Lessons from a Tree

  • Tuesday, August 2, 2011
  • So, you think you could learn a lesson or two from a tree? Just imagine the Lord Himself walking by this tree with a group of followers. They’re not looking into the tree – nobody does that. They’re talking with each other, pointing to things in a distance, watching where they walk. And then, just as He walks under the tree, He looks up and there sits one of the most despicable men in Jericho. He’s a tax collector for the Romans which means that he’s collected taxes (and most likely stolen) from just about everyone in the city and surrounding areas. Not exactly someone you’d want to stop and talk to, let alone invite yourself to his house for a meal.

    Like many people in the city, he’d heard about this man called Jesus and he wanted to get a good look at him. So, being resourceful, he spied a tree ahead along the path Jesus was taking, and Zaccheus scrambled up the tree for a better look. Little did he suspect that Jesus Himself would stop under the tree and talk with him, or end up at his house for dinner. All he wanted to do was to get a better look at this Jesus.

    It’s a very familiar passage, there’s even a song about this event. As you hum that song, take a moment to read the passage again.

    Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 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 because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig 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 must 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 Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and 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. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

    Luke 19:1-10

    There are several lessons in these ten verses that can help us lead a life that is pleasing to the Lord. First, just where was Jesus? Note He wasn’t sitting in a temple waiting for people to come to Him. He was out among the people. Where do you spend your time? Are you gathered with fellow Christians or do you go out into the world?

    Second, Zaccheus was an outsider. He was not liked and it’s doubtful he had many friends – kind of a loner. Yet, through this contact, Jesus made him feel like he was included and loved. What’s the nature of your interaction with the world? Do you go through life self absorbed or reach out to connect with the people in your life, even if they’re despicable?

    Third, there’s no evidence that Zaccheus did anything to prepare for this interaction other than climb the tree so he could see better. He didn’t run around paying people back what he’d stolen from them. He didn’t go to confession and admit his sins. He wasn’t trying to get his life in order before he had an encounter with the Lord. Wouldn’t you agree that our efforts to make things right before the Lord are in vain? Don’t you agree that He has paid the penalty for all we’ve done? He’s available now – just call Him.

    And the lesson from the tree, you ask? No matter where you are, God knows the exact spot you’re in, even if it’s hiding in a tree. By the way, that photo is supposed to be of the actual tree that held Zaccheus. It doesn’t really matter whether you believe that or not, but you’ll have to admit, you’ll never look at another sycamore tree the same.


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