I am that person on the airplane who plays with your toddlers. I have been known to sing, wave, make funny faces, and play endless games of peek-a-boo to entertain them while their parents are struggling and need just a moment to catch their breath. I recently sat next to a mom with a toddler on her lap and spent the entire trip playing with the little girl, who was fascinated with my rings and my mad itsy-bitsy spider skills. Her mom thanked me a thousand times when we deplaned, and I responded that I was once that thankful mom and I’m just paying it forward. Besides, I love small children.
A lot of people don’t notice the little ones. A lot of people don’t notice the little things. A lot of people don’t look beyond their own noses to see someone’s little struggles.
You know who does?
I have always loved the story of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Luke identifies him as a “short man” who was struggling to see Jesus in the crowd:
Luke 19 (Common English Bible)
19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. 2 A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.
We need to remember that tax collectors were the bottom run on society’s ladder. They were mistrusted and rightfully so; many were corrupt and stole from their takings, overtaxing the poor for their own benefit. Someone with this background must have really wanted to see Jesus to even just be in the crowd.
5 When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.
This story reads so well! Jesus looked up. Jesus saw Zacchaeus. Jesus invited himself to lunch in Zacchaeus’ home. The crowd was appalled. The rabbi supping with the sinner?? It just wasn’t done!
But Zacchaeus was happy as he welcomed Jesus to his table. Isn’t this the way we should all feel? Even in the depth of our sinning, happiness comes when Jesus sees us and enters our lives with his saving grace.
7 Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
Was there ever a time when the crowd didn’t grumble about Jesus?
The best part is Zacchaeus’ immediate reaction to the Savior. He knew what was required and his repentance was immediate, sincere, and appropriate. How about yours? Do you follow through with your repentance and not only turn away from your sin, but actively work hard to make reparation to those whom you’ve hurt?
8 Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 The Human One came to seek and save the lost.
The snooty observers were disgusted, but Jesus stated his mission clearly. He came to seek and save the lost, not comfort the comfortable. As someone once said, the church isn’t a sanctuary for the saints, but a hospital for the sinners.
Salvation comes when we understand the difference.