One of the best ways to show others the love of Christ is by just being a friend. Jesus showed us this in many different parts of His life here on Earth. One of those stories is Zacchaeus in Luke chapter 19. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, but not just a tax collector, a chief tax collector. This means he was loaded with lots of cash.
Diving into the story, Zacchaeus was a short guy who wanted to see Jesus as He was passing through the border of Jericho. When Jesus walks by, He stops at the tree and calls Zacchaeus by his name to climb down. Jesus goes a step further, and invites Himself into his house. The people were obviously not happy about Jesus’ choice to go with Zacchaeus because he was a notorious sinner. He was a chief tax collector, so people were flustered when Jesus chose to eat with a man who stole lots of people’s money. Then, Zacchaeus is transformed by the love of Jesus that he says he will give half his wealth to the poor and then the people he stole from, he would give back to them four times the amount that he took. I imagine that Zacchaeus probably went from wealthy to poor, but went from poor to rich in spirit. Jesus in verses 9-10 says this,
“Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:9-10 NLT.
Jesus was pumped to see Zacchaeus change his life. Verse 10 is easily one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible, because it explains the mission of Jesus so clearly and precisely. Jesus hung out with the lowliest of people, because if He did not, then who would. People hated Zacchaeus, so Jesus made it personal by saying his name and going over to his house to just hang out and be a friend. Because of this, Zacchaeus was changed forever. I believe that Zacchaeus was a lonely, and desperate man, which is why he would choose to climb up a tree to see the hope and love that is found in Jesus. Since Jesus was a friend of sinners, He led Zacchaeus to a new way of life by His love. When we are friends to others with a love like Jesus, we lead others to be changed forever.
Here are a couple ways that I think Jesus was a friend to Zacchaeus that I think we can use to be a transformational friend to others:
Know Their Name
When Jesus went up to Zacchaeus, the first thing He said was, “Zacchaeus.” Jesus called him by his name. One way to show someone that they are important to you is by calling their name. Deep down, we love to hear our names. It tells us that we have something to do, or that the person we are talking to is genuinely engaged in the conversation. It can show a person that you hold value to them because you say their name. When someone tells you to do something, are you more inclined to help if they say your name, or when they don’t? I know for me, if a person asks for help, but they don’t say my name, it’s as if they are expecting me to do it. When somebody says my name first and then asks, I will feel more value in saying yes because they picked me to have this certain job. They showed that I was a valuable team member. Knowing someone’s name has power when being their friend.
Jesus was willing to pursue Zacchaeus. That is why He invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’ house. Jesus wanted to have a real relationship with him. I think for us, we need to be that same way. I’m not saying to invite yourself into a strangers house, but to take the time to get to know them. We need to have the mind set that regardless if this person likes it or not, I am going to be their friend. I want to love them for who they are, even if they are unpopular, or do things that others hate them for. When we pursue people, it shows them that they matter. People matter to God, so we should show them that they matter. Many people come to Jesus because they see His love through us. I am encouraged to believe that Zacchaeus came to know God through the love that Jesus poured out over him. Jesus was just there to be a friend, but because He showed Zacchaeus that He mattered, his life was completely changed forever.
These two aspects of a friendship can really transform a person’s life. We can lead others to Christ by being a friend like Jesus was to Zacchaeus.