Published on August 14, 2020


Learning from Zacchaeus

If you grew up going to church every week (like I did), you learned a lot of stories about the people in the Bible. One of the more comical characters was a dishonest tax collector named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He was curious about Jesus and wanted to see Him when He came to town, but he wasn’t eager to be seen, if you know what I mean.  He used his ingenuity and his tree-climbing skills to scamper up the nearest tree, and he settled in to wait for Jesus to pass by, master of his situation and all he surveyed.

What he did not factor into his plans was Jesus coming right up to where he was hiding and stopping. Looking up into Zacchaeus’ leafy hideaway, Jesus called for him to come down from the tree.  Jesus then proceeded to surprise everyone by going with Zacchaeus to his house where, over an impromptu meal, the whole sordid story of the man’s life came tumbling out. Zacchaeus underwent a dramatic change in his understanding of himself and his relationship to the world around him. The trajectory of his life was changed forever.

As a child, when I heard that story, it was easy to place myself in the Zacchaeus role—to imagine climbing a tree and hiding away, and then being found out and going home to have an afternoon snack with the big Man himself before signing on to be one of His followers.

However, as individuals who work in an organization where our stated mission is to extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing, we can identify with the story in a different way. We’ve been given a new role, a new purpose. We are not just Zacchaeus in the tree. We are also Jesus in the street.

In saying this I mean no disrespect, and I know we each still harbor an inner Zacchaeus and are each experiencing the transforming power of grace. But we are also called to be a part of the process  of discovery and transformation—healing, if you would. Now we are among those who are the agents of healing and change We are called to look beyond the easily visible and to connect with those who may have been hidden from our view for some reason.

Our mission is to help bring about improved health and a culture of health for our communities. In a time of crisis, such as the one we are collectively experiencing right now, when the pandemic threatens the health and lives of everyone, fulfilling this role becomes vital and essential.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer is quoted as saying, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” It is a statement that has never been truer—and more important. Called down out of our own trees, whatever they may be, and taking up the God-given mission of extending God’s care into the world around us, is both the process of our own healing and of those we have the opportunity to serve.

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