This week at camp, we talked about Zacchaeus and Luke 19. You remember him…the little guy who climbed up the sycamore tree to see Jesus. The backstory of Zacchaeus—in case you’ve forgotten from Sunday school—is that he was a tax collector. He was Jewish but taxed the Jewish people to pay money to the Roman government. And, in those days, tax collectors were known for skimming off the top. Suffice it to say that Zacchaeus didn’t have a lot of friends.
So, here he was, in Jerusalem, having just heard that Jesus was on his way to town. It’s hard to see with the crowds and Zacchaeus’ height, so he climbs up in a nearby sycamore tree to have a better view.
Jesus, walking underneath the tree, shouts up, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” The Message goes on to say, “Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him.” Zacchaeus was excited to see Jesus, but Jesus was even more excited to Zacchaeus. He stopped on purpose, just for Zacchaeus.
Jesus goes on to say, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” The NIV says “to seek and save the lost.”
He comes to find us…just like he found Zacchaeus. He comes to restore and save us. He calls us by name, excited to see us, and intentionally chooses to love us. And then proclaims that “today is salvation day” specifically for us.
Jesus called, and Zacchaeus came down from his tree. He not only came down but came down and offered to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back four times what he had skimmed. Jesus’ love for Zacchaeus changed him. As Melissa said, that little tax collector jumped out of the tree and into the perfect love of Christ.
But, where are we in the story? Are we just climbing up for a better view? Are we sitting in our trees, curious about Jesus, but wanting to stay at a safe distance? It’s often easier to know about him than really know him.
With the kids, we talked specifically about those trees…how we hide from God. They named their trees as various sins in their lives with which they protect themselves: sarcasm, laziness, fear, jealousy, fear of failure, wanting to be in control. We have fear…all of us, whatever our age. And we often hide in our sin, as a result.
CS Lewis said, “Those who do not think about their own sins do so by thinking incessantly about the sins of others. It is healthier to think of one’s own. It is not, even in the long run, very gloomy. A serious attempt to really know is a lightening and relieving process.”
So, here we are…sitting each in our trees, talking about how those around us won’t come down from their trees. And Jesus walks underneath and calls us down. He doesn’t say don’t be afraid of failing. He doesn’t say we won’t be jealous or insecure (especially when we’re in 9th and 10th grades), but what he does say is trust me. Come down and see yourself reflected in my eyes. Let me be a guest in your home. And experience the relief of letting go of that sin.
We talked about how the weight of sin makes us suspicious, judgmental and insecure. But Jesus says to Zacchaeus and to us, “Today is salvation day in your home.” You don’t have to carry that weighty sin around any more. So, we didn’t. Each morning, each camper took a large rock and wrote their sins on it. They went with a counselor to pray and toss their rocks into the water at the lake.
Larry Crabb says, “The greatest gift there is is forgiveness.” We were able to experience that this week together. We talked about how sin is not only less gloomy when talked about, but especially when talked about with people who love and are for you. We got to talk about that, too. We got to say to each camper who we saw reflected in their eyes…who we believed God had created them to be.
And so we experienced shared forgiveness and freedom at camp. Jesus came to seek and save us. Today. Every day. We can toss our rocks and come down from our trees, jumping into the love of a Savior who is infinitely excited to see and love us.