God didn’t want people to be surprised or unprepared for the coming of Jesus. This is why God sent his word through John the Baptist. John was to get people ready for Jesus and prepare the way of the Lord. He was like the Doberman Pinscher of Christmas.
Do you want to be made well? How many people caught in a troubled marriage refuse to seek counseling? How many people caught in the cycle of drug abuse feel desperate about their lives but won’t seek help because it might require change? People abuse their bodies and die early rather than change to a healthier lifestyle to live longer. People abuse their souls and watch those souls wither and perish rather than plug into the regenerating power of God’s love. Jesus knew that there are times when we are ill, and he asked us, “Do you want to be made well?” This is the focus of today’s message.
The people mutter, “Jesus has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” And they were right. Zacchaeus was a sinner of the worst kind. He had gotten rich from collaborating with invaders and by fleecing his neighbors. So, his neighbors regarded him as human filth. His name became a sneer on the lips of fellow Jews. He was a standing joke. But for some reason, Jesus chooses to dine with the most hated man in town.
I am lost. I am finished. My life is over. My luck has finally run out. I knew what the law was, I broke the law, and now I must pay. There are no more chances for me. I am out of appeals. There will be no last-minute legal maneuvering. There is no possibility of rescue or a miracle. This is the end. These thoughts may have gone through the mind of one of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus. But something caused the man to make an unreasonable request of Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus’ response to this request was startling.
One of the most powerful concepts of the Christian faith is forgiveness. Yet many of us struggle with it. Maybe we feel guilty over something we have done, and the feelings of shame hound us over the years. Or, possibly our relationships with others have been fractured, and people have been cut off from one another. So how do we work towards forgiveness with God, our neighbors, and our family and friends? In a four-week sermon series, we will explore the many dimensions of forgiveness.
Maybe you can’t imagine forgiving certain people in your life. Yet Jesus says that before we can fully worship God we are to be reconciled with our brother or sister. We know that forgiveness is one response to hurt and separation that we can choose but how do we work through the feelings and resistance we may have to forgive those who have hurt us deeply.