I See You
Sometimes good stories trigger memories:
When I think of The Wizard of Oz, I think of getting to eat dinner in front of the TV…something that otherwise never happened in our house when I was growing up.
When I think of the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, I think of sitting on the side of the bed with each one of the kids, reading out loud to them…and them making me do the animal voices.
Good stories can trigger powerful memories.
I had a similar experience when the story of Zacchaeus came up in Bible study last week. An image immediately came to mind:
Flannel board. You might be of a certain age, if you remember flannel boards. You might call it the very first “power point presentation.” There was a board, covered with flannel cloth. And you could take characters or letters, cut them out of felt, and they would stick to the board, and you could create scenes, or stories. As a child, I have a vivid memory
of the little felt figure of Zacchaeus, climbing up a little felt tree.
And then we’d sing: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…a wee little man was he…” Remember this later on today when you find yourself humming this song, that I said, “you’re welcome.”
I think most of us have an image of Zacchaeus when we think of this story. But the question that comes to me today is, why was this man so motivated to see Jesus?
Maybe Zacchaeus looked in the mirror that morning and decided he didn’t like what he saw.
Maybe he is tired of being excluded from the community of his own people.
Perhaps he feels some guilt because of his actions.
I think that maybe Zacchaeus was longing for something different, something more to life than this path he was on.
And so, he climbed that tree, in search of a new life.
And to his shock…to everyone’s shock, when Jesus passed by, He stopped…He stared up at the little man in the tree…and then the Messiah smiled, and said “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down…for I must stay at your house today.”
There is a lot to this story…there are multiple themes and ideas woven together into this. It is a story of redemption, a story of acceptance and a story of change.
But, it is also a story of sight.
Think about it. Everywhere Jesus went, crowds followed. And in the craziness of the crowds…Jesus saw Zacchaeus. He really saw him. And I think that the point of Jesus calling him out by name was to let Zacchaeus know that the Messiah saw him…knew him…and ultimately, Jesus wanted him to know that what Zacchaeus needed, Jesus had.
To not feel “seen” is a common experience. People tell me about feeling unseen…unimportant…overlooked…all the time.
Think about the person standing at the corner of the street holding the sign “Homeless, will work for food” How many times have you seen him and avoided eye contact? Maybe out of fear, maybe out of not knowing what the right thing to do was. Either way that person felt unseen. Or maybe it is your neighbor or a colleague at work that lives a lifestyle you disagree with…what do you do? Do you avoid interaction with them because you don’t agree with them? Do they feel unseen by you?
This makes me wonder who I don’t see. Who do I look past? And I fear what kind of harm I might unintentionally cause. But Jesus reminds us here of the importance, and the impact of seeing people, and even more, for seeing them for who they are: children of God.
When the crowd second-guessed Jesus, shocked (and probably more than a little bit jealous) that Jesus would select the chief tax-collector’s home to stay in, Jesus said…out loud…for all to hear: ““Today salvation has come to this house, because Zacchaeus too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” In other words…”don’t judge…this man may have been wandering lost, but he’s still in the family...and I see him! He receives the same gift of salvation as you do.”
What would it be like if we did what Jesus did. What if we made an effort to not just be aware of people, but to see them…really see them. Here’s what I’d like you to try this week: When you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store or the gas station, look at the cashier’s nametag, greet them by name, and notice the person. When you’re at your kid’s game, talk with the people sitting around you. When you are at work or in your front yard take the time to talk to that person you normally (for whatever reason) look past. Just like Zacchaeus, there are people in the world who deeply need to be seen. And when they know that they are seen, they are reminded that their stories and lives have value, and that they are beloved children of God. Try it this week. And pay attention to what it does to their heart, and to yours.
As people of faith, we see people because we know that Jesus first sees us. We are not that different than Zacchaeus. We too have gaps…spaces in our hearts that only Jesus can fill. Jesus looks into your heart and knows everything there is about you. And Jesus loves you…enough to go to bring you the gift of healing and wholeness… enough to bring you the gift of forgiveness…enough to bring you the gift of salvation. Jesus calls you by name and says: “I see you…you are a part of the family…and the gift of salvation is for you…come down from your tree…I am coming to your house tonight.”