December 5, 2023
How Do I Respond to Jesus?
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“Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.” Luke 19:6 (NLT)
Is anyone here a dog person? For me, there’s nothing better than coming home after a long day and being greeted by my dog, who jumps and licks me like I’m the most important person in the world. These daily doses of relational joy remind me I am seen and delighted in, especially on hard days.
It’s the same feeling I get when I enter a room full of strangers and find a familiar face. My whole body relaxes as their eyes light up and they wave me over. It feels so good to be seen and to belong.
I wonder if this might be how it felt when people encountered Jesus in person.
In Luke 19:1-10, a wealthy man named Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus. He hurried ahead of the crowds and climbed a tree, hoping to catch just a glimpse of Him. Not only did he catch a glimpse, but Jesus saw Zacchaeus, called him out in front of everyone, and invited Himself over for dinner.
Zacchaeus could have been embarrassed or afraid when Jesus drew attention to him; he was a dishonest and disliked tax collector. He knew he was a sinner, undeserving of Jesus’ attention. But instead, “Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy” (Luke 19:6).
Like me in a room full of strangers when my friend waves me over, or me with my dog when she rushes to greet me, Zacchaeus readily responded to Jesus’ invitation for relationship and belonging as he hurried right over. Being invited into the presence of Jesus changed Zacchaeus. As a result, he willingly paid back four times the amount to all those he had cheated and gave half his possessions to the poor (Luke 19:8).
Just one chapter before, though, we find a similar story but a very different response to Jesus.
In Luke 18:18-23, a rich young ruler approached Jesus with a question. He sought affirmation that he’d done everything right to inherit eternal life. But when Jesus told him to sell everything and give it to the poor, he walked away sad.
He hoped to impress Jesus with his wealth and his works; instead, Jesus exposed his misguided heart. Eternal life was standing right in front of this man, but he missed it, distracted by his own merits and possessions, believing those could save him. He missed the opportunity of a relationship with Jesus. But Jesus didn’t shame or rebuke him. The gospel of Mark includes this detail: “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21a, NIV).
When we come into the presence of Jesus, how do we respond?
I’d like to say that I’m like Zacchaeus. That I joyfully hurry into His presence, knowing Jesus absolutely delights in me. But some days I go to Jesus ashamed, afraid He will condemn me for the ways I’ve messed up. Other times I approach Him overconfidently, bragging about how I’ve served others and how I deserve praise and a prize. Sometimes I respond like the rich young ruler, unwilling or fearful to let go of whatever I’m holding on to.
Maybe you do the same. But Jesus looks at us and loves us like He loved those two men. We can run excitedly to Him, surrendering all, as He invites us to be with Him.
Today, let’s choose to earnestly seek Jesus, who is waiting to embrace us with joy.
Lord, You delight in us and are so happy to be with us! Thank You for Your gift of Immanuel, God with us, this Christmas season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV).
In the comments below, share how you’re like Zacchaeus or how you’re like the rich young ruler. What do you need to surrender to God this Christmas season? Let us know in the comments!
© 2023 by Jodi Harris. All rights reserved.
Originally published Tuesday, 05 December 2023.