Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
He has gone to the be the guest of a sinner.
One of the missional communities that we lead in Ypsilanti is called, Doubt on Tap. We developed the idea from one that I was using as a youth pastor, Coffee Doubt. A friend of mine, Zak, had said, “My friends won’t hang out at church but they do at a coffee shop.” So, we started hanging out at a coffee shop to talk about whatever they wanted. It was amazing to see the little gathering grow and grow. As we started life in Ypsilanti, my friends Chris, Liz, and Todd all launched Doubt on Tap. It was one of those ideas that caught fire. People just started coming to hang out at our local brewery to talk about the important issues of the day.
Every time I talk about Doubt on Tap with a Christian, their eyebrows raise. I know what they’re going to say before they say it. There is about to be a conversation about alcohol, bars, and is this really the message you want to send?
It turns out that folks who aren’t followers of Jesus don’t typically attend Christian worship gatherings. Also, as it turns out they are desirous of connection, community, and love. Weird, huh? You might think that everyone carries within them the image of the Creator God and has at their core a similar longing for deep connection with other image bearers.
If we are going to be a people who live our lives after the model of Jesus then we are constantly asking ourselves, if Jesus lived in my neighborhood where would he spend time? With whom would he spend time? This is not a way to divide folks or to somehow say that some people greater worth than others. But, it is to say, that if we are going to say that we follow Jesus, we sure as heck better follow him.
One of the things that becomes more apparent in reading the Gospel of Luke is that Jesus was concerned about engaging with those who were on the outside of the structures of their community. For example, Zacchaeus was a traitor. He worked for the Romans as a tax collector. This meant that he was at work extorting his fellow countrymen on behalf of the Empire. When Jesus sees him, his response? “I’m coming to your house for a party! Let’ do this!” Zacchaeus is overwhelmed and Jesus is judged.
How could any self-respecting Jewish rabbi welcome a tax collecting traitor into fellowship? Jesus did and he didn’t hesitate. Zacchaeus’ response? He made good on all the ways that he had done wrong. His faith as displayed in his actions made it clear that Zacchaeus was a changed man and that he would follow Jesus.
Where would Jesus go in your neighborhood? Who are, in your mind, the traitors among us? Who do you need to be welcoming into fellowship? Are you willing to be judged by the religious folks who don’t and won’t get it?