I want to tell you a story about someone short. I can identify. I mean I have to say I’m real happy there are some new year 7s in here because me and Mikayla are no longer the shortest people here!
Anyway my story is about this short guy called Zacchaeus.
Now they say that good things come in small packages but that was so not true about Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in his area and made a living ripping people off. People didn’t like him very much and defriended him on facebook and didn’t invite him to their parties or out to McDs for a frozen coke.
Anyway he heard that Jesus was in town and for some reason just kinda felt like he should go and see him. Like everyone else in his town.
Now short people problems here. No matter where he stood he couldn’t see. And people wouldn’t move to make way for him. So he ran ahead and climbed a tree beside so he could see Jesus.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.
Did you catch that. Jesus was walking by the tree, looked up and called Zacchaeus by name.
In the crowd Jesus saw this short guy. He picked him out. He knew His name.
You might feel like you’re one of the crowd. God knows your name, He sees you. He gets you.
You might be one of 2000 at your school and feel so insignificant but God looks at you and knows your name and gets you. You matter to Him. Out of a crowd at a packed assembly Jesus would be able to pick you out.
Do you know what else. God is the creator and knows every field, bird, creature and tree. That tree that Zacchaeus climbed was there on purpose because God knew that one day this moment in history would happen. God made sure there was a tree, the right kind of tree for climbing, that would be just the right height for Zacchaeus to climb, so that when Jesus walked by that there would be this divine encounter. Wild eh!
The other cool thing is that Jesus then wanted to go hang out with Zacchaeus. Everyone else looked at him and went “no thank you” Jesus looked at him and sent him a friend request and invited himself round for a party.
Let’s be honest, Zacchaeus was a rat. He was a jerk. He was ripping everyone off. He wasn’t the best friend candidate.
But Jesus looked at him and saw something gold in there, Jesus saw potential and promise. And greater, Jesus saw salvation and forgiveness.
No one is too far away for God to reach. No matter who you are and what you’ve done God loves you and wants you to be His friend.
The Bible says that He stands at the door of your heart and knocks, wanting you to let Him in so you can hang out together.
Zaccheaus was stoked that Jesus wanted to come to his place and he invited anyone and everyone that he knew that would come. He packed his place out with other tax collectors and people that the towns people and religious people said were no good.
Somehow Zacchaeaus got it that we don’t have to sort our stuff out first to come to Jesus, we can just come as we are. Jesus gives us a fresh start, a new way to live but we just come and He makes the change inside out. Its like when Jesus died on the cross He exchanged His perfect rap sheet for our rap sheet that has all the wrong things we’ve done on it. All the wrong thoughts, wrong actions, wrong words. Jesus takes them away and gives us a rap sheet that says INNOCENT and NOT GUILTY on it.
For me that moment happened at an Easter Camp when I was 16.
One day in my Classics class a girl I sat beside me asked if wanted to go to youth group with her. I looked at her and said “do they have boys there?” She was like, “duh, yeah”. So i was in! Yip, I went to youth group to meet guys. Man God is sneaky sometimes!
But notice – it was her invitation that got me along to youth group. I wonder who you sit beside? Who has God put in your life that He is wanting to show His reality and love to?
Anyway, I went along and on the first night there was someone there, yes a guy, with a guitar and he said we’re going to have worship now, and he then prayed. Everyone closed their eyes and bowed their heads and I was woah, what is this? What is happening? But then my woah turned into a WOAH because I had this sudden realization that God was real and that I could know Him. That I MUST know Him.
I went along to their Easter Camp, knowing I was going to become a Christian. I didn’t know what that meant but I was ready to give my everything to Jesus. I think I thought that being a Christian meant I would have to wear gray, be really boring and never listen to heavy metal music again. But that sense that it would be all worth it was so strong that I was ready to wear gray, be boring and listen to nuns singing soprano. Forever.
We had our Easter Camp in a shearing shed and shearers quarters. The preacher talked about a whole heap of things I had no idea about and then told us to go and talk to God. By ourselves. Like TALK TO GOD. I had no idea what that meant. and I didn’t think God would want to listen to me! I sat under a huge tree and sobbed my heart out. The only thing I knew about God I learned while going to the catholic church sometimes with my mum. I thought that I had to be good to make it to heaven. that it was my goodness that would make okay. That if I was good enough then when I died st peter would open the pearly gates… yip, I thought that.
That night I learned that it didn’t matter how good I was, Jesus was perfect. He lived a perfect life and then died in my place, exchanging my sin and rap sheet, for His perfectness. Jesus is more than good enough.
I learned that God loved me and that no one is good enough. That we’ve all made mistakes and sinned and run away from God. But that God made a plan because He loves each one of us, personally, so that we can come close and be called friends of God. This plan involved Jesus being nailed to the cross and dying, not because of anything He had done but because of everything I had done. But He didn’t stay dead, He rose again and that shows that nothing is impossible for Him, that He can make us not guilty, that He can heal us, that He is really really God.
The preacher asked those that wanted to be “born again” to come up the front. Now that was something I had never heard of. Born again? What that means is that before we become Christians on the inside we’re dead. The spirit part of us is wrecked by sin. But when we come to know God, when we are born again, when we are saved, God makes that part of us come alive. He fills us with the Holy Spirit and it’s like we change species!
I was lost, but then I was found.
I was dead but then I was alive.
I was sinful but then I was made perfect and innocent.
Wow! Wow! Wow!
I went up the front and nothing like I had ever imagined or expected happened. I felt God. Tangibly. For real.
And I knew. I knew that I knew that I knew that God was real and that He loved me. That Jesus died for me and that I was now clean and innocent. Pure. Holy even.
I was like Zacchaues. I was short. I was a sinner. But then Jesus picked me out of the crowd at Easter Camp and invited me to open my life to Him, so He could be my friend, my Lord, my Saviour.
This is the invitation into greatness that Jesus offers.
It’s not about being nice.
Or good enough.
But it’s about knowing an amazing God.
Jesus wants to do amazing things in your life this year.
Tonight Jesus is calling your name. Its like you’re up that tree and Jesus looks up and says “hey Joel, hey Lucas, hey Brad, hey Eva, hey Asher”
And all each one of us have to do, whether we aren’t a chrsitian yet and want to become one, or whether we’ve been one all our lives, or whether we’ve only been one a short time, all each one of us has to do is say YES to Jesus.
You know what happened to Zacchaeus when he said yes to Jesus. Jesus forgave him and his whole life changed. He gave up tax collecting and lived a whole new way as a friend of God.
This year God is calling you to step out of the boat and to pursue God like never before, with a new sense of urgency and a new sense of push. You choose to do that. You choose to do that here at church and youth group, and you choose to do that at home. How fast you run, how far you run and how hard you run after God is up to you. God is calling you to run fast, run far and run hard but you’ve got to do the miles. The more you run the more you’ll get out of God. Some say God is boring but I challenge them that they haven’t really encountered the amazing living God because He is wild and amazing. Don’t get lax about your relationship with God. Don’t sit back and just go with the flow. Run hard after God.