“I have seen the vision and for self I cannot live; life is less than worthless till my all I give.”

Oswald J. Smith


In his book Jesus of Arabia: Christ Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Andrew Thompson related the story of missionaries on the Arabian Peninsula handing a Bible to Arab Muslims open to Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus. With no knowledge of the gospel, no Christian theology, no context whatsoever, the missionaries invited the Arabs to read the story in Arabic.

The Arab men complied and when finished protested in horrified agreement (my paraphrase of the story): “This is terrible! What Jesus did was improper! No one in our culture has the right to invite himself into our homes. Not even the Sultan has the right to invite himself into our homes—he must wait to be invited. The only One who has the authority to invite Himself into our homes is God Himself!” I wonder if the light dawned for those Arab men even as it dawned on the missionaries in a new way. I’ve read the Zacchaeus story dozens of times, heard it dozens more, sung it a dozen times more than that—and never once did I read deity into Jesus’ proclamation of “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m coming to your house for tea!” But Arab Muslims did! Semitic men hearing a Semitic story for the first time opened our eyes to something we have missed: Jesus claimed to be God and He claimed to have the authority to invite Himself into anyone’s home, anyone’s heart, anyone’s culture.

For this is the second point we often miss in the Zacchaeus narrative: “Zacchaeus was no mere tax collector. He was a chief tax collector in upper management, the most powerful governmental authority of Jericho in the ‘Revenue Department’. He was in charge of a number of men who were assigned to various duties and customs in the surrounding area… Furthermore, Jericho was a major trade center on the route between Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, and Syria. In other words Zacchaeus is a major player in the Roman government.”[1] Not only did Jesus claim to be God with the right to enter any individual’s home without invitation, He also claimed to be the God who can enter any nation without invitation, including Rome, the superpower of the day. Sycamore trees and short people may be what we remember, but deity and missions is what our hearts should sing.

The next story Luke recorded was not accidental. After Zacchaeus promised to use His wealth for the purposes of Jesus, Jesus told the story of investing our wealth for the King. Many resented God’s demands over their businesses, in effect refusing to dedicate their wealth to see the kingdom spread from shore to shore (Luke 19:13–14). Jesus warned that those who resist His demand to enter their homes and use their business wealth to reach the nations will be brought before Him and slain (v. 27). Whether our home, donkey, business, or money, if the Lord says He has need of it (v. 31), we must lose it and let it go that His house become a house of prayer for all nations (v. 46).

[1] Mark E. Moore. The Chronological Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996. 484.

Prayer Focus: China

Today’s Unreached People Group: Mongol
Population: 7,556,000
Language: Mongolian, Peripheral
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Evangelical: 0.40%
Estimated Workers Needed: 151

[Source: Joshua Project]

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