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A Little Man

Jesus looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.

Zacchaeus hears that Jesus is passing through Jericho. What compels him to go and seek a glimpse? Is it curiosity mixed with the kind of hope that brings us to church on Sundays. For, to be honest, we are all hoping that salvation will come to our house –  hoping that Jesus will recognize us, call out to us, change us, but not too much. We don’t know if we want to be changed – not really . . . But still we have come.

He is too short to see over the crowds that block the narrow streets. He runs ahead, his fine tasseled robes flapping about his stubby ankles. Do you see this comical figure, this little man who hasn’t climbed a tree since he was a child, now in the throws of hope fairly bursting within him, climbing the tree, grunting and straining, all of the veneer of the man he projects stripped away, like a little child again, hoping for a glance of Hope he has heard is in this man who comes through Jericho this day?

Jesus stops, just beneath him, and Zacchaeus holds his breath. What he both most wants and most fears happens. Jesus looks up with a smile upon his face and calls out to him by name, and offers him the great invitation: his embrace, his acknowledgement, his gracious friendship. “Hurry! Come down out of that tree, you silly little man, for I must stay at your house today!” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

I don’t know if what I have said strikes you at all this morning, but I believe it strikes someone. Someone, like me, who has grown so bone weary of projecting a persona to the world that denies who you really are; someone who is tired of chasing after happiness and fulfillment and joy, and God without coming to terms with the sinful, broken, little person that you are afraid to admit resides within you. Can you see Jesus, looking up at your silly little self and saying to you, “Hurry! Time’s a-wasting! Come on down to me and let me love you for I do, I really do. You don’t have to be somebody else, for I will change who you are, as I come to stay with you at your place.” It is that experience in my life; not once, but a thousand times, that saves me, and I believe saves you. “Hurry! Come down. Let me live in the place you live.”

That’s what Zacchaeus did, and he was a changed man. It takes a Big Man to repent. It takes a Big Man to let loose of an old life and start a new one. It takes a Big Man to turn his back on all that he has done over the years to cope with the little man that controlled him. But, Zacchaeus had become a Big Man by the love of God in the smile and embrace of Jesus. “I’ll give it all back; I’ll repay all those I’ve cheated times four! I’ll do it because I have something grander and more glorious for which to live….He called me. He accepted me. He invited me to be the man I was always intended to be!”

O lost and little men and women (for that is what we all are) the Master has come to seek and to save folks like you and me. What we hope for is given us, if only we can set aside our pride and see him calling to us in love. He left Jericho and went to Jerusalem, and there he gave his life in the same love with which he calls us today.

In the end, that is the reason we seek Him. It is why we baptize our children. It is why we support the church – Christ’s head, heart and hands in the world. He has called us by name and he WILL change us – into the Big Women and Men he has always intended us to be. “Hurry. Come to me. I have to stay at your house today.”

Tupper Garden is the Senior Pastor at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church in Roanoke. Visit RCPC on the web at

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