The story of Zacchaeus has the makings of a great kids’ story, but maybe we’ve missed something. Reggie Joiner, in his Orange Conference 2019 main session talk, shared that Jesus did in this story shocked the entire community.
How could Jesus dare favor a guy like Zacchaeus? Everybody needs somebody to see them like Jesus sees them. Jesus saw a man made in God’s image. Jesus never let public opinion influence Him how to treat someone. Something remarkable can happen when we start seeing people the way Jesus sees them.
Then Jesus says that salvation is coming to Zacchaeus’ house. Maybe that statement is much more than him becoming a Jesus-follower and going to heaven. That same day, something fundamentally shifted in his life. Jesus said that He came to have life to the full. This is not just about heaven and hell; it’s about now.
Zacchaeus was maybe struggling with a loss of identity. Jesus called him by name. Maybe he was struggling with a loss of belonging. Jesus said He was going to his house. Maybe he was struggling with a sense of purpose. Jesus gave him a reason to live. What Jesus did was personal.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, the Passover, and the cross, and He stopped to make it personal for Zacchaeus. We have to make sure we don’t too busy in all the work of the ministry where we forget to make it personal for somebody. The essence of the Gospel is about a personal relationship with God. We need to remind each other that everything we do boils down to 1:1 discipleship.
Jesus distinctively called Zacchaeus by name and addressed what truly mattered to him. Jesus took the time to enter into Zacchaeus’ everyday context. When Jesus went to his house, that’s when the story takes a turn. The crowd was probably okay with him talking to Zacchaeus, but they got angry when he went to his house. Again, Jesus doesn’t let the crowd determine His love for people. It might not make sense to the people around us, but we need to enter into the lives of others.
Jesus didn’t judge, but He replaced shame with hope. What if we just did that? What if we just reminded people that their past doesn’t have to define them? Jesus believed Zacchaeus could be generous. When someone believes in your potential, you start believing in your potential. Everybody needs somebody to know them personally.
Reggie then said that if we can invite our teams/people to know the answers to these 5 questions, it will change the kid’s life you are working with:
- Do you know my name?
- Do you know what matters to me?
- Do you know where I live?
- Do you know what I’ve done?
- Do you know what I can do?
Every kid is not that different than you and me. We also need people to remind us of what we can do.
We’re all short. Romans says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Reggie suggests that falling short means we have gotten part of the way there. Maybe some of us are able to get closer than others, but we are all the closest thing to the glory of God in all of creation, because we were created in the image of God. The problem is that we are so programmed to see the negative, and we forget that God said we are worth redeeming.
We can do good. We can love someone. We can change.
Believing someone cannot change is logical without Jesus. But with Jesus, change is certainly possible, and we should be on the front lines of telling someone they can change.
Somewhere in the context of our story, life gets hard. We need someone in our lives to tell us of our potential. Because we live in a culture of hopelessness, we need a generation of leaders who lean into kids. When kids are known and they know they’re known, and they face life in a different way.
As Reggie was a 15 years old, his family made a big move. He was mad at God and mad at life. When at church one Sunday, he wrote the pastor a note containing reasons why his sermon was bad and how he was mad at God. The pastor then showed up, told him he was a good writer, asked him to be an intern, and set him on a path.
Reggie wrapped up his talk with a couple very thought-provoking questions: What if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to Zacchaeus? What if someone hadn’t stopped in our lives?
Photo credit: Provided by ©Taylor Zorzi / Zorzi Creative and The Orange Conference