WOW Relationships of Jesus
Jesus with the Successful
January 11, 2009
While Jesus walked on this earth He had many relationships that contained the WOW factor. Join Ben Young as he investigates the relationships and the interactions Jesus had with the successful, the failure, the troubled, and the stressed out.
Are you willing to take a risk in order to see God work in and change your life? Are you willing to climb out on a limb in order to experience God’s love and His purpose for your life? In the first message of this series, WOW Relationships of Jesus, Ben will take a look at the story of Zaccheus. His willingness to lay down his pride and climb out on a limb proved fruitful and life changing.
Today we’re going to talk about desire. What is your desire, your longing, your craving? We all have desires. I guess the first desire for me maybe was in 1st grade. I saw this cute little red headed girl named Stacey. Desire starts there! It starts there, doesn’t it—kind of like with romance? Back then, if you wanted to go out with someone, you got out a big old white piece of paper and a red Crayola—remember? “I love you. Do you love me? Circle yes or no.” No games, no bull! “Are we just hanging out? Can I text you?” It was real clear. But our desires change, don’t they, when we get older and go through school. We desire a little more meaningful relationship, or we desire to be popular. Then we desire to be smart. We desire to be beautiful. Then we desire to be successful and have it all together! We desire money, we desire sex. We desire God. We have all these desires working inside of our lives all the time.
So today, I want to read you a story that I think is a lot about that one word “desire.” It’s an ancient story, and some of you have probably heard it before many, many times if you grew up close to any kind of church or Sunday School. For some reason, this is one of those stories that has been indelibly etched into the conscience of most people in the western civilization. It’s found in Luke 19. It’s about the Big Z. Speaking of successful, Big Z was successful! We’ll find out who he was.
“Jesus had entered Jericho and was passing through.” Let me stop here. Geographically, Jesus was about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. This was about the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. It says, “A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man, he could not see because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way! When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately! I’m going to stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner!’ But Zaccheus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look Lord! Here now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today, salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.’”
I want you to read this next phrase with me out loud in unison. All of us read this phrase together. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” This passage, if you picked it up there, is a lot about seeing. Did you notice that? Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus, but he was short! I guess he was vertically challenged, and he couldn’t see Jesus! So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see him. When Jesus passed by, He what? Looked at him! The crowd saw this and began to mutter. This is a passage about seeing. It’s also a passage about great anticipation. For some reason, this guy Zack had incredible anticipation about seeing Jesus.
Have you ever been in a situation like that where you’ve been at an event, and you heard someone speak; or maybe you’re going to a concert, and you’re waiting for the man. Or your waiting for the woman, the celebrity to walk into the room, and everybody is kind of waiting. Have you ever been in a situation like that?
Jamie Drummond, who is the Executive Director of DATA, U-2’s charity organization, was in town about 5 years ago. DATA stands for Debt, Aids, Trade and Africa. Bono and his band, U-2, are really involved in that, and they are giving millions and millions of dollars towards raising money for it. So Jamie Drummond was in town, and he was meeting with me and my brother and some other people in churches to try to bring up awareness. Before he left, he said to me, “Hey listen—the next time U-2 is on a concert tour, I’ll hook you up and give you some tickets and back-stage passes.” Well, I kind of filed that away and said, “Great. Sure, that’ll happen!”
Low and behold, about 2 or 3 years ago, whenever they were in town last; I got an e-mail from a girl by the name of Jenny, who also worked for DATA. She said, “Hey, I have these tickets for you. I’ve got backstage passes. We want to take you out to dinner, and then maybe we can go backstage.” I said, “Well, let me think about that offer and pray about it—okay!”
So we went to a Chinese restaurant near the Toyota Center, and then walked over to the Toyota Center and went backstage. There were a lot of local Houston celebrities, athletes and stuff; and you could tell they had been told the same thing; that they were going to go backstage and maybe meet some of the band, and maybe meet Bono. So everyone was anticipating and waiting to see if Bono would come out and do a meet and greet with people. Even these well-known people were on edge a little bit, and they were anticipating, because they wanted to see him, right? So did I!
Low and behold, after a while this little hobbit walks in. It was Bono! He is short. He’s really about 4 feet tall. He came in and started meeting people.
He was talking to big Dikembe Mutombo, and they were hanging out. Then pretty soon, the guy who was with him and kind of carried him around brought him over to me and my wife and our friends.
He greeted us in that kind of Irish accent—real nice. It was a really cool deal! Then we were able to stand by the sound booth and watch the concert.
