Unleashing Good News!
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:1-10
Do you know someone with a bad reputation? Or is there someone who has cast a relatively permanent judgement on you because of past transgressions? I’m guessing we’ve all made judgements about people and organizations based on our assessment of their actions, and others have had unflattering thoughts about us as well.
I remember a time when I sold something to someone on an online auction site and when they received it, it didn’t meet their expectation. I received an email from the person stating their case, and so I decided to simply refund the money to the person. However, even after doing so, I went back to the site only to find a scathing feedback, warning buyers that I couldn’t be trusted as a seller. Even after repeated attempts to resolve the issue, the person would not change their feedback. Because I wasn’t a consistent seller on this site, this label had a huge effect on my ability to ever sell anything on that site again.
Up until he met Jesus, Zacchaeus had a reputation for cheating his customers, and therefore there were many who despised him as a result. To the best of our knowledge, however, Zacchaeus hadn’t really done a lot to change that reputation. So, it’s interesting to me why a guy like that would be so curious about seeing Jesus pass through town. I really doubt that when he decided to climb up a tree in order to catch a glimpse of this man about whom he heard great things, he imagined that Jesus would even notice him, let alone invite himself over for dinner. But that’s exactly what happened!
According to Luke’s description of those who observed the interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the thought of Jesus eating with such a despised man was unthinkable. How could he have dinner with such a notorious sinner? Evidently the jury was out on Zacchaeus and the verdict wasn’t good.
Jesus, however, didn’t rush to judgement on Zacchaeus. While we don’t know what he said to him that day, Jesus clearly showed Zacchaeus that he was not a lost cause. And that was good news to Zacchaeus. In fact it was such good news that it motivated him to make significant changes in the way he would live his life from that point on.
In fact, it appears that Zacchaeus actually may have gone into debt to make restitution with those he had previously cheated.
Jesus believed in Zacchaeus when no one else did, and then he blessed him and his household in a very public way to honor Zacchaeus’ repentance.
Whether you are the one with the reputation, like I was with the online auction site, or it’s someone with whom you have done business, change is possible. We have the opportunity to continue speaking or acting in a way that perpetuates bad news, or we can choose to see the person or be the person in whom good news is waiting.
When we unleash the good news that Jesus sees in us, it can replace the bad news. Who needs to hear good news from you today? As you reflect on how Jesus approached Zacchaeus, can you imagine what good news he wants to speak to you today?