November 19, 2006
Do you know where I got this suit? You won’t believe this. Target. This is a Target suit. It cost me less than $100. Now most of my suits I don’t get at Target, but I did get this at Target. Don’t be jamming Target now. Target— that’s some sweet stuff. I got a jacket at Target I bet 10 years ago, and I’ve worn that thing all over the world. I was in Europe or somewhere one day and I had this jacket on and I walked in this real high-fashion place and this guy goes like, “Hey man, I like your jacket. Where did you get it? That is beautiful.”
I said, “You’re not going to believe it.”
“Where? Is it Armani? Is it Gucci?”
I said, “Target.”
If you have your Bibles turn to the book of Luke 19:1-10. In this text, we have something very interesting happening. Jesus is passing through Jericho. He’s on his way to Jerusalem to die on the cross. Scripture emphasizes the fact that Jesus was passing through. That’s what we’re doing in life. We’re passing through. I’m just passing through. And so are you. I’m passing through what I do for a living. You’re passing though your school, your office or your marriage or your family. You’re passing through that dating relationship. We’re passing through our Jericho. We’re just passing through.
Scripture also records that a bunch of people were crowding Jesus. They were pressing on him, wanting a piece of him. The religious elite were after him. People were firing questions at him. People wanted to see Jesus. After all, he was the miracle worker. Some said he was the Son of God.
Do you ever feel that way? Like your life is crowded with things, with stress and anxiety; people and things pressing on you? You don’t know which way to turn. I think we all can identify with that. The crowds were pressing on Jesus.
It says there was a guy, named Zaccheus, who was a hated guy. He was a Jew working for the Roman government, ripping his own people off. Obviously, they hated his guts. Zaccheus was a cheap tax collector. He had a lot of money. And the Bible said that Zaccheus wanted to see who Jesus was. The guy was short. He couldn’t see over the crowd. He had a poor vertical jump. So what did he do? He ran ahead of Jesus, climbed a Sycamore tree, because he knew Jesus was going to walk by the place. He knew their lives would intersect just for a brief moment.
Many here are believers, many of you are Christ-followers, and we have a Jericho. We have Zaccheuses in our lives, people who are hanging from the Sycamore tree, or the “Seek-Him-More” tree in your life and in mine. And they want to see who Jesus is. We’re passing through. And our lives seem so crowded. We’re passing through.
Here’s the question: Do they see Jesus in your life? That’s the question I ask my self this weekend as I was preparing for this. Do they see Jesus in my life? Remember, we’re just passing through. We’ll spend more time on that side of the tombstone, than on this side of the tombstone. Yet, what we do on this side of the tombstone affects where we will spend our forever. Because we’re facing a forever either in eternal comfort or either in eternal discomfort.
Jesus was passing through. Zaccheus wanted to see who Jesus was. They want to see Jesus in your life and mine by the way we handle people, by the way we do business deals, by the way we steward our money, by the way we treat our spouse, by the way we process parenting, by the way we handle difficult situations and circumstances. God had placed the Zaccheuses in your life and mine because he knows our lives will intersect. We’ll be passing by the place. He knows that people will be on those Seek-Him-More trees in all of our lives.
Well, Jesus did walk by the place and Christ’s life and Zaccheus’s life intersected. In the sovereignty of God, God’s placed Zaccheuses in your life and they’ve run ahead of you and me. They’ll be there tomorrow and next week and next month and next year and ten years from now; they’re going to be hanging there from the Seek-Him-More trees checking you out and checking me out. Our lives will intersect. Will they see Jesus?
Jesus understood the tension of life. Jesus was comfortably uncomfortable. As a believer, if you are a follower of the Messiah, you’re comforted by Christ, but you’re uncomfortable for him. Christianity is not just this comfortable thing. Yes, we’re comforted by peace that surpasses all understanding. Yet, we’re uncomfortable enough to walk through our Jericho. We’re uncomfortable enough to break through the crowd. We’re uncomfortable enough to look up and to see those Zaccheuses hanging from the Seek-Him-More trees. That’s what happened in this situation.
