“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.” (Luke 19:1-6)
HOW CAN YOU WELCOME JESUS TODAY?
We aren’t in identical circumstances to those of Zacchaeus. Jesus isn’t walking around in the flesh, calling us down from the sycamore trees that we have just climbed. On the other hand, the risen Christ is around. How can you welcome the Christ in the same way that Zacchaeus did? I have some thoughts on that question.
You can seek out and welcome Jesus’ voice in the midst of the thousands of other voices that are clamoring for your attention. In my experience, hearing Jesus’ voice happens most often when we set aside some time for quiet, and we have an intention of hearing a word from God. That is, we are doing more listening than talking. Another great way to hear Jesus’ voice is to immerse yourself in even a short section of one of the Gospels each day. Read a section of Matthew or Mark or Luke or John, where we hear of Jesus’ actions and Jesus’ words. What I notice is that Jesus’ words are still relevant and powerful, 2,000 years after he first said them. What I notice is that - when I seek out Jesus’ voice - I hear something very different from 90% of the voices that I hear each day.
Since Jesus said one time that when you and I attend to the hungry or thirsty, when we welcome the stranger or clothe the naked, when we care for the sick or visit those in prison - when we serve “one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), we are serving him - then that means we can welcome Jesus anytime, by serving someone who has a need, someone who is easily overlooked. What stranger can you welcome today? When can you go serve a meal at the homeless shelter? Do you have a friend who is sick? Can you take him or her a meal, or pray with them prior to surgery? These are great ways to welcome Jesus.
Jesus also talked about taking note of the birds of the air and considering the lilies of the field. He also got up while it was still dark and hiked up mountains to pray. Don’t you suppose that he saw quite a few amazing sunrises during those times? You can also welcome Jesus by giving glory to God for the beauty of creation, and by thanking God for the various ways that you have been blessed.
Zacchaeus was changed by his encounter with Jesus. (Read the rest of Luke 19:1-10.) He did not get any taller, but he was changed spiritually, and he was reconciled to his brothers and sisters through his repentant actions. Jesus talked about all of this in the context of a lost person being saved.
These are just three ways to welcome Jesus. There are many others. What I know to be true is that when we welcome Jesus, our lives are transformed, too. And in the process of our welcoming him, God… or another person… or some other part of God’s creation… is loved.