I can play “peek-a-boo” on an airplane for hours. I was once an exhausted young mother trying to soothe two toddlers on long flights, and I cherished that tired businessman who sat behind us and peek-a-booed my daughters into happy giggles. Now it is my turn, and I have mad skills in catching that baby’s eye and playing until they drop exhausted into Mamma’s arms. I hide behind my hands, the safety demo card, the seats, and then pop up like a deranged jack-in-the-box. You didn’t see THAT one coming, did ya, little one? Like I said, mad skills.
Did you ever think that life is one long peek-a-boo game with God? We look around, searching for meaning, comfort, and help, and God is there already, looking right at us and saying, “I see you!”
The story of Zacchaeus is one long play of peek-a-boo. That wee little man was hoping to see Jesus one day as the Savior was passing down the street of his town. Being vertically challenged, he climbed up in a tree to get a better view. Images of kids being held on a parent’s shoulders to watch the fireworks at Disney World come flooding into my mind when I read this. Why do I always manage to stand behind the 6’3″ dad hoisting his five year old up? Suddenly, I’M Zacchaeus. Peek-a-boohoo, I don’t see nuthin’. Oh, well, better for the child to see than me.
So Zacchaeus, going out on a limb as it were, is watching the Jesus parade when the unthinkable happens: Jesus sees him. Peek-a-BAM! Can you even imagine? And immediately, Jesus, being Jesus, invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house for lunch. (That would have flown me into a deep panic. Is the house vacuumed? Do I have anything in the fridge to eat? What exactly do you serve the Savior of the World for lunch?? Definitely not ham.)
Luke 19:1 Jesus was going through Jericho, 2 where a man named Zacchaeus lived. He was in charge of collecting taxes and was very rich. 3-4 Jesus was heading his way, and Zacchaeus wanted to see what he was like. But Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree.
5 When Jesus got there, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” 6 Zacchaeus hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus.
7 Everyone who saw this started grumbling, “This man Zacchaeus is a sinner! And Jesus is going home to eat with him.”
8 Later that day Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.”
9 Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today you and your family have been saved, because you are a true son of Abraham. 10 The Son of Man came to look for and to save all people who are lost.”
How does it feel to know that you are SEEN? Sometimes in counseling, the best thing you can tell someone is, “I see your pain.” That acknowledgment of their reality often brings forth a flood of deeply hidden emotions, enabling the healing to begin.
Jesus sees you in all of your Zacchaeus-like “short” comings. He sees your current situation and he is waiting for you to look up and see him. Jesus was never afraid to get down and dirty with sinners, even though he was staunchly criticized for it. He had a very clear vision of his own mission: to come to LOOK for and to SAVE all who are lost.
This is the mission of his followers as well. We have no greater calling than to LOOK for and SAVE all who are lost.
About 20 years ago a man came to me after the 11:00 Sunday worship service, and he was hotter than a Georgia hornet in July. He demanded very loudly that I immediately “cancel his church membership”…like we were the Y or something. I calmly asked him why, and he explained very angrily that he noticed in the bulletin that the couple who had joined that hour had the same address, yet they were unmarried.
I told him that the Methodist church had no prohibition against unmarried co-habitors joining the church. He fumed that we were CONDONING SIN by ALLOWING THEM TO JOIN, and he would have no part in it. I quietly asked him, if we didn’t allow sinners to join the church, what was the point? I pointed out that if being sin-free was a requirement, all the pastoral staff would have to resign. The next Sunday he joined the a small, independent church down the street and is probably still happily there today.
Listen, if you attend a church that excludes any sinner from Jesus’ mission to look for and save all who are lost, find a better church. EVERYONE is lost, everyone has fallen short and everyone deserves to be seen, heard, loved, cared for, served, included, and saved.
Jesus’ call to the sinner Zacchaeus had a great sense of urgency: “Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” It is a reminder that we should not delay. The time is now to bring the presence of Jesus into your present reality, and let him inspire you to make real, significant change like Zacchaeus did.
So wherever you are today, whether you are mired in sin or sitting high on a lofty tree limb of your own self-righteousness, get off it. Jesus sees you and is calling, ready to come to you. Salvation is at hand. Peek-a-boo!
The tree at the end of my street. Photo by Teresa Holloway.