What did Jesus do? He stopped, he looked up, he saw Zaccheus and several things happen here. The first thing is Jesus calls Zaccheus by name. It’s the only time in Scripture where Jesus calls someone by name. And the reason it’s so interesting that he called Zaccheus by name, is because Jesus had never met Zaccheus prior to that. So it’s the only time in the New Testament where Jesus had never met someone where he called them by name. He said, “Zaccheus.”
And Zaccheus was like, “Whoa! You know my name.”
And maybe you’re here today and you’re caught in the crowd. You think you’re a no-count. You think you don’t matter. You think that no one is concerned about you. Well, I’ve got great news for you. Jesus knows your name. You’re one of a kind. No one had your laugh, your look, your skill set. No one on planet Earth does. You’re gifted and enabled right where you are in your Jericho to influence the Zaccheuses in your world. Because Jesus can take the mundane, the ritual, the routine and he can leverage that for supernatural stuff. So it’s the first time, without meeting someone, that Jesus calls someone by name.
And also, it’s the first power lunch ever recorded in Scripture. What did Jesus say, “Hey Zaccheus. I’m coming to your house today. Let’s have brunch. Let’s have lunch. Let’s just get together and talk.”
Thirdly, it’s the first time Jesus ever invited himself over to someone’s house. He said, “Zaccheus, I’m coming to your house today.”
What did Zaccheus do? He scaled down the Sycamore tree and he welcomed Jesus gladly.
Metaphorically, something deeper was happening, wasn’t it? Yeah, Jesus came to Zaccheus’s house. Metaphorically though this symbolized what happened when Jesus came into Zaccheus’s life. Because Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” And that’s what happened in this whole scenario with Zaccheus.
So you think everything is cool, everything is dandy. Jesus is being pressed by the crowds. He sees Zaccheus. He invites himself over to his house. He calls him by name. They hang out. Zaccheus changes his life. But no, let’s pick up Scripture, because in Luke 19: 7 it says something that is just part of walking with Jesus. “They” showed up.
All of us have either the right “they” or the wrong “they” in our lives. What do “they” say? What did “they” influence you to do that you would not have done if “they” hadn’t been around? Our best friends have to be the right “they,” but the wrong “they” will always try to pull us to keep us into the fray. But the right “they” will keep up above the fray and they’ll pray. Anyway that’s a whole other message.
The people began to complain that Jesus was hanging out with a notorious sinner, a cheat, a guy who’s ripping everybody off. People could not believe that Jesus was doing this. And let’s read what happens in Luke 19:7, “But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’”
“They” complained. The La-Z-Boys and La-Z-Girls of Jesus’ day were complaining about his ministry, complaining about his agenda, his purpose.
I was thinking back over the 16 year history of Fellowship Church, it has been incredible. What a ride. We’ve not had very many complaints, but I did start to think about some of the complaints we’ve had because the complaints we’ve had over the years are the same complaints and they come from the same people that went after Christ’s ministry. A bunch of La-Z-Boys and La-Z-Girls, a bunch of Bible Boys and Bible Girls, it’s us against them, the white hats against the black hats, the good guys verses the bad guys, the comfortable verses the uncomfortable, those who are near God verses those who are far way from God.
And it’s good to get complaints, because the enemy uses people to tip us off to the fact that we’re at the center of God’s will. Because if we didn’t have complaints, I’d be really worried, wouldn’t you? They jammed Jesus in his ministry, they’ll jam you and they’ll jam me. The Bible Boys, the Bible Girls, comfortable La-Z-Boys and La-Z-Girls, it’s going to happen, but it’s alright. Jesus didn’t pay them any attention. Don’t swim with bottom-feeders, swim with the swimmers. Don’t hang out with the wrong “they.” They’ll pull you down in the fray. Hang out with the right “they.” You’ll stay above the fray and you’ll pray. That’s who he hung out with.
