Can I have lunch with you?

Suppose you’ve always admired a public figure. You follow them on social media, look out for news and see if they’re at any events nearby. When you hear they’re coming to your town, you drop everything. It’s a dream come true. You feel a connection, even though you’ve never met, and now you might get to see them in person!

What would happen if they visited your home? You dare to dream about welcoming them in and getting to know them. Sometimes the dream seems so far away.

This story is repeated all over the world. Sports personalities. Royal families. TV stars. The A-list, the B-list and beyond. People never stop following the headlines and timelines.

Often, these figureheads are controversial. And some people will try to make out that they’re better than the celebrities (even though they might be pale imitations). Rivalry is a fact of life.

When all the truths collide, the mixture can be tense – almost toxic. And so we’re introduced to the world of Jesus’ ministry.

But Jesus was a famous person with a considerable difference.

Difficult to stomach

For a powerful religious sect called the Pharisees, their very position was deeply threatened by the power and teaching of Christ. This man, claiming to the Son of God, was nothing like they’d imagined, and nor did he teach in the same way as they did. Christ taught with humility, passion and Divine interpretation. It was not the legalistic world that religious teaching had become.

Christ’s compassion was one of the key factors which drove his initial fame. He was always ready to spread the message of God’s love, and this was often a practical help to those around him. But the Good News does not simply revolve around healing and other miracles. It needs to be understood and taken to heart.

This meant Jesus had to meet with those who had the most to learn. The Pharisees were greeted in the public environment which they thought they dominated. However, for those who had the capability to truly repent, there was the opportunity to have a closer encounter with Christ.

The fact that Jesus met with these (apparently) controversial characters was deeply frustrating for the religious orthodoxy. Why did this teacher meet with people they called “sinners”? Weren’t they more deserving of a meal and a lively debate? And we can see that this opinion permeated through to the general population. As we look at the reactions in Luke 19, this is clear.

Yet we can see the efforts made by those who were truly anticipating an opportunity to change. These people wanted to do everything to welcome Jesus into their homes. And he responded.

A tall order

Enter Zacchaeus. Not that many people would have noticed him at first. Although he was wealthy, he was quite literally prone to being overlooked. As he was so short, he wouldn’t stand out in a crowd.

But he wouldn’t be trodden down – far from it! Instead, he went to the highest possible place, just to see Jesus Christ. It is a metaphor for how we should seek to find and receive him. And because of the joy and optimism and gratefulness in the heart of Christ, the two men came together and formed a bond of faith.

It’s hard to imagine some celebrities today doing this. Many remain resolutely far away. And in some cases, would we really want to invite them into our lives? But Zacchaeus perceived that Jesus was so different, and likewise, Jesus recognised the spirit of faith in the tax collector.

Of course, the question “Can I have lunch with you?” is stretching the message a little. But the real message has even more force. Jesus was very definite. He would meet with Zacchaeus, no matter what. The message had come to Zacchaeus and his household at that very point!

It was a crushing blow to those who though they could do so much better. Surely they could show the tax collectors the right way to live? Surely they could overpower Christ? The answer, of course, was “no”.

What do you do with this occasion?

The truth is that the connection between Christ and his followers is deep-rooted, works two ways, and it also comes before the invite from Christ to meet with him. With these three points, we know how to build our lives so that we are ready to climb to the highest pinnacle we have available to us. We know how to receive the amazing visit from Jesus which will so surely come.

At the end of Romans 8, we read that the love of God works to an unfathomably great extent. When we allow it into every area of our lives, we reap the rewards during the twists and turns, even when natural forces want us to give way.

In Galatians 3, we read that God and His faithful ones are part of a two-way relationship which operates through the power of Christ’s work. We know how believers are already looking out for ways to speak to God through Jesus. You can never elevate yourself to heaven, but fortunately prayer and faith rise as a sweet smell, and God receives them favourably.

We also see in numerous passages that Christians await something called the “marriage supper” of the Lamb. Revelation 19:7-9 tells us about this. The upcoming celebration comes only at the end of a great effort to reconcile yourself. But the Christian believer listens to the message that Jesus is coming, and makes themselves ready to be visible and very obvious as the chosen spiritual “Bride”.

Through these principles, we see in Luke 19:9 that the salvation of the Kingdom of God came to the house of Zacchaeus. May it come to yours as well. May Jesus want to meet with you, in favour, expressing the joy of the boundless future ahead. This hope may seem controversial, but with such certainty and conviction, who can stop your progress?

Christ will meet with you – if you take him up on the offer.