How to Fit a Camel Through a Needle
Zacchaeus was short and he was also a sinner – no relation.
Zacchaeus was a man unfamiliar with Love as evidenced by how he lived his life. He was a thief and he was also a tax collector – no relation.
However, when it came to Zacchaeus, it seems he used his position of power to steal from the people in his hometown of Jericho.
And they didn’t love him for it.
One day, while sitting in a tree in order to catch a glimpse of the arriving famous fella from Nazareth, Zacchaeus encountered the good news. He met Jesus, who loves both sinners and tax collectors.
I imagine you know the story. It’s found in Luke. It’s also been wonderfully preserved in a children’s song that employs the words wee and little.
As Jesus walked through the crowded street, past Zacchaeus’ tree, he looked up and by name greeted the short fella. “Zacchaeus, I must come to your house tonight!” He said. And then Jesus, Love in human form, the Son of God, went to the wee little sinner’s place for dinner.
I’m sure you remember what happened next?
Jesus made sure that Zacchaeus knew he was desperately wicked. He pointed out a number of Zacchaeus’ sins and informed him that if he didn’t change his ways he was on the fast train to hell. Then, just in case Zacchaeus didn’t understand, Jesus described hell. Finally, after Zacchaeus was convinced of his shame and unworthiness, Jesus told him God loved him.
My favorite part of this story is when the disciples handed out tracks to the passers-by. The tracks were pretty clever. One side looked like money while the other had some inspirational writing on it, about the horrors of hell horrors of and how God loves you so much that He will send you there if you don’t live a life of strict obedience.
Is my sarcasm too strong?
The fact is, not once did Jesus mention Zacchaeus’ sinful ways. Not once did He chastise him, correct him, or challenge him. There was no shameful insinuation, no demeaning eye-rolling, no suggestive mothering tone in Jesus’ voice; quite the opposite. Jesus’ actions were loud and clear. “I love you and I am going to treat you the way my Father sees you.”
Jesus values Zacchaeus, He sees the goodness in him, and He celebrates him. Jesus honors Zacchaeus. There was no shame, no condemnation, only Love.
Then the most amazing thing happens; Zacchaeus is transformed. Where just moments earlier he was a sinner, now suddenly he becomes a saint.
Suddenly, the sinner, now saint, declares that he will give half of what he owns to the poor and return four times what he stole.
How did this happen?
I believe mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin, both expressions of our Fathers always-good love.
I have heard mercy and grace described like this, “Mercy is not getting what you deserve, and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.” I like that. I also think you could say it this way: “Mercy reveals our Father and settles the issue of sin. Grace reveals our Father and settles the issue of identity.”
Zacchaeus was a thief and a liar, he had a sinful nature, he was prone to wander. But one encounter with Sovereign Love changed everything. When he saw and encountered Love, the sinner was transformed into a saint.
How did this happen? It’s simple; Jesus was the Father’s love revealed. Zacchaeus met with Jesus, saw his Father’s nature and embraced mercy. And then Zacchaeus saw himself through His Fathers eyes and stepped into grace. And he was transformed.
That’s what grace is: God empowering us to become how He sees us.
One evening with perfect Love and the sinner is transformed. Now that he clearly sees his Father, he clearly sees himself. He is a generous man.
The new saint’s outrageous generosity was an immediate and powerful transformation. It was the miraculous on “earth as it is in heaven” that always follows revelation.
Suddenly the sinner who had lived under the reproachful title of “thief,” the sinner who had lived under the shame of greed, and the sinner who had been unmoved by years of condemnation from an entire town was forever changed by one evening with perfect sovereign Love…
Threading A Camel Through the Needle’s Eye
Zacchaeus was living in one reality when he was introduced to a greater revelation – Love.
He encountered Love, saw Himself from Love’s perspective, and decided to agree with how Love saw him.
Through man’s eyes, Zacchaeus was a self-centered, small-minded, thieving, liar. Through Love’s eyes, he was a generous, large-hearted believer who was capable of incredible generosity. From his Heavenly Father’s perspective, Zacchaeus was supernaturally generous; he was prone to love. The moment he realized God saw him as generous, he became generous.
This was a miracle as big as blind eyes opening, as cancer leaving. Jesus said this kind of miracle would be akin to a camel crawling through the eye of a needle. A rich man who moments earlier lived his entire life for money, suddenly is transformed into a generous man completely free from the shackles of greed.
It’s not in the nature of a sinner to give as he gave. But it is in the nature of a saint.
I have discovered that our heavenly Father always interacts with us through His great love by releasing mercy and grace. He sees us through the death and resurrection of His Son.
What About Repentance?
When I meet with Him, there is never condemnation, shame, or guilt. He is never interested in bringing up my past weaknesses or failures. Instead, He forgives and redeems, He restores and empowers.
Understand, I am not saying I am unaware of where I’ve failed, nor am I undermining repentance. But repentance is simply the act of changing the way I think and act to agree with His perspective.
Understand, I am not belittling sin; I am praising His love. I am not ignoring evil, I am celebrating His goodness.
How to be a Saint
As a believer, I am learning that what I think about me should always be determined by what my heavenly Father thinks about me. I must see myself from my His perspective. You see, through God’s eyes, Zacchaeus wasn’t a self-centered, small-minded, thieving, liar; he was a generous large-hearted believer who was capable of outrageous giving. When we see ourselves through God’s eyes, we become saints, capable of all the things that sinners aren’t.
I am convinced that God so desires us to know and believe His love because in doing so we are set free and empowered to be saints.
All we have to do is simply encounter God’s nature and agree with it. We experience a revelation of our Father’s love, and surrender to Him.
In His perfect love, His mercy and His grace, we are transformed.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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