A Devotion for 27 August 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.”
“Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:10-11; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
Even the Christian believer is sometimes surprised at the manner in which the Lord brings His will to pass. But the results of His will being done is always far better than any plan we could have imagined. Since His ways are not our ways, all our logic and reason are tainted by a failure to understand the deeper aspects of life. But He sees and knows all things.
We cannot judge a book by its cover. It is likely that Napoleon Bonaparte (5ft. 6 inches) was often referred to as ‘shorty’ in his growing up days, but certainly not during the time he rode ahead of the mightiest massed land force in Europe. It is not physical stature, but character, that is the measure of a man.
The first astronaut to travel into space was Yuri Gagarin who stood at 5 ft 2 inches. Beethoven was 5ft. 3 inches. James Madison was the shortest President of the United States and Father of the U.S. Constitution. He stood at 5ft. 4 inches. Genghis Khan measured 5ft 1 inch, yet the whole of Eurasia trembled before him. Alexander the Great and Sir Isaac Newton were both 5 ft. 6 inches. I do not believe the vertical stature of these men contributed at all to their character. Each, for better or worse, contributed a large slice to the annals of history.
The most decrepit man may be God’s most glorious saint. We cannot see the heart of man, but every nook and cranny of the human heart is an open book to the Eyes of God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ never did anything by happenstance. Every village to which He traveled; every illness that He cured; every life that He restored; every sinner He forgave (or forgives) – all were conceived in the Council of Heaven before the foundation of the world, even your own sins, friend.
At the birth of our Lord, there was a long and imperceptible shadow that fell across the wooden manger in which His precious soul made its first repose. That shadow followed Him from that first night in Bethlehem to that terrible day in Jerusalem some thirty-three years later when He was crucified on another wooden instrument called a cross outside the gates of the city. In the text from Luke 18:31, Jesus now resolves to return to Jerusalem where He is fully aware of His coming Passion. “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. 34And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Luke 18:31-34) But He never hesitated in going to that destiny, and never looked back.
Yet, there remained, even at that late hour, more work of His Father which must be attended to even on route to that terrible event. There was a certain blind man sitting by the roadside at Jericho whose only hope was that the Lord would have mercy upon him. The Lord had known the man from before the worlds were formed and was aware of his suffering day-in and day-out. Though the disciples tried to prevent the man from calling out to the Lord, our Lord would have none of it. He healed the man by restoring his vision. Many proud Christians who may be closest to Christ today also stand in the way of sinners coming to Christ out of an attitude of self-righteousness. But the Lord had another man who was appointed to be seen who may not yet even know of His coming – a short little man named Zacchaeus at Jericho.
It is likely that Zacchaeus had little intimate knowledge of Christ other than rumors he had heard; but, unknown to him was the tug of the Holy Ghost at his heart to bring him to the predetermined appointment that day.
Zacchaeus was wealthy. He had taken in much treasure for the Roman government as a tax collector. Much of that money went into the pockets of Zacchaeus. He was hated and scorned in Israel.
That Spring day 2,000 years ago, Zacchaeus awoke to a day of the same sunny beauty as most other Spring days in Israel. He was not expectant of any special summons to meet a Person of such high dignity as the Lord. Yes, he had heard of Jesus and the miracles He had performed. But to Zacchaeus, this was merely a matter of curiosity any man feels to witness the extraordinary. There was no spiritual appeal in the conscious mind of Zacchaeus that needed satisfying. There was, however, a cause which tugged at his heart planted there by the Holy Spirit.
When it was rumored about the streets that Jesus of Nazareth was approaching the city, Zacchaeus was moved by curiosity and a strange compulsion which escaped his understanding. But when he saw the crowds gathering along the roadsides, he ran to get a glimpse of this famed Personage. While it is true that Zacchaeus was shorter than the men surrounding Jesus, it is also true that ‘might and main’ may make up the difference by way of strategems. Once, when a soldier of Alexander the Great complained that the Macedonia sword was shorter than the Persian sword whom they were to face in battle, Alexander simply said, “If your sword is too short, add a step to it.” That is basically what Zacchaeus did.
Zacchaeus RAN to see Jesus without even knowing the outcome. The men surrounding the Lord prevented him from getting a passing glimpse. So, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up a sycamore tree which commonly lines the streets in the Middle East. Surely, the Lord Jesus would pass just below and Zacchaeus would get as good a look at the man as any attending the event. “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” (Luke 19:5) What an amazing development this was. The Lord stopped beneath the tree and Zacchaeus may have felt a bit awkward when He looked up at him – as if caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But the more amazing part was the fact that Jesus knew the NAME of Zacchaeus. He commanded Zacchaeus to hurry and come down, for that day Jesus would abide in his house (not visit, but ABIDE).
Well, what could Zacchaeus do but obey, and obey he did with joy. Zacchaeus came down to meet Christ as we all must come down from our proud towers to commune with the Lord of all Creation.
Now, friends, you and I were represented in the crowd standing about. We looked with derision upon the Lord’s reception of Zacchaeus. Who did this tax collector think he was communing with the Lord of righteousness? We felt that only WE had that privilege. How dare any of our company commune with known sinners! But of course, it was for sinners alone that Christ came, else you and I would have no salvation.
Zacchaeus made confession of his sins and of his intent to make amends where possible. To this the Lord responded, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10) Please note the covenantal relationship implied by our Lord – it was not simply Zacchaeus that had found salvation, but his whole house. It will be the same with us if we raise up our children in the fear and nurture of the Lord.
We are all short in one way or another. We may compensate by finding a spiritual sycamore tree to climb, or dedicated study of scripture if we are short in wisdom and knowledge. It is far better to be physically short and long on prayer and faith, that gigantic in stature and short of faith. Even the giant, Goliath, was no match for the young man who came out to meet him with five smooth river-bottom stones