Zaccheus had a power lunch and a power encounter. Let’s see what happened. This is after the power lunch and we’re talking about in front of everybody. Verse 8-9, “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’”
Salvation is private. It is also public. One day I had a meeting with celebrity. If I called this guy’s name, I think everyone would know who I was talking about. I’m not going to tell you his name. We’re sitting there, and he knew I was a pastor and of course the conversation turned to things of God.
And he said, “You know, Ed I’m a believer.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yeah, I’m a Christian.”
I said, “That’s interesting. Tell me about when you became a Christ-follower.”
He told me. Then he said, “But you know, for me it’s just a personal thing. I could never go public with it–the press, the tabloids and all that? I’m not going public. It’s a personal thing, a private thing. It’s just between me and God.”
I said, “Let me stop you for a second. Why haven’t you gone public? Because in the Bible, salvation, becoming a Christ-follower, it’s private, it’s personal and it’s public.”
He said, “Well, I know if I went public, I’m sure I’d mess up. And I would be a hypocrite.”
I said, “Well, I’ve gone public and I mess up all the time. I sin all the time.”
That would be like me saying, “Lisa and I have been married secretively for 24 years. Because marriage is a personal thing.’”
“Lisa,” I said, “Will you marry me?”
In private, I gave her the ring. After that, it went public.
She called her parents, she called her friends. I called everybody. “We’re getting married, be there or be square on June 26, 1982.” Everybody and their iguana showed up for the wedding. It was a private thing, but also a public thing. We got married, and now we wear wedding rings to show that.
Salvation had come to Zaccheus house. It’s not just a private thing. It’s a public thing as well. And then Jesus concluded this whole text in verse 10 he said this, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.”
Take the Son of Man out of that verse and insert your name. I’m talking to Christ-followers now. Is that true about you? Ed Young has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Is that true about me?
I’m walking through Jericho and things are crowding my life and they’re crowding your life. Am I looking up and seeing and calling Zaccheus down from the Seek-Him-More tree or not?
Christians should live with this tension of being comfortably uncomfortable. A biblically functioning Acts Chapter 2 prevailing church should be comfortably uncomfortable.
When I was 17, my family and I moved from South Carolina a thousand miles away to Houston, Texas. It was pretty traumatic. Right before my senior year in high school, Lisa and I had been dating for a long time and we’d even talked about marriage. And then, all of a sudden, I’m a long way away.
The first week I was in Houston, I met a guy in our church named Russell. Russell is now one of the attorneys at the Staubach Company here in the area. He’s a great guy, a great Christian. Russell was really kind. He kind of showed me the ropes about Houston. And he said, “Here are some of my yearbooks, man. You’ll kind of get the vibe for what high school is like in Houston.”
And so I began to thumb through the yearbook and I turned to the sports section. And I saw a picture about 3 inches by 2 inches of a guy dunking a basketball and it said, “Phil Elders slams one home.”
Now I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands, of pictures of people dunking basketballs. But this picture just jumped out at me. I said, “Russell, where’s this guy now? Where’s Phil now.”
He said, “Well, he’s playing basketball at New Mexico State.”
I said, “Really?” Now I’m 17 now. I said, “Is he a believer?”
Russell said, “No. Not this guy. This guy’s a hell raising, wild dude. No way. No one messes with Phil.”
So I finish up my high school in Houston and sign a basketball scholarship to Florida State and go down there. And really I sat on the bench most of my career.
Right before my junior season, I felt led to go into the ministry, so I walked into our head coach’s office and said, “Coach Williams, I want to pursue the ministry.”
He was very kind to me. I left, gave up my scholarship. Lisa and I got married, and I finished up my undergrad in Houston. From there I began to volunteer at the church my father pastored, and finally he brought me on part-time.
“Ed, I’m not going to treat you any different than anyone else. I’m going to make an example out of you.”
I went to seminary for four long, grueling years. I studied the theology, the Greek, the Hebrew. I graduated and I was around 27 years old, been married for several years, and had a baby. I was playing a lot of sports; I was doing a lot of that at the church. We had this ministry with NBA players. The players would come in and play at our church gym and I would do a Bible study for them: Clyde Drexler, George Gervin, Hakeem Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe, and Rick Barry. It was really fun to be able to do that.
