Following Jesus can be a treacherous path of trying to change the world, as we see it, and running straight into the truth that we are, indeed, the one with the problem. We need deliverance from:
- … Our belief that it is up to us to change people.
- … Our judgmental and legalistic ways.
Think about this:
In the beginning of Luke 19 – the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.
(Raise your hand if you just started to sing “Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man, a wee little man was he!”)
Jesus is in Jericho and a crowd has gathered. The crooked tax collector Zaccheaus was there. He can’t see over the crowd so he climbs up a tree to see Jesus. In the middle of that crowd – which likely would have included more than a fair share of holy or influential or important or preferred or religious people – Jesus heads right for that tree and calls out to that guy – the one who is a social and religious outcast, ridiculously perched up in the branches – to come on down because Jesus wants to go to that guy’s house for supper.
Huh? How do I explain that to my religious friends?
I mean, honestly.
- Jesus always picks the wrong guy.
Of course, everyone in the crowd gets quite indignant, muttering among themselves about how Jesus is now the guest of a sinner. Not only did the guy betray his religion, Zacchaeus has betrayed his people, his nation, colluding with the powers that be for his own gain and oppressing the very people who were supposed to be his people.
Or how about the story of the town harlot of Samaria? The infamous, “Woman at the Well”? (John 4:1-42) The longest conversation recorded of Jesus and one person was with this woman who had five husbands, and was with a guy she wasn’t married too when Jesus approached her.
There is our Jesus, sitting by a well…in forbidden Samaria.
Does anyone else see the humor in this story?
The town slut, (or Ho, Hussy, Loose, Sinner, etc. (as she would be called today) approaches Him.
Isn’t she hopeless and an embarrassment? And openly living in sin, (deep breath)!
Plus, Jesus, as a Jew, was not even supposed to be in Samaria, let alone talk to a woman, for heaven’s sake!!
We hate that woman! Don’t we? We can’t be seen talking to her.
- Isn’t that breaking the rules?
Imagine if Jesus was in our world right now in the flesh, and he heads right over to someone who cooperated with and benefitted from oppression of innocent people, someone who had traded integrity for political power, someone we distrust, someone who we feel is dangerous, someone who stole from people in a socially acceptable and governmentally blessed way, someone who took the very religious or national identity that we cherished and basically stomped all over it for his own gain.
I can think of a few already, but I won’t mention names.
Ugh. We hate that guy.
Don’t we? I mean aren’t we supposed to keep ourselves clean by dissing those who are not living up to our standards as we interpret them?
Would we be murmuring and complaining and wondering about this Teacher who apparently had missed the important parts of the very Law he claims to teach.
Never mind He really came to fulfill the law Himself.
We don’t hang around with people like that, Jesus. (Insert whine)
Don’t you know? Good people wouldn’t be caught dead with a man like that.
Just like we don’t hang around with women who are caught in the act of adultery, or fornication, and….
- We don’t hang around with Samaritans,
- We don’t hang around with powerless children,
- We don’t hang around with women who have a bad reputation,
- We don’t hang around with beggars or the poor or the oppressed or the criminal or the possessed or the socially marginalized or the ones who aren’t allowed to come to church with the good religious people, never!
And, hey, news flash, we certainly don’t go to the personal home of a corrupt politician for a bite to eat or the apartment of the town prostitute for a cup of tea.
But Jesus does it anyway.
Jesus seems not to care about our who-is-in and who-is-out line in the sand. He doesn’t seem to care about what we think about all the wrong folks hanging around with him.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law but while also revealing the Love behind the Law, and the inadequacy of it, he came to replace the real love of a real God for their people.
Jesus came because God so loved the world. After all, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in the book of John, it was because God so loved the world that Jesus came to us.
Jesus came, not to condemn the world but to save the world.
…Including the guy we would rather see condemned, to be honest.
How can we miss this?
Now take note of this fact: because of an encounter with Jesus, Zaccheaus turns around gives half of everything away. He is so moved by Jesus, he vows to pay back anyone he has cheated four times the amount he stole.
The Samaritan woman?
Oh, she just became the first woman evangelist telling the whole town about Jesus.
Wild, reckless love for a man who was like no one they ever met.
They both were not just fulfilling the letter of the Law, they were repenting into the heart of Love Himself.
Looks like the presence of Jesus transforms everyone…even those of us who think we have it all together.
- The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Zaccheaus was lost, Jesus sought him out, and in this moment of repentance – which was so much more than just money or position – he’s reoriented to the Kingdom of God. The woman at the well discovered that her bucket could only be filled with Jesus, not a multitude of lost men.
Now that is something to get excited about!
- Think of the word “today” in that passage. Jesus says “Today I must stay at your house” and then later “Today salvation has come to this house.”
The time is now.
We’d rather another day, another house, another time, another kind of sinner. Don’t bother us with the now.
But today is the day for the wrong guy…or the wrong woman.
It’s perhaps telling, where we see ourselves in that story.
Are we the crowd, resentful and muttering because we think THAT PERSON shouldn’t be included because they aren’t righteous enough or holy enough or good enough or acceptable enough or just enough?
- Do we have a long list of people we’d probably be pretty mad to see Jesus hanging out with in our world? Do we begrudge seeing Jesus head right to a certain house with a certain person?
We have our sort of people we want to keep out.
Sure, we’re okay with this kind of sinner being included –but not that kind.
But over and over, Jesus picks the wrong person in our eyes.
He even picks you, and me!
Or perhaps we see ourselves more in the one who everyone else wants to keep out.
“Today, today, today, I’m coming to your house.”
And all we can do is receive Jesus with such joy and relief.
And our own sin – everything that damages us and damages our relationship with God and damages our relationships with one another – is over!
We stop putting God into a box of our own self righteous rules and let Him do what He came to do.
…Love on all of us and see lives transformed.
So we turn everything in our lives upside down and inside out to be with Jesus, to be Him extended to everyone…not just those we think won’t contaminate us.
…To cooperate in making all things right, today.