What Will You Do When God Surprises You?
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Luke 19:5 (NLT)
Yesterday, we began reflecting on the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, the tax collector who was a “wee little man.” As you may recall, when Jesus was passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to see him. But because Zacchaeus was short, and because, as a hated tax collector, he couldn’t expect the crowd to welcome him to the front of the line, he climbed a tree in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus over the crowd.
Zacchaeus’ plan appeared to work. He could see Jesus when he walked by. But then something most unexpected happened. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and called out to him, “Zacchaeus!... Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today” (19:5).
The surprises in this text are multiple. Those present, including Zacchaeus, would have been shocked by several things, including the fact that Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name, the fact that Jesus called out to him, the fact that Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home (bad manners!), and, perhaps most of all, the fact that Jesus, a holy man, would associate with such a notorious sinner.
Luke shows two diverse responses to these surprises. Zacchaeus hops down from his perch and leads Jesus to his house. Tomorrow, we’ll examine the even more surprising response of Zacchaeus to Jesus. The crowds, however, were “displeased.” They just couldn’t figure out why Jesus would want to hang out with such a “notorious sinner” (19:7).
The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus reminds us that God often surprises us. Some of his surprises are happy. Some are not, at least at first. For example, if you had told me five years ago that I would be living in Texas and working for Foundations for Laity Renewal, the mother organization of Laity Lodge. I would have said you were crazy. But God had other plans, plans that shocked me when I first began to take them seriously. How glad I am that, by his grace, I was ultimately able to receive God’s surprise with an open heart.
FOR REFLECTION: When has God surprised you in the past? How did you respond? Are you open to being surprised by God today? What helps you to have an open heart when God does the unexpected?
PRAYER: Gracious God, when I think of your surprises, I have mixed feelings, to be honest. (And there’s really no point being anything other than honest with you, is there?) Part of me rejoices that you have plans for me beyond anything I have imagined. That same part of me is excited, ready, open.
Then there’s the other part of me, the part that likes predictability, the part that doesn’t want to be inconvenienced or stretched. This part of me isn’t too keen on your surprises. It prefers that which is familiar and comfortable.
Forgive me, Lord, when I let my fears get in the way. Forgive me when I overlook or even reject your surprises. Give me an open heart, a trust in your faithfulness that allows me to receive what you have for me even when I don’t expect it.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, God of grace, God of surprises! Amen.