When was the last time you invited yourself to someone else’s place for a meal?
Have you ever done it? If yes, was your self-initated invitation with someone you know, or a complete stranger?
If you’ve invited yourself to a complete strangers house for a meal, I’d love to hear about it!
That sort of thing just doesn’t happen, especially if you move in nice, polite, “christian” circles. Basic social etiquette would dictate that inviting yourself to someone else’s place for lunch is not the done thing. In the case of close family or friends it’s probably excusable. But it would be considered the height of rudeness to invite yourself to a complete strangers house for lunch.
Yet this is exactly what Jesus does.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
This is a fascinating encounter. It tells us a lot about Jesus’ heart for people and how He seeks to work in our lives.
In inviting himself over to Zacchaeus’ house Jesus is not demonstrating that He’s some sort of rude, opportunistic freeloader. Zacchaeus is curious about Jesus, he wanted to see Jesus and know more about Him. Zacchaeus is marginalised and on the fringe of society. Yes, he’s wealthy but we don’t get the sense that he has many, or any, genuine friends.
Zacchaeus doesn’t know that he could ever invite someone like Jesus to his house. Jesus knows otherwise. Jesus has a deep passion for the Zacchaeus’ of the world and He desires more for Zacchaeus’ life than Zacchaeus would even know to be possible.
Knowing this, Jesus doesn’t wait for an invitation. An invitation won’t ever be issued. Consequently, love doesn’t wait to be invited love invites Himself.
In this encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus models the invitation of love for our life.
1. Love sees us from a distance
We love because He first loved us. We stand on the periphery of love. We climb a tree and observe it. We are curious about love, how it works, what it might mean for our lives. We sing about it. We write about it. We try and pursue it in stuff and other people and experiences. We think loves doesn’t notice us and yet it is love that looks to our hiding place and catches our eye.
2. Love calls us by name
You are not anonymous. You are not a number. You are not just another random person in the crowd. You are valued. You are loved. The person in the tree has a name and love knows their name and calls them by name.
3. Love invites us to be participants rather than observers
Love calls us in from the fringes and margins. Love is not something merely to be witnessed but enacted and engaged in.
4. Love desires to be at the centre of our lives
Love doesn’t just hang out on the streets as a casual acquaintance. Love seeks to be right at the heart of where we live.
5. Love prioritises relationship over repentance
Jesus doesn’t condemn, judge or demand change in Zacchaeus’ life. Jesus doesn’t ask Zacchaeus to clean up his act or his house before the relationship can commence or continue. Zacchaeus makes that decision himself as a response to Jesus’ love. Here we see that repentance is an unsolicited response to love. Zacchaeus can’t help but want to change, to turn his life around, because of the impact of love in his life.
This has profound implications for our own lives. And once we observe and accept Jesus’ invitation of love for our life we are called to model the same to others.
Does this mean we should be inviting ourselves to random people’s places for lunch? Possibly not.
Understand though that people are curious about who you are and how you live your life. Jesus’ love in you, makes other people curious. There are likely to be people on the fringe of your life that need you to take a risk and invite yourself into the heart of where they live. People who need you to initiate invitation and just practically love them. Get to know them. Understand where they currently reside.
Don’t demand that they change. Model change. As you do, people will desire to change because of the impact of love in their life.
Have you accepted Jesus’ invitation of love for your life?
If you have, as you read this, who are the people you think of on the fringes of your life?
Will you initiate an invitation and what might that look like?