Rising Above The Crowded World

The story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, in the Gospel of Luke is one of my favorites. This man of short physical stature climbs a sycamore tree to rise above the crowd so that he can see Jesus.
There are days when I feel just like Zacchaeus. Days when the world seems so much taller than me, blocking my view of Jesus, and my sense of Christ’s presence in my life is swept away, as if by a crowd.
When we were children, we could raise our arms and ask a loving parent or grandparent to pick us up and put us on their shoulders. From there, if we had been in the crowd with Zacchaeus that day, we could have seen Jesus quite clearly.
In truth, however, Zacchaeus was looking for something more than a glimpse of Jesus’ face as he passed by. Luke’s choice of words is fascinating: “He was trying to see who Jesus was.”
Not just trying to see Jesus. But trying to see who Jesus was.
Zacchaeus wasn’t there simply to be able to say “I saw him.” Something was drawing Zacchaeus deeper than that. He wanted to see who Jesus was, which would have involved closely observing how Jesus interacted with people, and how people interacted with him.
He would have watched intently to see the expression in Jesus’ eyes as he spoke to someone, and the look in the eyes of those to whom Jesus spoke. He would have been looking to see if Jesus had touched their heart and soul. To see if Jesus was full of himself, or emptying himself for others.
Zacchaeus clearly felt the answers to his questions in a very personal way. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and told him, “Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Of all the people around him, Jesus picks Zaachaeus, the chief tax collector, a bad guy and sinner in the eyes of many, who despised the oftentimes corrupt tax collecting system in those days.
Naturally, everybody else begins to grumble discontentedly. But, in mid-grumble, they witness a transformation. By striving to see who Jesus truly was, Christ helps Zacchaeus see more deeply into himself. And that vision transforms him.
Zacchaeus pledges to give half of his wealth to the poor and, furthermore, declares that if he has defrauded anyone he will pay them back four times over.
Climbing that sycamore tree was the best thing Zacchaeus ever did.
I try to remember this story when the world has crowded me away from a sense of Christ’s presence in my life. No, I don’t climb a sycamore tree. But I do find a quiet place and ask the Holy Spirit to lift me up on its “shoulders” so that I can find Jesus.
From there, especially when I really need it—and when I open myself in complete vulnerability—I can feel that soft and quiet presence within me and the peace it brings.
I feel it telling me that I am lovable and loved.
And, if only for that moment, I am transformed and able to walk a few more miles further down a road that feels far less daunting than it did seconds before.
But, of course, that transformation is not meant to be hidden away and hoarded for myself. Nor is the road down which I travel mine alone. I see so many others looking and praying for a sycamore tree. Just like me.
So many yearning to see who Jesus really is. Just like me.
Countless people who, no matter their tough, self-sufficient exterior, desperately want to hear Jesus tell them that they are lovable and loved in the eyes of God. Just like me.
I’m not a sycamore tree but, here, climb up on my shoulders and see what you might find. I promise to hold tightly. You’ll know when that soft, quiet presence of our Good Shepherd begins to bring you peace….
….Yes, there it is, brimming up from the bottom of your heart now and streaming down your cheeks.
Don’t be embarrassed. I’m crying too.
Last week, remember, it was you who invited me to climb up on your shoulders.

One thought on “Rising Above The Crowded World

  1. Yet another insight into applying scripture realistically to our daily life. Christ calls each of us to come so he can dine with us, bless us and we are changed. Thank you.


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