Lent is often described as, “the Lenten Journey.” Many follow Jesus through these weeks as he makes his way to the cross and ultimately the celebration of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Along the journey we’re invited to enter into the story and encounter Jesus in a fresh way. As we walk with him we meet others that have been swept up into the story of Jesus.
Luke 19 tells of the encounter between Jesus and Zaccheus, the tax collector. Many children who have grown up in the church know the story of Zaccheus because of catchy nursery rhymes sung in Sunday school, or the unusual tidbit in the text referencing Zaccheus’ height. Or, lack their of.
Zaccheus was a tax collector. Someone who collected money on behalf of the Romans, and most likely skimmed off the top for his own gain. He, like everyone else, heard of Jesus passing through Jericho and had to see him. With a large crowd surrounding Jesus, Zaccheus couldn’t get through. We are tempted to believe the only reason Zaccheus climbed the tree was due to his being short. Most likely, many in the crowd would have known Zaccheus, and many would have despised him. They would have done their best to show no kindness to him.
In a twist, Jesus moves through the crowd, spots Zaccheus up in the tree and in my favorite part, invites himself over for dinner.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. – Luke 19:5-6
Jesus breaks into Zaccheus’ life in a way no one expected or approved of. Zaccheus was seeking Jesus, while in reality, Jesus was seeking the short little guy in the tree.
As Christians, we enter into many seasons of our lives where we endeavor to seek Jesus more in our lives. Lent is an opportunity to follow Jesus in a new and fresh way. We find however that all the while Jesus is seeking us. While we follow closely behind, Jesus is breaking into our lives in real and uncomfortable ways.
From our perches in the tree, we keep ourselves at a comfortable distance from Jesus. Thankfully, he breaks through the comfortable distance, and invites himself into our lives.