When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
- Luke 19:5
Listen carefully to what Jesus says here …
Zacchaeus … Jesus calls him by name. Jesus doesn’t identify Zacchaeus primarily as a tax collector. He doesn’t start with Zacchaeus’ shortness or sinfulness. He doesn’t use a label. He uses a name. O, how we long to be really seen and known!
Come down … A command. An order. Authority, not a request or an invitation. There’s a firm confidence, not aggressive or oppressive. Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. There’s no misunderstanding him.
Immediately… Thomas á Kempis said that “Delayed obedience is disobedience” and in this case it would be true. Jesus gave Zacchaeus a timeline for response. This was the moment. This was his time. The urgency in Jesus’ command calls for an in-the-moment decision.
I must… Not “I would like to” or “would it be okay if” or even “why don’t we.” Jesus has these divine moments when he talks or acts as if he absolutely has to do something or go somewhere. You see it when he passes through Samaria, when he sends Judas out, when he goes to the cross. And you see it here. This is not an accidental, incidental encounter, but one that becomes pregnant with meaning and possibility.
Stay ... Linger. Sleepover. Hang out. This will be an extended visit, not a meet-n-greet. Jesus shows an interest in making a connection with Zacchaeus.
At your house … Despite all of social stigma associated with tax collectors, Jesus wanted to spend time in Zacchaeus’ environment. He doesn’t invite Zacchaeus to a place where Jesus and his friends are in charge. Instead, Jesus gives Zacchaeus the hosting privilege.
Today … Zacchaeus doesn’t have to clean up his act first. Jesus’ initiative takes place before Zacchaeus’ repentance (which we’ll see tomorrow). In fact, Jesus’ initiative created space for Zacchaeus’ repentance.
Jesus’ every word and phrase can ring in our ears. We can linger over them and enjoy them. The late Eugene Peterson described spiritual reading as “an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.”
Take time today to eat, chew, gnaw, and receive this phrase from Jesus: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”