It was really neat! To be in that environment and to feel that anticipation in the room; it was kind of what I think it was like when Jesus was on earth, and rumors spread as He visited each town. He was passing through Jericho, and this guy Zack anticipated it and wanted to see Jesus. That’s what he desired. You see, Zack desired to see Jesus!
I love this—you look at the verse here. It says he didn’t want to just see Jesus. It says, “He wanted to see who Jesus was.” He didn’t just want to see Him. He didn’t just want a meet and greet. He wanted to see who this Jesus was! He wanted to see if Jesus was real.
I think there are a lot of people like that here today. Is Jesus real? Is Christianity really authentic? Can it really change my life, or is that a bunch of religious mumbo-jumbo? Zack wanted to see who Jesus was. That was his desire, but Zack had a bad job! He did!
There’s a show on cable called Dirty Jobs. There is a dirty job out there they haven’t mentioned yet on the show, to my knowledge: Who is the person that interviews for the job as the head of lost luggage for an airline? Did you ever think about that? Think about this: Your job is lost luggage. You never have a good day! I don’t care who it is! It could be Billy Graham! You’ve lost his luggage! He’s ticked off! He’s going to get a piece of you, right?
Zack had a bad job! The good thing about Zack’s job was that at least it paid well, right? He was making a lot of money! He was the chief tax collector. That meant that he was at the top of the totem pole. He had other tax collectors working for him. The Romans, who were pressing their thumb were over Judea and taxed almost every imaginable aspect of a person’s life. Work with me—I know it’s hard to believe that. They taxed them really heavily. Zaccheus was a Jew, but he was working for the Romans. So the Romans paid him; his Jewish people paid him. He had his little henchmen, who would go out and would squeeze the taxes out of people. So this guy was really wealthy!
It’s hard for us to understand how a tax collector can be so despised; so a better job, or dirty, or despised job that we could put Zack in—he was like a drug dealer! He was making money illegally. He was bringing down the system. He was in a corrupt system from top to bottom. But for some reason, Zack wanted to see Jesus. Why is that? Why did Zack want to see Jesus? Have you ever asked that? Why did he want to see Jesus, of all people?
Maybe it was because he thought, “If I see Jesus, maybe Jesus will accept me for who I am. Maybe Jesus will see that I’m more than a tax collector or cheat. Maybe Jesus can show me how I can get right with God; how I can discover a new way, a new purpose for my life.” He wanted to see him, but he couldn’t. Why? Because the crowd was blocking, and he was too short! So what did Zaccheus do?
Now, for some of you who went to Sunday School when you were little bitty; here’s your chance to show off, remember? “Zaccheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he! He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see! ‘Zaccheus, Zaccheus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today!’” So what did Zaccheus do? He ran and climbed up in a sycamore tree!
Can you imagine this? We don’t understand it; but culturally, grown men don’t run, especially wealthy, successful grown men! He ran! He hiked up his robe and climbed up this sycamore tree! Can you see that? Here’s a little guy, a rich guy with a Napoleonic complex just waiting for Jesus to come down the road! Zack was literally willing to go out on a limb in order to see who Jesus was!
How about you? Do you see yourself in the place of Zack? You say, “Well, I want to know God. I want to know God’s purpose and plans for my life.” But are you willing to risk? Are you willing to run? Are you willing to climb a tree and put yourself out there, and put your pride away in order to experience God in Jesus?
For some whacky reason, that was Zack’s desire—to experience Jesus and to see Him. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to take a risk in order to see change in your life? Are you willing to take a risk in order to see God work change in your life? Zack took the risk! That was his desire.
How about the crowd? The people? You know, what did the people desire? The people desired—this is sad—nothing. The crowd desired nothing! The crowd was blocking Zack’s ability to see Jesus, and they weren’t concerned about moving out of the way! He wasn’t one of them! He was a traitor! He was a cheat! He was a drug dealer! He got his money the old-fashioned way! He stole it! They didn’t want Him to see Jesus!
How about you? Do you ever find yourself in this story in the place of the crowd by the way you live your life? Are you blocking people’s ability to see Jesus by the way you live your life, by the things you say, by the things you do, by the way you carry yourself in the marketplace, or down the halls of your school? Are you a liability, or are you an asset for marketing Jesus?
