Maybe some of you watching can relate to being the grey man, having spent much of your life in the shadow of others. Maybe you long for someone to notice you. Maybe social rejection has simply left you feeling that there is something wrong with you. Maybe you’ve used people’s indifference to your own advantage
Maybe your guilt leaves you fearful of being seen for who you really are. Maybe you’re watching this morning and the question on your mind is “Does God really see me?”
If you can relate to any of these feelings, there’s hope and I want to show you where you can find it. It’s found in an extraordinary encounter between Jesus and a man up a tree.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, a Jewish man collaboration with the Roman invaders, exploiting his own people in order to line his own pockets. He’s become very rich and powerful but was hated by everyone.
You can read the story in Luke 19:1-10
Can you imagine what that must have been like? There are literally hundreds of people crowding around Jesus and yet it’s Zacchaeus Jesus sees. Despite the fact that they had never met before, Jesus knew his name! Jesus wanted to stay with Zacchaeus, a person that other faith leaders would have avoided like the plague.
Jesus was certainly unorthodox, so much so that people in the crowd began to mutter about him saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
What is glaringly obvious to me in this single sentence is the total lack of self-awareness being displayed in these muttered remarks. Every single time Jesus went to be the guest of someone he met, he was going to hang out with a sinner because every single person on this planet is a sinner. Some peope are self-righteous enough to believe the “sinner” is a term reserved for other people, people like Zacchaeus, and not for them.
If you’ve ever had that experience and been treated like scum, particularly by a church, I want to encourage you to not give up on Christianity because Jesus Christ, it’s founder and it’s reason for being, was not like that! Jesus shocked people constantly by his compassion for society’s outcasts, by his desire to spend his time and energy ministering to people who weren’t religious, probably because they were never accepted by anyone in the religious crowd!
It seems that’s not something that comes naturally to many of us. We tend to judge people at face value but God looks at the heart. That’s what Jesus always did. That’sthe very reason Jesus came in the first place, to seek and to save the lost, the prodigals desperate to return home but fearful of the reception they might get if they tried.
Salvation comes to those who believe in Jesus, the one who truly sees us for who weare and yet welcomes us into his presence regardless.
If you hear his message to you today, you can say yes to his invitation right now by placing your trust in Jesus. You can pray in your heart and he will hear you as you ask him to forgive you for your sins and bring you into a restored relationship with God.
Maybe you’ve been self-righteous? Today’s the day for you to admit that to Jesus, ask for his forgiveness, and then contact the people you’ve been judgmental towards and ask them to forgive you too.
Questions for personal reflection or discussion in small groups:
- How have people in your past or present may you feel like a social outcast?
- What does it mean to you to know that Jesus sees you just as you are and welcomes you into his presence?
- How might you have sometimes been guilty of being self-righteous, particularly in the way you have judged the actions or character of others?
- Do you need to take some time now to ask God for forgiveness?
- Is there someone you need to contact to apologize for the way you treated them?
- How can you help shape the culture of our church so that everyone is welcome because nobody is perfect and anything is possible to God?
- What NextSteps is God calling you to take today?
Listen to the full talk on our podcast below…