compassion. People who met the real Jesus found him completely compelling just as he was. He healed a leper and freed a man from a life of paralysis. He ate with “sinners,” saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

 

I wonder if you have met this Jesus whose authority and love are so real and so valued that you are compelled to follow him. And not just follow but leave everything else behind as if it were rubbish, compared to the worth of knowing him more. If so, he leaves us with a parable for how to follow him. He tells us that we should not put new wine in old wineskins because they will burst, spilling the wine and ruining the wineskins. So it is for us also. If we try to put the new life of Jesus into our old way of living, it will be just as disastrous. What should we do? Set the old ways aside. Leave them on the shore. Walk away and follow Jesus – completely. Live the new life fully and without regret or turning back.

 

Jesus says, “Follow me.” What is your response?

 

Astonished!

 

 

What one word you would choose to describe your encounter with Jesus?

 

One word that so often seems to jump off the pages of the New Testament is ASTONISHED! People who encountered Jesus were consistently astonished and amazed. They were astonished by:

 

His teaching
His authority
His integrity to speak and live the truth
His compassion
His miracles
His forgiveness
His obedience to His Heavenly Father
His wisdom
His sacrifice
His ability to know what was on the hearts of men
His grace
His power over death

 

Pilate was amazed by the character of Jesus when He remained silent in the face of accusations. The disciples saw Him walk on water, calm a violent storm, and feed five thousand people with a handful of small fish and loaves of bread. With their own eyes, crowds of people who encountered Jesus witnessed blind men seeing, lame men walking, mute men speaking, the deaf hearing, and those possessed by evil spirits freed from their bondage. They were so astonished they immediately praised God.

 

The people were also astonished by the lives of uneducated and ORDINARY men who were completely transformed by their own encounter with Jesus. By the power of the Spirit of Jesus, these men spoke with EXTRAORDINARY courage, authority, and wisdom. They too healed the sick and raised the dead. They lived lives compelled by compassion and desire to make sure everyone had opportunity to respond to the good news that changes lives for all eternity! Even Saul who actively and vehemently persecuted Christians found his life spun around in a complete 180. His new name, Paul, reflected his humble character, putting Christ and others first. But don’t confuse humility with timidity. A genuine encounter with Jesus changes things!

 

What words come to mind when you think about your encounter with the risen Jesus?

 

Jesus said some will hear His good news but will immediately forget them because the soil of their heart is like a hard worn rocky path, leaving no room for God to grow in their life.

 

He said some will respond eagerly to the encounter With His truth and grace but their excitement will soon fade like the seed that sprouts up but soon withers in the heat of the day.

 

Jesus said many will let His good news get strangled by their constant craving for things, the lust of what they see, and the endless boasting of achievements that don’t last.

 

BUT…

 

Jesus promises that those who experience a genuine encounter with Him will find their lives completely transformed, from a tiny seed to a large tree that stands firm in the storms. It sends its roots deep into the soil, and is able to withstand storms and droughts, a living testimony to enduring faith in the transformational power of God.

 

Nearly everyone who encountered Jesus was astonished. Are you? If so, let it show in the way you face your problems and opportunities today!