One day, a guy was telling me about a flag football league. The guy said, “Ed, there’s this really good athlete out there playing flag football. I think he played college basketball like you did.”
I said, “Wait a minute. Is his name Phil Elders?” (This is 10 years later.)
He said, “Yeah!”
And I just knew that God wanted me to share him with Phil. I didn’t hear an audible voice, I just knew it. As much as I am standing here, I knew.
So, several weeks went by, and we were doing a basketball league, and I saw this big, hulking figure on one side of the gym. No one was really messing with him. This guy was like 6’5”-6’6” like 220, just ripped. He was mean looking. And he was playing with some of the NBA players. Those guys wouldn’t jack with him.
So I saw him, and I walked over to him. And I had to get uncomfortable to walk over to him because this guy was an intimidating person. So I said, “Hi Phil, I’m Ed.” And we began to talk and – boom, God just knit our hearts together with the common passion of basketball, and playing in college. Of course, he had a much better career in college than I did, but anyway.
We began to talk and I began to see his life and see just how far away from God he was. His marriage was kind of in the deep weeds. His wife was drinking too much. He grew up in a very, very difficult home. He had just made a bunch of money, though, several hundred thousand dollars and he was telling me that.
And I got to know him. And as I got to know him, I began to pray for him. God just put him on my heart. Then one night, I knew it was time to engage him in conversation. So I began to talk to him. And I watched the Holy Spirit of God totally melt this guy’s life. And I had a courtside seat to him stepping over the line of faith and becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. I will never forget that moment.
I was 17; I saw a picture this big of a guy dunking the ball, yet I never forgot his name for some reason. Now I know the reason. Ten years later he showed up in a flag football league, I meet him playing basketball and God allows me to walk through this Jericho to see Phil Elders, not hanging from a Sycamore tree, but hanging from a rim because he wanted to see who Jesus was.
After Phil became a follower he said, “Ed, you know, I got all this money from this guy. And just to be honest with you, it was kind of a gray area. I think I should give the guy his money back.”
So several months later, Phil wrote a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars and gave the guy his money back. He emptied his account. I thought that was kind of like Zaccheus. Well, kind of. Zaccheus was a punk. Phil is a mountain of a man. Zaccheus couldn’t jump. Phil could 360. They’re different there, but they were both in the Seek-Him-More trees. Our lives intersected. Zaccheus cashed out. So did Phil.
You talk about going public! Because of Phil’s commitment, Phil’s wife became a believer and was delivered from alcohol. Phil’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, very wealthy people from California, just totally far away from God, they came to Christ. Phil’s brother and his wife, he was also a college basketball player, they came to Christ. And now they’re all engaged and involved and very active in the local church there. They’re discipling young believers and it’s just heart-warming to see what God had done in their life.
Years later, Phil faced a tragedy. Phil and his wife had gone through infertility and they had a child, a son named Christian. And Christian, when he was several months old, died. And I had the opportunity to help walk Phil through some of that. And I was really concerned about what that would do to his commitment to his faith. And just recently he wrote me this:
“Ed, my treasures are on the other side. My first treasure is that day when I will be chest to chest with my son, Christian. The hope of that bright day can lighten almost any darkness the world throws my way. I know I should probably say my first treasure will be seeing my Savior, but it seems the closest thing I’ve experienced to that was a journey that Christian carried me on.
“My second treasure will be to see all who were cheering for me—the ones that are cheering for me to continue in this dark world, cheering for me to press on and to share a work that began in 1988, a work that you were used in to insure that I would reach the other side. Thanks. I love you. Phil.”
You know, I’ve lived a blessed life. I’ve gotten to be a part of Fellowship Church. I’ve written a lot of books, traveled all over the world, met a lot of interesting people. But for me, nothing is as awesome as seeing someone I know step over the line of faith. Nothing is as awesome as having a courtside seat to heart transformation. Because out of the mundane, out of the ritual, out of the routine, we can rub shoulders and bump up against the Zaccheus in our lives and change their forever.
