Read: Luke 19:1-10
Those funny little sayings that most families have. Those often-repeated little quips that make us laugh when we don't even know their origin. May I share one of those from my family? My brother-in-law used to end his time with us by encouraging us to "stay out of trees." Here's the thing that makes that fairly funny when I think of it. I have never climbed a tree. No, not even when I was young, and, now that I am old, the only time I reach high up into a tree is when I am searching for ripe peaches or apples; so, I guess I have always obeyed that little injunction.
In today's reading that only Luke shares, we meet a man who evidently never was given my brother-in-law's admonition because when we are introduced to him, we learn that he has climbed up into a Sycamore Fig Tree. I wanted to learn a bit about these trees when I was preparing to write this devotion. They evidently have large leaves that somewhat resemble those of the maple tree. The trees have sturdy branches suitable for climbing, and they get very tall and can live for hundreds of years. In our own country, in Brandywine, Pennsylvania, George Washington was said to have met with Lafayette under these large leafy trees. With that interlude over, let's return to Israel and Luke's account.
In today's reading, we learn the reason for Zacchaeus' being up a tree. He was short and, he wanted to see Jesus. He evidently thought the tree would be a good place to see without being discovered by the crowd of people who didn't like his way of making a living. He was a well-to-do tax collector. who worked for Israel's conquerors, the Romans. That was no way to make friends or influence people. How shocked was he when Jesus' reaction toward him was so different than what he had known. This diminutive man couldn't have guessed that the God/man would take note of him. He must have been dumbfounded when Jesus called him to come down. No rebuke. No disdain. This Jesus whom he had evidently heard of wanted to come to HIS HOME. Amazing! Imagine the shock when Zacchaeus heard his name called and, it wasn't spat out with derision or scorn.
Zacchaeus was found by the seeking Savior, Luke 19:10. This was the same precious One Whom angels announced, Luke 2:8-14. The One Who the prophets had promised and the One John the Baptist's father had spoken about even prior to His birth, Luke 1:67-75. This was the One Who looked up into that tree on an ordinary day and made Himself known to a man whom the crowds disdained. No Zacchaeus didn't know Jesus, but Jesus knew all about this tax collector, and the Lord loved him. Perhaps there is someone who will read this who has a precious one who seems to be far away from the Savior. It is almost Christmas, and like us, you have hoped that this Christmas would mark your loved one's first Noel with Jesus. Perhaps like us, you have tried to tell them about the Savior Who loves you and how He loves them too. The One Who looked up into that ancient Sycamore Fig Tree at the right time on the right day also has a plan for those we love. He knows how He will introduce Himself to them and what circumstances and people He will use. He knows the ordinary day that might well become the day of their new birth, John 3:3. No, I can't promise what each one will do in response to Jesus' calling them, but I can say that He knows them by name. The Savior has heard our cries, and He knows which tree each one has climbed. Jesus is continuing to seek and save the lost. Even those who don't yet know they are in peril. Even those who believe at this Christmas time that the Babe of Bethlehem is merely a nice cultural comforting story.
Almighty God, please continue to call others who like Zacchaeus are sitting high up in trees. Amaze them with their need of a Savior and Your unrelenting love for them. May the Lord's grace fill this Christmas season!