Sherlock Holmes once said that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” This is how the great Sherlock Holmes solved so many cases where it seemed like the solution was impossible to determine. Well, that of course, and the fact that he was a fictional detective and his author didn’t like to let him fail. The point is that improbable things happen, especially in a world in which God is in control. Sometimes those improbable things are labeled miracles: Jesus feeding the 5000, God rescuing the Hebrews from the Egyptians, and the resurrection of Jesus among many other improbable events under God’s direction.
We often look at major events and consider them improbable, but the improbable happens every day. People that we could never imagine coming to Christ not only do so, but do so in a way that advances the Kingdom of God because their example inspires others. I don’t know how much I may have helped advance the Kingdom of God, but many in my family thought it was improbable that I would turn to Christ. In the days of Jesus, though, some people were beyond redemption – at least according to the religious elite. This is why they were shocked when Jesus said this about Zacchaeus: “Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:9-10)
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Now, we may think the IRS is bad here in the US, but tax collectors in Israel those days were the lowest sinners on the board. They were lackeys of the oppressive Roman government. They sought that work, bidding on the job. Then, they developed taxes so that they could pay that bid and make a profit for themselves. Taxes could be arbitrary, if the tax collector so decided. As you might guess, they tended to accumulate wealth. After all, what other reason would you become a tax collector back then. Zacchaeus recognized that something was missing in his life so he decided to check on Jesus when he heard that Jesus was coming through Jericho, he wanted to check Him out. He didn’t want attention, he just wanted to see Jesus. I think the crowds along the road took special delight in preventing him from getting close enough to see Jesus. They probably had a good laugh as they looked back and saw Zacchaeus jumping up and down hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus. Finally, frustrated at every turn, he saw a tree and giving up all pretense of dignity, he climbed it so he could see Jesus. Then, the improbable happened. Jesus invited Himself to lunch with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus had a change of heart and vowed to make things right. Zacchaeus was saved.
Nothing more improbable to the Jews than the idea that a tax collector could be saved. That relationship with God wasn’t for people like Zacchaeus in their understanding of God, that was reserved for the Pharisees and the Scribes. They were the religious elite. Others on the streets wished they could be like the Pharisees, but weren’t willing to make the commitment to a lifestyle of following stifling rules. Jesus turned things upside down by announcing that Zacchaeus would receive salvation. What an amazing, if improbable concept! That same improbable concept is still true today. Our relationship with God is not based on all the good things we do, or following a specific set of rules: our relationship with God is built on His grace and His love. Zacchaeus’ life was changed and God is still in the business of changing lives – even the lives of people we consider improbable.
Lord God – there are so many people who want to know You in spite of what they may say or do. Change their lives as You reveal Your love to them. Use me as an example to inspire others.