Little Man Syndrome
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” | Luke 19:9-10 (NLT)
This passage concludes Dr Luke’s record of Jesus’ dealings with Zacchaeus. You may know the story… Zacchaeus, a man whose diminutive stature was in proportion to his moral integrity, climbed a tree to catch sight of the approaching Jesus. Hidden out of public view, he couldn’t escape the attention of Jesus. Summonsed down from his branch, Zacchaeus was told that Jesus, the Son of Man, would come for tea. Life was about to change beyond recognition.
The preceding verses tell us that the crowd grumbled when they saw that Jesus had chosen to spend his time with someone like Zacchaeus, and Jesus’ response is today’s verses.
We could say much about the phrase ‘true son of Abraham’, but for now let’s paraphrase Jesus: ‘This guy stood before you now is saved because, like your Father Abraham, he’s not trusting in himself for his salvation, but is trusting me.’ (A statement like that may not sound much but really would have ruffled the feathers of those who heard it).
But then Jesus goes ultra-explicit in his mission statement. If you’ve read the Gospel accounts of Jesus, you’ll know that there were times when he spoke in riddles or ways that had an element of mystery and concealment to them (at least to some of the hearers… including the disciples at times, which is encouraging!) Not so here. Identifying himself as the Son of Man, he made his intentions plain: ‘There are many people who are lost; I’ve come to seek and save them.’
“Lost” was not a comfortable phrase to the religious ‘powers that be’, nor those who were deeply invested in proving their worth through their own deeds and best efforts. They, in their own minds, were anything but lost. And therein lay the problem. They were buried so deeply in their own misunderstanding and misguidedness that they didn’t know they were lost.
My Grandad frequently used to ‘know a shortcut’. He would confidently head down lanes and across country on days out as if he knew where he was going, and would dismiss my Grandma’s concerns about our status by asserting all the more insistently that he knew where we were and where he was going. The problem was: He generally didn’t!
Unlike our onward journeys as children, which eventually improved with the help of an A-Z, the genuinely lost masses scoffed at Jesus’ decision to spend time with Zacchaeus. ‘Doesn’t he know his reputation?’, ‘Does he know what he does for a job, and what that means for decent people like us?’ ‘What would he want with a loser like that?’ were probably thoughts they had. But Jesus knew Zacchaeus was lost, and Jesus knew that Zacchaeus knew he was lost. Zacchaeus knew, deep down, that he needed to see Jesus. Something told him so. Some internal discomfort with his lot in life said he needed to get a glimpse of this guy.
Knowing his own need – his own ‘lostness’ – was crucial. Imagine the number of people Jesus walked passed who didn’t know they were lost so didn’t recognise their need of ‘The Way’. But Zacchaeus knew, and so he climbed.
And Jesus knew, and so he called.
Maybe you’re lost.
Maybe you’re doing a decent job of denial, but you know deep down you’re lost. That something, somewhere, is out of kilter. That the riches you’ve amassed haven’t dealt with the itch, haven’t satisfied the longing.
Maybe admitting you’re lost would be hard. After all, lost is weakness, and we mustn’t be weak, must we? Or you’ve done such a good job of creating the impression to others that you’re not lost – attending church, doing ‘good things’ – that to admit it now would be ridiculous.
Maybe your actions cause you to fear the views of others, or want to hide, just like Zacchaeus. Maybe you, like him, have heard about ‘this Jesus’ and you want to know more – maybe just catch a glimpse.
Climb the tree.
Have a glance.
But be careful; when he sees you and calls your name – and he will – your life will never be the same.
You see Jesus, whose earthly ministry is now complete, is still in the business of seeking and saving the lost.
Come down from the tree. Be found.