Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19: 1-10
Most of us are familiar with the story of Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector in Jericho. If you think the Internal Revenue Service is tough now, the tax collectors of Jesus’ day were even worse. Because there was no uniform tax code, the tax collectors assessed whatever they felt was fair of a family’s property, often taking way too much and pocketing some of the haul for themselves. Needless to say, the tax collectors were social pariahs.
When Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho, he wanted to see him. Because he was short of stature, most likely he tried to get a seat in front of the crowd. Of course, no way was anyone going to give a seat of honor to the town low-life. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus.
When Jesus came to the place and saw Zacchaeus, He implored him to come down, telling him that He wished to stay in his house that very day. He didn’t tell him to stop by the office or make an appointment with one of the disciples. He told Zacchaeus that He must come to His house and He must come today. Zacchaeus, moved by Jesus’ desire to come to his home and to do so immediately, repented, telling Jesus that he would give half his goods to the poor and if he had defrauded anyone, he would restore what had been taken fourfold. Jesus then said “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)
What makes one lost? There are two criteria, what others think and what the person who is lost thinks. Let’s create a person, Michael. Michael goes for a walk in the woods. Michael’s family cannot find him, so they consider him lost. Michael is walking around, thinking he is going the right way. He does not consider himself lost yet. At some point, Michael cannot find his way back and realizes he is lost, long after others have arrived at the same conclusion.
There are two kinds of people who are lost, when it comes the Jesus. One kind is the kind of people who we know don’t know who Jesus is, who we know would benefit from knowing Him. The second kind is the person who is lost in life, who has heard of Jesus, and who, like Zacchaeus, would like to know who Jesus is, but doesn’t have the means to find Him.
For the first kind of lost person, we should be witnessing through example. I’ve never been one try to coerce people to come to church or come to Christ. When there is an opportunity to tell my neighbor something wonderful that has happened in my Christian life, I do.
For the second kind of person, the one who I know is lost in life and is looking for something to fill their emptiness, this is the person that ideally I would go up and straight out invite them to come to church and to come to Christ. Again, this is the ideal and I, like everyone else, falls short of the ideal.
It is our job to find Zacchaeus. And who is Zacchaeus? Anyone who doesn’t know Christ, and especially anyone who wants to know Christ. Zacchaeus could be our neighbor or our co-worker. It will take a little more work to bring them to Christ, it will take a direct invitation. Zacchaeus could be in the pews of our church. Zacchaeus is the college student trying to stay with the faith while all their peers have left. Zacchaeus is the newly divorced or newly widowed person who is trying to pick up the pieces and build a new life. Zacchaeus is the eager little child who makes noise in church, who wants to stand on the pews so he or she can see what’s going on. Zacchaeus is the person who has married a church member but is not a member yet and feels out of place in a new church. Zacchaeus is the person who has had a crisis and thinks God is turning His back on them. Zacchaeus is the first time visitor to the church who doesn’t know anyone yet.
In short, Zacchaeus is everyone who wants to know who Christ is. And it’s the mission of the Church to minister to “Zacchaeus” in whatever circumstance we find him. As we set up our churches and fill our calendars with events, we should pause often to think of “Zacchaeus” and ask ourselves, as we looking for the lost, in order to seek and save them? And, just as important, is there a sense of urgency to do something today?
Let my cry come before Thee, O Lord; give me understanding according to Thy word! Let my supplication come before Thee; deliver me according to Thy word. My lips will pour forth praise that Thou dost teach me Thy statutes. My tongue will sing of Thy word, for all Thy commandments are right. Let Thy hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Thy precepts. I long for Thy salvation, O Lord, and Thy law is my delight. Let me live, that I may praise Thee, and let Thy ordinances help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant, for I do not forget Thy commandments. Psalm 119:168-176
Seek and save the “lost”!
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The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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