A couple days ago, I called my friend Russell, who’s one of the attorneys at the Staubach Company, and I said, “Russell, do you remember that yearbook we looked at like 28 years ago?”
Because Russell knows what happened in Phil’s life.
I said, “Would you mind emailing me that picture of Phil that I saw years ago?”
And he emailed me this picture. And you know, every time I look at that picture, I think about how God used that in a 17 year old kid’s life to lead a man, 10 years later, to Christ. And then his wife, and then her parents and then his brother and then his brother’s wife and now their family. I was just walking through Jericho and saw Phil there, hanging from a rim.
“Hey, come down. Hey Phil, Jesus is coming to your house today.”
Because if we know Christ, we have Jesus in our lives.
Why are you here? Seriously, why are you here? To recreate, to procreate, to do deals and then die? That’s it? We’re just passing through.
“You know, Ed, I’m here to make money. My goal is to be financially secure. That’s my goal. If I get that money, that nest egg, those investments, a diversified portfolio…”
Good for you. Great for you. If you have millions or hundreds of millions, good for you. Let me give you a round of applause. But what in the heck does that matter? It’s going to burn and rot and rust. It’s not yours anyway. When I do your funeral, there’s not going to be a U-Haul behind the hearse.
“I’ll give it to my kids.”
They’re going to die.
You’re just managing it, boy. It’s not yours. It’s just temporary.
“Ah man, the boat. You know if I had a luxury like a yacht. That would be it. That would be off the chain!”
It’s cool to have a boat. You can have a 200-foot yacht, that’s great. Good for you. It’s temporary though. It’s temporary. But make sure the yacht does not sail you away from church.
So often we get the boat and the lake house and the second home and say, “Bye, bye, bye,” to church. And our marriage and family ends up in the deep weeds and we come running back. “I was so wrong, I’m sorry.” Don’t even go there.
How about a house? “If I lived in a certain house or if I had several houses, and this house or that house with that square footage or that neighborhood that would be…”
Come on. Houses are fine, but it’s temporary. A yacht is fine, it’s temporary. You got money? Good. It’s temporary.
Again, why are you here?
“Well, cars. I’m a car buff. And I love cars.”
There’s only one thing that will last forever, in this whole place, on planet Earth. There’s only one thing: human beings.
[Ed invites a gentleman to come on stage.] Come up here for a second. What’s your name?
What’s up, Donny? How you doing?
How you doing?
[Ed places a tag that says, “Eternal” around his neck and one around Donny’s neck.]
Ed will last forever. And Donny will last forever. We’re eternal. So we’re here, we have our passion, our abilities, our focus given to us by God for people. That’s what Jesus was about. People. The Son of Man has come to save those who are lost.
What’s your focus? What’s your purpose?
Thanks, Donny. Let’s give Donny a round of applause. Donny that was awesome, brother. Thanks, man. Good to see you.
When you walked in, you were handed a card that says “Eternal.” I think I have one in my pocket here. Right here. Eternal.
Here’s my question to you today, a very simple question: Who is your Zaccheus or Zaccheuses? They’re in the Seek-Him-More trees in your life at the club, around the complex, the neighborhood, the soccer field, in the gym. Who are your Zaccheuses? Could be a family member, it could be someone God is bringing to mind from the past. Your lives will intersect. You pray for them, engage them, invite them and jot their name on the back of this card and keep it with you. Because over the next 3-4 weeks people will give God a shot, they’ll give him at least one shot a year. They’ll walk into a church, like Fellowship, and I’ll promise you that we’ll bust it to give a biblical, creative and compelling message to every single person who walks in this place. We have dozens and dozens of Christmas services, Christmas Eve services and services that talk about the birth of Jesus, here at North Dallas at our campus, Downtown, Tarrant County, and in South Florida.
Pray for those Zaccheuses. Look up from the crowd, see them and engage them. Because those curious and mysterious promptings, just out of the mundane will become miraculous as you are a part in changing someone’s forever.