You see, it’s easy to be a part of the crowd. The crowd desired nothing! The crowd simply wanted the status quo. It’s much easier to build a wall than it is to build a bridge. It’s much easier to build a wall and to hide behind the safe walls of the church, or the safe walls of a Bible study, or a small group that no one can get in! It’s just us, and our stuff, and our things; than it is to build a bridge out to people in the market place who are hanging out in “seeking more trees,” trying to discover life, trying to discover their purpose!
Remember when you’re trying to understand Scripture, context is king! If you’ll just flip back to Luke chapter 18, at the end is a story about a guy who is a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. It’s all about seeing. It’s all about sight! Remember blind Bartimaeus? He hears Jesus is coming by. He said, “Hey, this Jesus! I hear that He can heal people!” He starts screaming out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me!” The crowd—once again, there the crowd is—“Shh! Be quiet, you beggar! Be quiet, you street person! Shhh! Be quiet! Bartimaeus—you’re blind, and you’re a beggar! You don’t have anything to lose!” Bartimaeus screamed even louder, “Son of David, have mercy upon me!” He was willing to verbally climb that tree and run, because he wanted Jesus to heal him. He came before Jesus, and Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do?” He said, “Lord, I want to see!” The Lord Jesus touched him, and he was healed! It said he went home rejoicing and shouting! He didn’t care about what the crowd said! He didn’t care about his reputation! Zaccheus didn’t either!
The crowd says—“Shhhhh!” Status quo! The crowd blocks people from experiencing God, because you’re not one of us! You don’t hold my political views, and you don’t live in the right neighborhood, and you don’t look right or act right. Plus, your sins are much worse than my refined sins…
My brother, Ed and his wife Lisa went to the world’s largest flea market a couple of years ago in Canton, Texas. How many of you have ever been to Canton, Texas? Raise your hands! I see those hands, ladies, yes! Ed said 90% of the people there were female. It was in August with triple digit heat; but these women were just passionately pushing shopping carts around at Nascar-like speed, just loving it! So Ed and Lisa got there around 11:00, wanting to beat the lunch crowd.
They went to the food court there, which was a bunch of picnic tables shoved together in the shade. They ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and sat down to eat.
About that time, a lady came by who was working with one of the restaurants, and she had samples of grilled chicken on little toothpicks. She came up to Ed and Lisa, who were stuffing their faces with chicken sandwiches, and said, “Hey, do you want a sample?”
They said, “That’s okay, thank you! We’re eating—we have some.” So this lady continued to stay in the shade, around the picnic tables, going to the picnic people who were already eating, asking them if they wanted a piece of chicken!
After a while, Lisa kind of laughed and said, “This is silly! Why doesn’t she step out of the shade and into the race-car track with all these shopping carts, and people who haven’t eaten, and start serving them? They are the ones who are hungry! They’re the ones who could enjoy this meal!” She stopped and thought to herself—“Isn’t the church the same way?” So many times, we’re busy feeding food and chicken samples to people who are already fed, rather than going outside in the sunshine and the marketplace in our relationships, experiencing the adventure of pointing people to how they can have a relationship with God in Jesus.
The crowd desired nothing. Zack desired to see Jesus and who He was. But what did Jesus say He came to do? We read that verse together. Let me read it from one of my translations. It says, “The Son of Man came to sit, soak and get fat!” No, that’s the wrong translation! “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” We’re all lost without Him. If there’s a God who exists that is transcendent outside this universe; if He doesn’t speak to us, we are lost! Go read Camus and Sartre! Have a nice day! It won’t be that nice, by the way… But He came! God came! Heaven came down! We just sang about that!
Christmas is about God coming to earth! Why did God come to earth? What did Jesus desire? You see, Jesus had a desire too! Jesus’ desire was to see Zack restored! I asked myself the question, “What did Jesus see when he looked at Zack?” I think Jesus saw a traitor; He saw a crook! He saw a person who had gotten rich and lined his pockets by the hard sweat of other people’s labor. Simultaneously, I believe that Jesus saw a child of the Living God! He saw a child of the Living God who had lost his way and was looking for his way back home! That’s what Jesus saw!
As you’re looking out into your relational world; as you’re passing through your Jericho; as you’re seeing men and women and young people hanging from sycamore trees; as you’re looking at them, how do you see others? Do you see others through jaded lenses of their short comings and sins? Or do you see Jesus in them, and what Jesus and God could do in their lives? What do you see?
Jesus took the initiative, didn’t He? He looked and said, “Hey, Zack! Get down out of the tree! I’m coming to your house today!” We know not only did He go into Zaccheus’ house, but He went literally into his heart and began a revolution in this successful guy’s life; a revolution of love and of giving.
