In the book of Luke, there is a story that no other Gospel writer included in their narrative of the life of Christ: that of Zacchæus, a wealthy but diminutive publican who decided to climb a tree so he could see Jesus better. As a kid who loved to climb trees, this story really resonated with me. I imagined myself bopping around at the back of the crowd for a bit, trying to see what all the fuss was about, and then racing ahead as fast as my tiny legs could carry me to scramble up a sycamore tree for a better look.
But Zacchæus’ desire to see Jesus was more than just mere curiosity. Here is a man who wanted to know more about Jesus, so he did everything he could to get close to him.
Are we not all, at times, “little in statue” like our friend Zacchæus? Are there not times when we struggle to see Him or feel close to Him, despite our best efforts? Are there times when the press of the crowd separates us from Him whom we so desperately seek?
Thankfully, if we follow the example of Zacchæus and do everything in our power to see Christ in our lives, we can have transformative experiences that will bless us for eternity.
Seek the Savior
The first thing Zacchæus did was to seek Jesus. He had heard of this man called Jesus, who turned water to wine and fed 5,000 with five loaves of bread, and when Jesus passed through Jericho, Zacchæus “sought to see Jesus, who he was.”
Likewise, the first step we must take in our efforts to see the Savior is to seek Him and learn about who He is. We must study His teachings, learn more about his life and mission, and consult the teachings of those who testify of Him both anciently and in modern times. Russell M. Nelson said, “We begin by learning about Him. ‘It is impossible for [us] to be saved in ignorance.’ The more we know about the Savior’s ministry and mission—the more we understand His doctrine and what He did for us—the more we know that He can provide the power that we need for our lives.”
We can also seek the Savior by looking for His influence in our lives. Alma taught that “all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” But even on a more personal level, if we look for Christ in our lives, we will find Him. His hand is in the unexpected opportunity to serve, the light that turns green when you’re in a hurry, the Sacrament talk that you are sure was given just for you—even the strength to pay your tithing when the bills are piling up and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay rent. All good things come from Christ, and as we learn to look for the good in our lives—as hard as that sometimes is—we will be blessed with a greater understanding of His love.
Move Away From the Crowd
The biggest hindrance to Zacchæus’s ability to see Jesus was not his height. It was the crowd. Likewise, sometimes the greatest hindrance to our ability to see Jesus is the noise and tumult of the world. It is so easy to be disheartened by news broadcasts full of war, natural disasters, terrorism, and other calamities. Inappropriate media invades our homes and fills our minds with filth and light-mindedness. Political divisiveness pits family and friends against each other, and political correctness inhibits the defense of true principles. Even an overabundance of good things—schedules packed with extracurricular activities, work that bleeds over into personal time—can dull our senses to the whispering of the Spirit and keep us too busy to commune with God.
If we want to see Christ, we must be willing to move away from the crowd. Turn off the TV. Put down the phone. Let go of the things that keep you too busy to study and serve. Slow down. Don’t be afraid to set your own path if the path of the world keeps you from reaching the Savior—and it will.
Remember, the Lord was not in the storm, the earthquake, or the fire that raged around Elijah on the mountain. He was in the still, small voice. We must move away from the crowd so we can hear Him.
Run to Him
When Zacchæus moved away from the crowd and toward Jesus, he didn’t dilly dally. He ran. He was eager to put himself closer to Jesus, so he moved as quickly as he could.
I recently attended a presentation on embracing change by a gal named Allie White. One of the things she encouraged us to try was practicing “rapid and radical acceptance.” She suggested that such acceptance would allow us to learn to see change as a positive thing that would bless our lives.
Let’s apply that to our spiritual endeavors. Imagine how different our lives could be if instead of dilly dallying when the Lord calls us, we practiced “rapid and radical obedience.” What if we ran when Christ spoke to us, instead of hemming and hawing over whether or not we actually heard His voice. We know He will never lead us astray. We know He truly has our best interest at heart, and we know from past experience that trusting Him and following Him always, always, always leads to good things. So why are we so quick to drag our feet?
Put on your running shoes. If we want to see Christ more clearly, we have to be ready to run for our lives.
Move to Where Christ Is
When Zacchæus ran, he figured out where Christ would pass by and went there. Like him, we must go where Christ would go. As we study His life and mission, we can see a pattern in the places Christ frequented: He visited the sick and afflicted. He went to church and the Temple. He ate dinner with the outcasts. He spent time in the company of those who had more belief in their heart than skepticism. He took time to retreat into nature and commune with His Father.
As we serve, worship, fellowship, spend time in nature, pray, and surround ourselves with good friends, we will begin to see the Savior more clearly in our lives.
Elevate Your View
To be absolutely sure he’d be able to see Christ, Zacchæus did something a bit unconventional: he climbed a tree. From his elevated vantage point, no one—no matter how tall—would be able to block his view.
We, too, must elevate our view. We can do this by “being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men… If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Temple is often referred to as “the mountain of the Lord.”, or that God often told His Prophets to climb mountains before revealing great things to them. As we purge our lives of influences that are less than virtuous, lovely, or of good report, we climb the figurative mountain and learn to see our own divine destinies from a higher, more holy perspective. We will begin to see Christ in our very selves, for as Mormon taught, “when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is… [and] we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”
Receive Him Joyfully
The miraculous thing in all of this is that even as we are seeking Christ, He is also seeking us. He is aware of us, our challenges, and the things that are keeping us from Him, and He is steadily working through the crowd to our tree, where He will look at up at us and invite us to come down to Him. He will invite himself into our homes, where he will abide with us.
In her book The Christ-Centered Home, Emily Belle Freeman writes, “To abide means to come and stay. It isn’t a short visit; it carries with it a sense of lingering. Jesus Chose to abide at the house of Zacchæus; He chose to linger there…. A home where Jesus would choose to abide doesn’t just happen by chance; it is something we must intentionally create day after day after day.”
And like Zacchæus, as we seek the Savior and strive to create a life and a home where the Savior would choose to abide, we can be prepared to receive Him joyfully.
What have you learned from the example of Zacchæus? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this story!
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