Luke 19:5-10 - And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Years ago, or so I've been told, a farmer encouraged his neighbor to try his apples.
Without even giving the invitation a second thought, the friend, always quickly, and most definitely, declined. Eventually, the farmer, who by now had a bruised ego, asked, "Look, what's the problem? I keep inviting and you keep turning me down. Man, you could at least try a taste, couldn't you?
His friend countered with a small confession. He said, "I don't want to taste your apples, because the truth is I have already done so. On more than one occasion, I have picked one of your apples which looked especially tasty. Without exception, the tartness puckered my mouth."
"And just where in my orchard did you get those apples?" the farmer inquired.
"Always from the trees which grow along the road. Yes, sir, those apples are just about the most sour thing I have ever tried."
Now it was time for the farmer to make a confession of his own. "Well, that explains it," he said. "Those trees were planted to keep thieves away. But, I tell you this: if you come to the middle of my orchard, you will find things taste differently there."
And that story, my friends, is my gift to you.
Remember it, practice telling it, because the day is going to come when you will be given the opportunity to share it. That day will be when the Lord places into your charge the soul of a person who has had a brief taste of the church and found it wasn't to his taste.
The reality is this: if a person has only seen what Christianity offers from the other side of the fence, or from the road, its offerings may indeed seem bitter. To the sampler the music might seem ponderous, the great wooden doors foreboding, and the liturgy a thing of intense mystery. He may interpret people's shyness as being cold and judgmental and their failure to say hello as being downright, well, downright sour.
That is the way it can be when you stand on the outside and just do a bit of sampling.
But if an individual comes into the orchard and tries again he will find things to be quite different.
In short, the nearer a sinful soul is brought to the Savior, the sweeter will be the joy He is given. That's the truth Zacchaeus was given the day the Savior came for dinner. From a distance Jesus may have been an interesting curiosity, but up close the Christ became the one Person who could bring salvation to that publican's home.
And, my friends, it's no different today for the person who is brought close to his Savior.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, there are many people out there who have been put off by what they feel is the Christian church. Bring them close to Jesus so they may appreciate the salvation Jesus has won for them at the cost of His own life. In the Redeemer's Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"