Drawn to the Tree
“And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way” (Luke 19:3–4).
Chief tax collector Zacchaeus was the Jericho crowd’s vertically challenged outcast, a despised sellout. Wanting only a glimpse of the One, curious Zacchaeus did something that looked ridiculous. He climbed a tree. Smirks all around: “Hey, get a load of ‘shorty’ up there, will ya?” It was a social gaffe. In the ancient Near East, dignified men did not climb trees.
But a surprise awaited the sellout sinner: “This Jesus knows me. Who, me?” Divine grace is poured out; faith starts working through love. Repentance leads straightaway to confession of sin and absolution without limit. Forgiveness in a declaration of perfect righteousness fuels good works in mercy toward the neighbor. It’s all right there in Luke 19: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (v. 10). It isn’t sinners who seek out Jesus. It is truly Jesus finding and grasping us lost sinners in divine grace. We are dead in our transgressions but made alive by His gift of faith. This is the only “why” and “way” in which anyone is saved.
A faithless world laughs at this. You are ridiculed as confessing Lutheran Christians who would commend into God’s hands the suffering you experience under a prevailing culture of dissension, skepticism and rejection. The world would prevent Jesus even from being seen, dismissing Him as an abomination, a spectacle of religious lore. Yet, the church persists in sending missionaries into the world to deliver the Word that seeks and saves the lost. We are thereby drawn more closely to another tree: a cross. As shamelessly as Zacchaeus climbed that sycamore, we confess and live in Christ crucified. In Him, we receive clear conscience and confidence. We have been sought out by Him, marked in a blessed baptismal flood — a death and resurrection — a bold witness for all the world to see.
In His hands,
Rev. Kevin D. Robson
Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod