Friday, June 22, 2018
HEN Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)
The above text comes from my very favorite passage of the Gospels, John 8:1-11. The text comes at the end of a trial at the bar of, not only justice, but also of mercy and grace. There was a plenitude of witness of a woman’s guilt who was taken in adultery. The defendant had already been prejudged to die the terrible death of stoning. The hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees wished the woman the gravest of harm – even the cruel death of stoning. It was these decadent fellows who dragged her, without mercy, and cast her down before the Lord.
As it turns out, the ones who wished her the greatest harm were the very ones who had forcibly dragged her to the One who could do her the greatest good. During our Lord’s cross-examination of the witnesses, some great guilt must have manifested itself by His writing upon the ground that destroyed their hateful fervor for blood, and caused them to slink away as the pole-cats that they were. Their testimony was not credible since they were probably guilty of the same sin. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. (Jer 17:13)
There are legal requirements for one to serve in a court of law as a witness. One requirement is that they be CREDIBLE. You do not drag a convicted murderer into court as a witness against someone taken in shoplifting. The credibility of the witness will have great bearing on the manner in which their testimony is received. A man or woman of impeccable character will be believed before a common drunk, for example.
A second requirement is that the witness must be competent in rendering his or her testimony. An idiot would not be competent.
The most important qualification for a witness is that they have first hand, personal knowledge of an event in question.
There are a profusion of witnesses of the mighty works of God mentioned in Holy Scripture. But I will limit our devotion today to those who were witnesses to the miracles and mighty works of the Lord Jesus Christ. These witnesses are the most qualified of all for they were recipients of the blessings of which they give testimony out of love and not the hatred of the Scribes and Pharisees mentioned above.
I will begin with an illustration I read this morning from a very old edition of Sunday School Times. I think it worth mentioning that the older the testator, the more balanced the testimony; thus, I prefer the older commentaries of the Bible to the pabulum of the modern.
A missionary physician in one of China’s hospitals cured a man of cataracts. A few weeks later, 46 blind men came to the doctor from one of China’s wilds, all holding on to a rope guided by the man who had been healed. He had led them in this way, walking in chain 250 miles from a distant province to this hospital. The indifferent multitudes who saw them may have cared little, but we should not be discouraged when the lost prefer to remain so. The greater blind were not holding on to that rope, but looking on without seeing. It is our mission to seek out the spiritually blind and lead them to the Light. Whether they grasp the rope of salvation or not is not our concern, but solely the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s omniscient will. We have performed our calling by providing the Rope.
Let’s examine, briefly, some of the witnesses who shared the beauty and glory of Christ when touched by His mercy and grace.
Thessalonika, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. (1 Thess 1:5-8)What a blessing if the modern church followed the example of the Thessalonians.
In the Gospel of John, there was a man blind from birth whom Jesus mixed soil and spittle and applied to his eyes. He told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. He did so and was healed. The Scribes and Pharisees were enraged at the healing and asked how the boy came to be healed: Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? (John 9:24-27)In this we see a reflection of our modern political climate in which truth and righteousness is of no account to the demagogues. We, too, have had our eyes opened, not by the power of our own sinful souls, but by the power of the Holy Ghost convicting our hearts.
Here follows an amazing example of witnessing by a healed leper: 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45)
Note the great compassion of Christ in physically touching one whom no one else would dare touch for his sores and filth. He healed the man, but note that he told him to tell no man of the healing. Did Christ not know that the man could not keep such a secret? Ridiculous! Of course, He knew. The lesson was for you and me! When we have been the recipient of so great a salvation, how dare we keep closed mouthed about it. We must declare the wonder to all who will hear us.
The Lord likewise healed the deaf man of Luke 7:32-37, again instructing him to tell no man – but he could never have kept silent. The entire multitude of witnesses voiced it about everywhere as well.
The disciples of 2 Peter 1 were exuberant witnesses of Christ: 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18)These did not forget His wondrous works – how can we?
There are far more amazing witnesses of Christ than can be mentioned in a devotion, or, indeed, in many volumes of books. I have touched on only a few to make my point that we have a God-given responsibility to witness of the faith and hope that is within us. But I would like to mention one last truly impressive witness in closing. That is the Woman at the Well of Sychar (John 4).
She came there seeking a temporary resolution for her thirst, but left with a life-giving water which would eternally quench her thirst. She was a woman of ill repute who had slept with many men of Sychar to whom she was never married. She was the talk of the town among the women gossipers, and she dared not show her face at the well in the cool of the day when all of the other women came to draw water. But she met a man who told her things about her life that were impossible for any other to know. She came to know Him as her Lord and Savior. As a result, she became one of the most extraordinary witnesses in all of the Gospels. Why so? Because, despite her tawdry reputation as an adulteress and profligate sinner, something had changed. A day earlier, she would have had no credibility whatsoever as a witness; but now, everyone believed her testimony in the village owing to that grand and new authority granted her as a daughter of her Father in Heaven, and a recipient of the blessings of Salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ whom she had met at the Well of Jacob – an event predestined for her from before the Foundation of the World. She brought perhaps hundreds of souls to the Well to meet Christ!
How about you?
Have you been a witness today for the tired, the thirst, the lame, the blind, and the deaf? Go find your ROPE!
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Devotion taken from the Carroll & Brooks Sixth Grade Reader of 1911
Published by Appleton & Co.
The story of our National Flag seems particularly appropriate in reminding us of the peerless heritage of America and her founding ideals. When men who are paid one thousand times more than they are worth dishonor the flag, and others who are worth ten times the value in character live simple and honest lives and survive on a pittance, yet, love our flag and the nation it represents, it is high time to recall to memory the blood and sacrifice that has purchased our freedoms and perpetuated our national sovereignty. I will first display the gallant poem of Sir Walter Scott, Breathes There The Man, followed by the story as published in the Sixth Grade Reader which should be current fare in every school in America. Jerry L. Ogles
Breathes There The Man
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung.
Sir Walter Scott
(from 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel', Canto sixth)
The National Flag
A thoughtful mind, when it sees a nation's flag, sees not the flag, but the nation itself. When the French tricolor rolls out to the wind, we see France. When the new-found Italian flag is unfurled, we see unified Italy. When the united crosses of St. Andrew and St. George, on a fiery ground, set forth the banner of old England, we see not the cloth merely; there rises up before the mind the idea of that great monarchy.
This nation has a banner, too; and wherever this flag comes, and men behold it, they see in its sacred emblazonry no ramping lion and no fierce eagle, no embattled castles or insignia of imperial authority; they see the symbols of light. It is the banner of dawn. It means liberty; and the galley slave, the poor, oppressed conscript, the trodden-down creature of foreign despotism, sees in the American flag the very promise of God.
If one, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him: It means just what Concord and Lexington meant, what Bunker Hill meant. It means the whole glorious Revolutionary War. It means all that the Declaration of Independence meant. It means all that the Constitution of our people, organizing for justice, for liberty, and for happiness, meant.
Our flag carries American ideas, American history, and American feelings. Beginning with the colonies, and coming down to our time, in its sacred heraldry, in its glorious insignia, it has gathered and stored chiefly this supreme idea: divine right of liberty in man. Every color means liberty; every thread means liberty; every form of star and beam or stripe of light means liberty-not lawlessness, not license, but organized, institutional liberty-liberty through law, and laws for liberty!
The American flag was the safeguard of liberty. Not an atom of crown was allowed to go into its insignia. Not a symbol of authority in the ruler was permitted to go into it. It was an ordinance of liberty by the people, for the people, of the people. That it meant, that it means, and, by the blessing of God, that it shall mean to the end of time!
Under this banner rode Washington and his armies. Before it Burgoyne laid down his arms. It waved on the highlands at West Point. When Arnold would have surrendered these valuable fortresses and precious legacies, his night was turned into day and his treachery was driven away by the beams of light from this starry banner. It cheered our army, driven out from around New York, and in their painful pilgrimages through New Jersey. In New Jersey, more than in almost any other state, grows the trailing arbutus. May I not think of it as· sacred drops of Pilgrim blood that come forth in beauteous flowers on this sandiest·of soils? For this sweet blossom that lays its cheek on the very snow is the true Pilgrim's Mayflower! This banner streamed in light over the soldiers' heads at Valley Forge and at Morristown. It crossed the waters rolling with ice at Trenton, and when its stars gleamed in the cold morning with victory, a new day of hope dawned on the · despondency of this nation.
Our states grew up under it. And when our ships began to swarm upon the ocean to carry forth our commerce, and Great Britain arrogantly demanded the right to intrude her search warrants upon American decks, then up went the lightning flag, and every star meant liberty and every stripe streamed defiance.
The gallant fleet of Lake Erie - have you forgotten it? The thunders that echoed to either shore were overshadowed by this broad ensign of our American liberty. Those glorious men that went forth in the old ship Constitution carried this banner to battle and to victory. The old ship is alive yet. Bless the name, bless the ship, bless her historic memory, and bless the old flag that waves over her yet!
How glorious, then, has been its origin! How glorious has been its history! How divine is its meaning!
Henry Ward Beecher
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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HEREFORE, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. (Isaiah 50:2-3)
I have a wonderful movie in my church film library which is, essentially, a modern-day parable. The movie is produced in Czeckoslavakia entitled MOST (the Bridge in Slavic). This is one of the most moving and convicting movies I have ever seen. The movie depicts a loving father who loves his son dearly above every other thing in the world. His son is beautiful and obedient, and one to make any father proud. The boy is the only relation the man has in the world since his wife is passed on. He plays games with his son and teases him daily.
The father operates a draw bridge over, presumably, the Elbe River. The bridge operator’s son loves his father and desires to accompany him to work one day. As the boy plays along the river beneath the bridge tower, he notices a train approaching the bridge which remains up. The train is running ahead of schedule. The young boy calls to his father in warning, but the father cannot hear him.
As the train draws nearer the bridge, the boy realizes all aboard the train will perish unless action is taken. He runs out onto the bridge, reaches down to the emergency lever to manually begin the bridge closure. But he falls into the mechanism as he makes the attempt. Now, if the bridge is lowered, the boy will be crushed. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Aboard the train are dozens (maybe hundreds) of passengers many of whom are probably lost to God. There are drug addicts, runaways, lovers, and a young pregnant mother escaping the shame of her guilt. All are oblivious to the great danger which lies ahead for each of them. They are nonchalant and unaware of the drawn bridge ahead. Many are completely unaware of their lost state. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is obvious from the movie that few have called upon the name of the Lord. “ How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Have we bothered to send missionaries to the four quarters of the world? “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)Unfortunately, we have many claiming to be preachers of the Gospel who have not been called, neither do they preach the pure Gospel.
The father faces a grave dilemma. If he does not lower the bridge, all passengers will perish. If he does lower the bridge, the passengers will be saved but his beloved son will perish! What would you do? “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal 4:3-5)What a terrible choice confronted the father. Delaying his decision to the last possible moment, the father tearfully reached for the activation lever and pulled it down to lower the bridge. His son was crushed for the salvation of all aboard the train. Yet, they still were unaware of that great sacrifice – that is, all but the young woman who was pregnant. She saw, and understood, the grief on the father’s face, and later that his son had died for her.. This knowledge completely changed her life, and made the life possible of the child she was carrying in her womb. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Nothing can more closely approach innocence than a young child. This is why Jesus said that “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” But this boy in the movie, though precious and courageous, could not compare in innocence to the only Begotten Son of God. When our Lord was dead and buried, He was separated for three days from His Father. But after three days, He rose again so that we might also arise. So was the young boy in the movie temporarily separated from his father. He may rest in that hope of seeing his son again beyond the Gates of Splendor. As David, the King, said after the death of his child conceived in adultery: “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Sam 12:22-23)
As my mother used to say, we are all travelling on a long, black train. It is the train of life which leads steadily on to death unless acted upon by an outside force. We have that outside force in Christ. We may be at ease and at comfort in our sins, but there is warning ahead. I am reminded of an old Iowa tale of two Lutheran clergyman. They were busy erecting a sign by the roadside properly dressed in their clergy collars. The sign read, “Turn around before it is too late. Save yourself while there is time!” At that time, a carload of drunks passed by and cursed at the two ministers, shouting, “Why don’t you old varmints mind your own business and let us live our lives as we please!” Shortly after was heard a loud crash. One of the ministers looked at the other and said, “Hey, Ole, maybe ve should re-vorde de sign. Maybe ve should yust say, “Bridge out ahead!”
I hope the bridge is not out on the train you are riding. Perhaps we should heed the old Blue Grass Gospel song and board the Gospel Train instead of that long, black train.
I encourage each of you to view the movie I referenced. It is no Hollywood production, but obviously made by humble, faithful Christians who love the Lord and who love their fellow man.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
|If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print|
READER version RIGHT HERE!
ND as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
There are many today in churches who close their ears to any mention of the cross. They find it offensive and lacking in sophistication; yet, it is the only means whereby we are saved. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.(1 Cor 1:23)
It is a great benefit to those who love the classic old hymns that John Newton, whose redemption came after a long period of debauchery, did not abhor the cross, but embraced it with the love and passion of a child reborn. He is the author of this wonderful hymn (1779) – along with hundreds more called the Olney Hymns. Music is the composition of Edwin O. Excell in 1917.
I saw One hanging on a Tree
By John Newton
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.
O, can it be, upon a tree,
The Savior died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
A second look He gave, which said,
I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.
I saw One hanging on a tree, In agony and blood, Who fixed His languid eyes on me, As near His cross I stood. The reference to the cross as a tree is a quaint but quite meaningful expression. The cross of Christ can be most accurately referred to in this way since the Tree of Life (Jesus Christ) was not pleasing to our ancient father in Eden. Certainly, neither was the crude instrument of torture, called the cross, upon which our Lord suffered and died. Christ looked down from the cross to where the sinners stood – either in sympathy as the women disciples, or in wrath such as the Jewish rulers. The Lord sees us all at the foot of the cross; yet, He knows our hearts and frames. He readily identifies His called and chosen from among the reprobate sinners. He fixes His eyes upon each of us, and there is no escape from His piercing vision. He knows His own. John Newton approached the cross when all hope was forlorn and thereby found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Sure, never to my latest breath, Can I forget that look; It seemed to charge me with His death, Though not a word He spoke. Rightly so may we ascribe His death to our own sinfulness since He died for the sins of the whole world, and we are part of that equation. He looked from that cross long before Golgotha. In fact, from before the foundation of the world. It was on the cross that He engraved the names of His elect by the piercing nails upon the palms of His hands. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:16)Can you forget that look? Could Peter forget that look of the Lord when Peter denied the third time? And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)
My conscience felt and owned the guilt, And plunged me in despair, I saw my sins His blood had spilt, And helped to nail Him there. Facing our guilt is the only means whereby we may approach the cross. No self-righteous person ever is able to look upon the cross without intense guilt. The great despair we feel when we own our guilt and hopelessness is the means to open the door to the utmost joy and solicitude in salvation. We all had a hand in nailing our Lord to the cross – demur not!
A second look He gave, which said, I freely all forgive; This blood is for thy ransom paid; I die that thou mayst live. The grief over our sins, and our subsequent confessions, are not necessarily vocal. Peter never spoke the words of repentance, but he proved it by his tears for the three days that our Lord was in the tomb. Even in the grave, our Lord knew of Peter’s remorse. On His resurrection, the angel at the tomb specifically mentioned only Peter’s name when he asked the women to go and tell the others. The angel said: But go your way, tell his disciples and PETER that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. (Mark 16:7)
O, can it be, upon a tree, The Savior died for me? My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled, To think He died for me!Have you ever considered that every lost soul is found by God under that Tree. Just as the first death – an innocent animal – had to die to provide covering garments for Adam and Eve – and symbolically, a covering for their sin – so did the innocent Lamb of God have to die upon the cross to purchase for us the spotlessly white Robe of Righteousness to cover our sins. He did so while we were yet under that Tree. Let’s look at this point a bit more. We see at least four different trees in scripture that point to man and his sin.
1) The Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil BEHIND which the Serpent spoke;
2) The tree UNDER which Adam hid from the Lord in Eden. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8)
3) The man IN the tree who sought to see Jesus – Zacchaeus – who was saved along with his whole household.
4) The Man ON the Tree which is our Tree of Life.
Like Zacchaeus, if we will be saved, we must begin our salvation IN that Tree of Life. No need to hide our faces when He passes. He already knows His own as does every good Shepherd of the flock.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
|You can download the AOC Sunday Report RIGHT HERE!|
Happy Third Sunday after Trinity and Happy Father's Day!
The AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
There is a great sermon from Bishop Jerry, as well as excellent ones from Revs Jack and Bryan. These guys never fail. And, a special treat, a Fathers Day poem from our Warrior Poet Bishop.
There are also a lot of people who need your prayers, start with Shamu, Bruce, Bob and Doug and work out from there.
There is a great week ahead waiting for you, if you just take that grace God is giving out.
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Sermon Notes - Third Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 17 June 2018, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
|If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!|
Third Sunday after Trinity.
LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are introduced today to a man with a physical impediment – he was short! But
his greater deficiency was spiritual. He was an official of the Roman government who may have over-charged more than once in his tax collections. It is one of the astounding properties of God to use our short-comings (no pun intended) to gain an advantageous audience with Christ. We will see that this is the case in the matter of Zacchaeus.
his greater deficiency was spiritual. He was an official of the Roman government who may have over-charged more than once in his tax collections. It is one of the astounding properties of God to use our short-comings (no pun intended) to gain an advantageous audience with Christ. We will see that this is the case in the matter of Zacchaeus.
ND Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named , which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:1-10)
A salient point in today’s narrative is God knew us long before we came to know Him. Today is Father’s Day and I daresay our earthly fathers knew and loved us long before we knew and loved them. The case holds true with our Father God. This being Father’s Day, we should know that there is a sure-fire way to know if we are on solid ground with our Lord: That is answered in the virtue of love that we have for God. If we love Him, you can be assured that He loves you else we could not love Him. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
This portion of Luke’s Gospel is one of my favorites. It illustrates how we may be called by our names before we ever knew Christ intimately. It demonstrates regardless our backgrounds, or our stature, we can be received by Christ if we are zealous in seeking Him.
We should note some characteristics that identify Zacchaeus before proceeding:
1. He was a man of short stature;
2. He was rich;
3. He was not well liked among the people for he was a chief publican, or tax collector. He held the same respect of the people as a red-neck bar keeper;
4. He was persistent in all that he did. That probably explains why he was a chief tax collector.
5. His coming to Christ enabled the salvation of his entire family.
He was drawn by an invisible power to Christ. That power was the Holy Spirit, though Zacchaeus considered his motive to be one of outright curiosity. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature If you have come to Christ, it is likely that you came by the same power.
There were many, many people thronging Christ, so many that Zacchaeus could neither see over their tall heads, or break through the crowd. Quite often those who seem nearest to Christ seem to be the very ones that prevent others from approaching Him. It is true in the ordinary walk of life, and it is true in many churches.
People who are short learn to overcome that handicap through years of effort. Actually, medical science informs us shorter people live longer, but that is not a part of our focus. Zacchaeus was determined to see Christ, and he would do whatever was necessary to accomplish that purpose. He had heard many stories and rumors about this miracle worker. He may have doubted them, but he had to see for himself! I wish more Christian people would not simply allow their starving souls to be fed by one sermon on Sunday, but would want to see God’s mysteries, and discover them, for themselves through diligent study.
What could poor Zacchaeus do? If he lived in modern America, there would probably be a government answer to overcome his handicap. Perhaps every sycamore tree would have a ladder, or streets would be lined, according to city ordinances, so that there were banks on either side upon which short people could walk and see as well as every body else. But the American socialist model had not reached Jericho, and Zacchaeus had no such provision. He must find a solution on his own….and he did!
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. Short legs can often run faster than long, gangly ones if the drive and determination are there. Zacchaeus had become quite clever in his thinking after a lifetime of having to overcome his little handicap. Sometimes the thing that we consider to be a handicap turns out to be a blessing. Zaachaeus assayed the direction the multitude was moving and ran ahead to a sycamore tree that the Holy Ghost had conveniently placed there many years before the need of Zacchaeus arose.
Zacchaeus was not considered a good man by anyone. He was not only shorter than most men were, but he was lower than most in character as well. If you are in low places most of your life, you learn to rise above the common crowd. This Zaccaeus did. If you are low, the only way to move is UP. Zacchaeus went UP into the sycamore tree. Now he could see well, and even better than those who flocked about Christ. He was satisfied just to be able to see Jesus. The fact that Christ would be dining in his house that evening never crossed the mind of Zacchaeus. Many sinners awake from bed in the morning never realizing that their evening meal will be with Christ!
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. I would have liked being a fly on the limb of the sycamore tree to see the face of Zacchaeus when Christ stopped beneath him and looked up at him. Perhaps he expected a reprimand for the dreadful life he had led. Certainly, he did not expect Jesus to call his name. How would Jesus know HIS name? How, indeed! We learn here that regardless of our astonishment, when Jesus calls us, we respond with haste. The next breath is not a guarantee. We must act while light remains. We learn, too, that, although we have put ourselves up higher up in prayer to see Christ, we must descend from our high station with humble obedience when we go before Christ. “Come down,” is the command Christ gives all who would follow and dine with Him.
What amazement to Zacchaeus that Christ would abide in his house that day. When Christ comes into our hearts, He does not make a temporary visit – He comes to Abide (live there forever).
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. Friend, have you descended from your high perch and received Christ joyfully as this poor sinner, Zacchaeus, has done?
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. Don’t we always have the murmurrers among us in the church. They judge the dress, the hair, the shoes, the walk – everything of a stranger who comes into their company. Had they, themselves, not been grievous sinners, and were not most of them still in that condition?
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. The Roman law required this compensation for fraud, but the Jewish law required only the principal plus one fifth. Zacchaeus determined to satisfy both laws. This was not asked of Zacchaeus by Christ, but Zacchaeus was living by a different standard now – it was his desire to undo as much wrong as it was possible for him to do. He now had Christ in his home, and in his heart.
Now follows a beautiful expression of the covenant relationship that exists in the family of the man or woman who follows Christ: 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Salvation had come to the whole HOUSE of Zacchaeus – including the children. Zacchaeus may have been a lowly publican, but he was now fully a son of Abraham both in body and soul, for all who receive the Seed of Promise (Jesus Christ) are the true sons and daughters of Abraham and entitled to all rights and privileges of the Israel of God.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Lost when? Lost at the ill-winded Tree in Eden. When they opened there eyes in birth, and all since the fall of Adam in the Garden at Eden. Christ comes to save that which was lost, and He is there for the most dreadful of sinners, and even those who presume themselves to be morally good. What of your soul, friend? Have you climbed a tree just for a glimpse of Christ, or have you folded your Bible after worship last Sunday and just now opened it for a glimpse? Zacchaeus got more than a glimpse, and so will all who earnestly seek Him!