“…Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2 (Msg)
When Paul challenged his readers to observe how Christ loved, we have only to read the Gospels to see His love manifest in the way He related with others. Whether is was with a prostitute or a priest, a beggar or a billionaire, Jesus’ love was never cautious but extravagant! He never loved to get something, but to give everything of Himself to others.
Of the many examples that show us how Jesus loved in the Gospels, I love the story of the tax collector named Zacchaeus who heard Jesus was passing through his town and sought to meet Him. Luke’s gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. In his day and age, this would have made Zacchaeus especially hated by the Jews. Tax collectors profited by exploiting their fellow Jews, charging more for taxes than Rome demanded. Despite his wealth, Zacchaeus was missing something that success couldn’t offer. There was an emptiness in his soul that money couldn’t fill, a longing for significance and meaning. It’s that divine sense of purpose working through the ages that nothing under the sun can satisfy but only God Himself! We were made by God and for God, and nothing but God can fill that void in our hearts.
So, Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus. The problem was that he was too short to see over the crowds of people who also pressed in to see Jesus themselves. I think that is too often the case today as well. Could it be that one of the reasons people can’t see Jesus is because “Christians” get in the way? If people are going to see Jesus today, they need to see Him in us. To what extent can others see Jesus in you? That’s a convicting question for me as well. Am I blocking someone’s view of Christ because of my critical spirit and judgmental attitude, or am I reflecting His image so that they can see Jesus in me?
Because he couldn’t see over the crowds, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree. Here’s a guy who literally went out on a limb to see Jesus! I wonder how many people around us every day are reaching for that same limb? They desperately want to see Jesus!
The next verse in Luke’s narrative gives us our first real insight into loving like Jesus. It says,
“When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up….” Luke 19:5
This tells me that, if I’m to love like Jesus, I must see others like Jesus does! Jesus saw Zacchaeus. He saw through his wealth and status. He saw his need! He saw his longing for something more than his money could buy. He saw what no one else around could see. We know that because verse 7 tells us,
“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He (Jesus) has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”
Everyone else saw a wicked sinner, a thief who exploited them to make himself rich! Jesus saw his need. Jesus saw a lost soul and loved him enough to risk His own reputation by going to his house for dinner. That’s the way Jesus loves! That’s the way He loves me and you!
Another Gospel writer, Matthew, summed up how Jesus sees us like this,
“When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (NLT)
I don’t know about you; but, too often, when I see the crowds, I’m annoyed and impatient. I’m so concerned by what I need to get done that I don’t think about their needs. Ever have to wait in a long line at the DMV or a check-out stand when you’re in a hurry? Not sure it was compassion for the crowd in front of you that you were feeling, was it? We all have agendas we need to complete. Well, so did Jesus. If you go back and re-read the story in Luke 19, you will notice something fascinating in the first verse. It’s so easy to miss that, if you don’t pause, you will pass right over it. Here’s what it says,
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.”
Seems sort of insignificant at first. Put this verse in perspective with the whole story of Jesus and you will find that Jesus was on a mission. He was heading toward Jerusalem to give His life for all mankind! He had an appointment for redemption! Yet, He stops here in Jericho, to come to the home of a sinner named Zacchaeus, as if He had all the time in the world! Zacchaeus’ life was miraculously transformed by that visit! In fact, if you’ll look closely, almost all of Jesus’ miracles were really divine interruptions to His schedule!
If I am to love like Jesus, I must see like Jesus. Spiritual maturity is not based on how much we know, but how much we love like Jesus. Do I see like Jesus? I want to challenge you to pray a simple prayer that will change your life:
“Lord, please help me to see others like Jesus.”
When you do, you’ll be on the first step toward loving like Jesus!