So what happens when you have Zack’s desire to see Jesus with Jesus’ desire to see Zack and restore him? What happened when these two desires collide? We saw an explosion of Gospel love and grace flow into Zack’s life! You see, you have to have grace first before you ever start to see life change! Zack received grace. He experienced the love of God, and because he experienced God’s love, his life was changed!
So we see a collision not only of the desires of Jesus and the desire of Zack; we see a collision of Romans and James, of the Gospel of faith and works all happen in this incredible story and Zack gets it! Zack gets it! How do you know Zack gets it? Because when he has experienced God’s forgiveness, His abundance and grace, what does he do? He doesn’t just want to pay people back that he’s ripped off! He wants to give them four times more! He wants to go over the top! It is over-flowing, over abundant grace that he now wants to give out! This God has affected Zack so much; it’s affected his wallet and his money! That’s what grace will do to you!
This is the first power lunch we have ever recorded in history, isn’t it? This is a power encounter! Zack’s life was changed; it was turned upside down. He experienced the love of God, and his life was changed. His desires were changed. His desires, his passions were changed!
When we think about Zack and what he did, he ran and climbed up in the tree. He took a risk! He went out on the limb because he wanted to see who Jesus was. We think, “Man, look at Zack! Look at his desire! Look at his desire to see, and to experience Jesus! Look at his desire!” We look at the story, and we say, “Wait a minute! At the end of the story, was it Zack seeking Jesus or was it Jesus seeking Zack?”
Right now, is it God seeking you, or is it you seeking God? It says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” So ask yourself the question: “Where do you see yourself in this story today?”
Do you put yourself in the sandals of Zack and say, “That’s me! I want to experience God’s love and His purpose for my life. I want to invite God in Jesus to come into my house and heart and just renovate everything! That’s what I want!” Question: Are you willing to run and climb up in a tree, to lay your pride down and to humble yourself to receive that today?
Maybe you’re here, and you’ve kind of been a part of the crowd. You identify with the crowd, and you kind of have enjoyed living behind the safe walls of a church, or a gymnasium, or wherever we are, right? You like that! Maybe God’s telling you—“Listen, if you’re going to be a part of the team, then you need to get My desires into your heart.” And the desire of Jesus is to seek and to save the people who are situated in “seeking more trees,” in cubicles, cars, health clubs, cafeterias, and college classes. He has called us to seek and to save those who are lost! We can’t do that! We simply tell them, “Hey, this is what God’s done in my life!” We say, “Hey, come with me to an 11:11 service! Come with me to this group, and I want to tell you about who God is, and what He’s done in my life!”
Are you in with that? Are you down with that? That’s what Jesus is down with, if you want to be a part of the K.O.G.! His desire is not to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and have more knowledge, and knowledge and knowledge until your hair grows out like Einstein! No, no, no! He wants us to take the knowledge of who He is in His love, and His grace, and He wants it to come out of us. He wants us to live it. He wants us to speak it. He wants us to own it in such a way that we have this same desire burning inside of us!
Maybe you’re here and you’ve experienced God, and you call yourself a Christian and are following Him. But let me ask you—how long has it been since you have been so desperate, so desirous to know God, or to know what God wants you to do? How long has it been since you’ve actually run and climbed a tree and went out on a limb in order to do, or to hear, or to experience what God has for you?
I am so thankful that I am a part of a church family that gets that! I’m so glad that I worship a God who is willing to come down to my level to die, and to rise so that my life, by His grace, might be radically changed. In order to do that, sometimes you’ve got to run, and you’ve got to climb a tree! You’ve got to become like a little child and watch what God does with your desires.
Would you pray with me?
God, so many times, we drift away, and You’re so kind with the current of Your love to pull us back where we need to be. Lord, I thank You that You know us better than we know ourselves.
We thank You Lord that wherever we are here today; whatever tree we’re climbing, or tree we’re stuck in that You see us, and You seek us.
I pray for those who need to stand and walk down these aisles in a few moments and experience all that You have for them. God, may they stand. May they take that risk. May their standing and walking down these aisles today be symbolic of running and climbing a tree, because they say, “Hey—I don’t understand it all. I don’t have it all together, but I really do want to experience all God has for me. I really want to know what it means to experience this grace that we were talking about this morning, and singing about.” We give You this time, Lord, in Jesus’ Name.