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Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Luke 19:1-10

“Who is the One Jesus is Seeking?”

 I want to start with something funny. I found this story on an internet site: A few minutes before the church service began, people were sitting in the pews talking. Suddenly, Satan appeared at the front of the church. Everyone started screaming and running for the front entrance, trampling each other in a frantic effort to escape the evil incarnate. Soon everyone had exited the church except for one elderly gentleman who sat calmly in his pew without moving, seeming oblivious to the fact that God’s ultimate enemy was in his presence.

So Satan walked up to the old man and said, “Don’t you know who I am?” The man replied, “Yep, sure do.” “Aren’t you afraid of me?” Satan asked. “Nope, I sure am not,” said the man. “Don’t you realize I can kill you with a word?” asked Satan. “Don’t doubt it for a minute,” returned the old man in an even tone. “Did you know I could cause you profound, horrifying, physical agony for all eternity?” persisted Satan. “Yep,” he said with a calm reply. “And you’re still not afraid?” asked Satan. “Nope.” More than a little angry, Satan asked, “Well, why aren’t you afraid of me?” The man calmly replied, “I have been married to your sister for over 48 years.”

We may all have a family member or a friend who we strongly feel the need to pray for. Perhaps, this person causes deep emotional turmoil in your life and the lives of others.  That may lead you to question, “Why do I have this person in my life?”

Here is my story where I questioned why my father was in my family.  In my memories of my childhood, my father was the person who was a great burden to my family. My father was not a good worker; he was weak, lazy, and enjoyed drinking. The townspeople gossiped about my father. My father drank almost every day and often made mistakes. My siblings and I felt ashamed of my father. I regarded my father as someone who sinned against my family. I didn’t want to have conversations with my father. Instead, I avoided him. When I left my house to further my education, I was relieved because I didn’t have to see him. When I got into an accident and was hospitalized, my father and the rest of my family came to see me in the hospital. But, my father stood far away from me while talking with the other family members. My father and I didn’t say anything to each other. I still remember how he stood far from me, showing me his shoulder and backside, and he seemed lonely and sad. My father never came to see me again for the 3 years while I was staying in the hospital. Since I met God in the hospital through a pastor, I repented first that I couldn’t love my father. And then I asked my family to pray for my father.

While reading today’s scripture, I recalled my father through Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector in Jericho and was rich. Jericho is a prosperous city economically and politically. A scholar said, “Jericho was the most city, collected much tax in Israelite at that time.” Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in the city. However, he was regarded as a sinner in society. The reason is that he collected taxes for Rome and stole some of money for himself to increase his wealth. He must have felt isolated. He was rich materially, but he must have been poor emotionally and spiritually to make the choices he did.

One day, Jesus came to Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. As usual, many people followed him. Perhaps, Zacchaeus heard about Jesus; it might be that he was a friend of the sinners; it might be that he was complimentary about a tax collector’s prayer. Anyway, he wanted to see Jesus. But two things blocked him from seeing Jesus. As verse 3 says, “He was trying to see who Jesus was, but because of the crowd, he could not come to Jesus, and because he was short, he couldn’t see him.” The crowd and his shortness blocked him from seeing Jesus. One more thing blocked him; it might be the social judgment that he was a sinner. He, perhaps, thought of himself as a sinner. These thoughts prevented him from getting through the people to see Jesus.

However, he didn’t give up. He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him because Jesus would pass the way. When Jesus passed by, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” It was amazing how Jesus knew him. God’s grace was with him when he had a mind to see Jesus. The grace gave him a passionate interest in seeing Jesus without giving up. Jesus never missed him, even though he was hidden by a tree and all the people. At that very moment, Jesus called him “Zacchaeus,” and he opened his mind to receive God’s grace and love. Many people around him still judged him as a sinner and grumbled at Jesus, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Hearing that, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, like he was proclaiming the gospel, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” It was his witness that God is with him.

He, perhaps, heard about a story of a rich man; who came to Jesus, asking how he could get eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). The rich man practiced God’s commandments well, but he couldn’t share his possessions with the poor. When Jesus said to him, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me.” But, the rich man went away sadly and never came back to Jesus. Zacchaeus, perhaps, heard about the law as well, that “if you cheated anyone, you should pay it back double.” But, he would pay it back four times. Jesus said, “Today, salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus, who met Jesus, changed his mind about sharing with the poor. The reason Jesus passed Jericho was to save him among the many people. Through him, Jesus saved his whole family.

Who is the One Jesus is seeking today? When I met Jesus through a pastor in the hospital, I thought Jesus knew me and waited for me to open my mind to see him. Yes, perhaps that is right. However, much later, I realized Jesus wanted to save my whole family through my father. Once I entered the seminary, my family suffered even more because of my father’s drunken behavior. However, we knew we couldn’t make things happen without prayer. The more we prayed for my father, my father’s behavior became worse. Sometimes he came to my younger sister’s school drunkenly and rebuked her teachers, and he came to the church during service time with drunkenness and yelled in the church. The pastor who served the church didn’t get upset with my father. Instead, he smiled at my father and said, “Welcome to the church.” He might have been lonely at home because all my family went to church except my father. I told him before the people, “Father, I love you, and we welcome you to the church. We hope we can come to the church with you.” Since then, he cut back on his drinking. Finally, he came to the church with us and was baptized by the pastor. After he received baptism, he removed the house temple of the ancestor and stopped ancestor worship. He suggested home worship services. Through his decision, my family stopped ancestor worship and became Christians. The good news is that Jesus seeks out the ones who are the lost, and through you, he is still seeking the one who you are concerned about. I was the lost, but I was found, as was my father.

Is there anyone among your family or friends who you are concerned about? Jesus said, “This kind comes out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). Only through prayer can the burden and concern be lifted. Who knows, Jesus may be seeking them through you? Who is the one Jesus seeks among our families or neighbors? Don’t judge them-pray for them. They are also God’s children. Thanks be to God. Amen!