Seeing Jesus – Part 5 – The Zacchaeus Protocol
Imagine the man’s dilemma. By the time he was able to close-up shop and make his way to the parade route, the crowd had already occupied the best vantage points. And it continued to swell and move and become denser as the visitor made His way along the street.
As if it weren’t bad enough that his neighbors despised him—a Jew, working for the Romans to bilk them of their shekels—such that the crowd would find sport in preventing him from getting a glimpse of the visitor, he was also short, a “wee, little man” as the children’s song has it. So not only could he not see through the crowd, he could not see over it, either.
But he was determined. Looking down the avenue, anticipating the visitor’s route, he spied a sycamore tree close to the road. Running as fast as he could, he seized a lower branch of the tree, hoisted himself up into it, caught his breath, and waited.
But he didn’t have to wait long. Soon, Jesus would pass by, and Zacchaeus would see the One about Whom he’d heard so much, and in Whom he had placed some undefined hope of something more than the wretched life his had become.
And then, miracle of miracles! Upon reaching the tree, Jesus “looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house’” (Lk. 19.5).
Imagine the surprise, the shock, the indescribable joy that swept over that little despised man! Not only had he seen Jesus, but Jesus had seen him. And spoken to him. And He intended to “stay” with him, in his house, where who could know what wonders or mysteries might unfold? What transformation might occur?
And in Zacchaeus’ adventure of seeing Jesus, we may discern a protocol, as it were, for seeing Him as well. And here we must be brief.
First, to see Jesus we must know the One we seek. Zacchaeus knew Him by reputation only. We know Him much more: His appearance, that glorious face (2 Cor. 4.6), that majestic—to the point of frightening—mien (Rev. 1.13-17), those sin-eradicating scars in His hands and side (Lk. 24.30, 31; Jn. 20.24-28), that unsurpassed beauty and strength (Ps. 27.4), that all-around radiance that overbrims with life, that voice which, if it but spoke our name would melt our souls into purest love (Jn. 20.16). If we know Jesus, we may be assured of seeing Him. As we drink in with our eyes, absorb into our mind, and delight with all our heart in every depiction or description of Him which Scripture affords, we will cherish Him as of the greatest interest, the most profound beauty, and the goal most to be attained.
Second, if we would see Jesus, we must go to where we expect to meet Him. The operative word here is “expect.” If we do not expect to meet Jesus in His Word, in the things He has created and sustains which surround us every day, and in the silence of prayer and meditation—if we do not expect to meet Him there, we’ll neither go there seeking Him, or we will surely be distracted by things less than Jesus, some object, or doctrine, or fleeting thought or emotion.
To see Jesus, we must, like Zacchaeus climbing that tree, exert ourselves beyond what is ordinary. We must seek a vantage point that will allow us to see beyond our mundane experience, over our doubts, and through the veil of unbelief that typically blocks our vision, opening the eyes of our heart and setting our mind on the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1.15-22; Col. 3.1-3). A quiet place, underneath a tree or on a hilltop, looking out the window on a train, gazing at the night sky, walking alone in the dark, lying awake in bed—vantage points are as numerous as our moods, and we must find the ones that best allow us to see Jesus and resort to them frequently.
There we must strain to see the glory in Jesus’s face (2 Cor. 4.6), for only when we have seen that glory will we know that we have seen God. As Calvin wrote, “True, indeed, God in Christ appears in the first instance to be mean, but he appears at length to be glorious in the view of those, who hold on, so as to come from the cross to the resurrection.” We must focus and concentrate and hold on to our desire to see Jesus and the glory in His face until at length we see Jesus seeing us, and our soul opens to receive whatever He would say.
Then linger in His gaze and in the sweetness of His Word. Whisper to Him, “let Your face shine, O LORD God of hosts, that I may know a greater measure of your salvation and a fuller portion of your transforming grace, and that I may see my own self reflected in Your eyes as Your Spirit transforms me into Your image” (Ps. 80.19; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). And resolve to Him, like Zacchaeus, that you will this day be more a man of His Kingdom, beyond what you have ever dreamed or known, and more like Jesus Himself.
Would you see Jesus today? Let the wee man of Jericho guide you. Find a vantage point, a place that will allow you to rise above the merely mundane. Fix the eyes of your heart to see Him Whom you know. And stay the course until His face full of glory meets your glory-seeking soul, and you are transfixed and transformed.