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Among the trees

Among the trees

Among the trees

30 December 2021

By Jo-Anne Brown

Trees are mentioned quite frequently in the Bible. In fact, the created world is a theme that runs through Scripture from the beginning (the creation of the Garden of Eden) to the end (the fruitful, healing trees of life in the restored Eden).

God often speaks to his people using trees as metaphors, and many of Jesus’ parables feature trees (or plant life) of some kind. One very interesting story is how a tree was used to bring about a healing encounter between Jesus and a wealthy government worker.

The story is told of a man who wanted to see who Jesus was. He was not tall, dark, and handsome – well, strictly speaking, we don’t know all of that for sure. We know he was short, wealthy and unpopular, given that he was a tax collector and possibly wealthy because of how he collected the taxes. We don’t know much about Zaccheus, but we do know he was considered by others to be a sinner and certainly not worthy of Jesus’ time or favour.

We don’t know what he had heard about Jesus, yet obviously, he had heard enough to make him curious. We catch only a glimpse of this man in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life. He was a seeker. He wanted to see – and he went to some effort to do that properly. Because of his height, he needed to be above the crowd – and perhaps because of his unpopularity, he also wanted to be separate from the crowd, unnoticed, hidden away in the foliage of a sycamore tree – unseen, yet able to see.

Among the crowd of people, Jesus knows Zaccheus is tucked away above them, nestled in the branches. Unexpectedly, he stops – he looks up – he calls Zaccheus by name. And he calls him home – in inviting himself to Zaccheus’ home for the day, Jesus is giving Zaccheus the opportunity to come home. To be at home. To find his true home – to discover who he is, other than a wealthy, unpopular tax collector.

Zaccheus welcomes his guest gladly, despite the mutterings of disapproval from the crowd, despite the thoughts that must be going through their minds about his unworthiness. Jesus sees – names – recognises the longing and need for healing in Zaccheus. Zaccheus welcomes the invitation to be at home with Jesus – and immediately proclaims his intention to make things right. From a desire to see and the commitment to do whatever is necessary comes an encounter that leads to transformation.

After a warm welcome, Zaccheus’ immediate response was the commitment to make things right and restore what needed to be restored – this is a whole-hearted and life-transforming commitment that would impact his whole household (from Luke 19:1-10).

Are there times in your own life when you have longed to truly see Jesus or to see him more clearly?

Major Jo-Anne Brown is a retired officer in Queensland.

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