21 March 2014

Faith's Sacrifice (Zacchaeus and a Roman Centurion)

 Slo Bolt Cilantro, almost blooming

I strike the letters hard and more than once sometimes, because we either need to learn how to take apart and clean the keyboard or buy a new and more ergonomic one.  But some days the words I type into my memory via ScriptureTyper strike me harder than I strike them.

Because while some people's faith helps them subdue kingdoms?  Other people's faith gives them courage to wander about in sheepskins and goatskins and in dens and mountains of the earth, homeless because of that faith.

Some people escape the edge of the sword, while others are sawn asunder.  Some fight the battle valiantly and win, while others are tortured victims not accepting deliverance, because to do so would sacrifice their faith.  Some stop the mouths of lions and get set free in the morning after one night in the den, while others endure bonds and imprisonment indefinitely.  

I sit there in front of the screen, amazed at how easy it is to think faith always equals an outward victory, when the victory of faith may be as often a victory of patient endurance that on the outside looks like it ends poorly.

It's both reassuring and daunting, to be honest--reassuring, because the appearance of failure might not always actually be failure; daunting, because how I long to be the one who rests well in the den of lions for one night knowing it will all be over by morning (See Daniel 6).

Slo Bolt Cilantro, blooming

It happened that way for Zaccheus.  While he hadn't seen or heard Jesus in person, he had heard enough about him to believe.  His belief led him right down a path of change--restoring what he had stolen from people through his job (adding more than enough to compensate for lost time and interest) and helping the poor out of his rightfully acquired wealth.  

Yet he was still a societal outcast, a hated employee of the Roman government.

When Jesus came to town, Zaccheus determined to see him.  Yes, just seeing his new Master would be enough.  He could not get through the press of the crowd, and he could not see over their heads, so he climbed up in a Sycamore tree, thinking perhaps he could catch a glimpse and a paragraph in the sound of His voice as the Lord walked underneath.

Though it had already shown itself strong enough to change his life, his faith didn't dare imagine what happened next, what honor and joy would be his as the Savior stopped, called to the man in the tree, and invited Himself over for dinner.

Can you imagine?  

The God of the universe stopping by your house for the evening, taking time to visit, to teach, to bless.

Zaccheus's faith opened up an experience more wonderful than words could describe, full of joy, happiness, awe, and delight.

{Read his story in Luke 19:1-10, and my favorite commentary about him in The Desire of Ages.}

Volunteer Sunflower

At first glance, the Centurion had a similar experience.  He expressed his faith in Jesus' power to heal his servant no matter where in the world He was, just by speaking the word, and his servant was miraculously healed.

Yet it meant that in honoring the Roman's faith, Jesus couldn't honor his home with His presence.

Jesus had begun the walk, fully planning to step through the Centurion's door and grace the entire home not only by healing the ailing servant, but also by blessing the members of a Roman (read, Gentile) household with the express image of the glory of God in their hallways, their dining room, their sickroom.

The Centurion. however, understood by faith something of the privilege it would be to have Jesus come to his house, and he rightly knew himself to be unworthy of Him.

While he still sought the blessing of health for his beloved servant, he eloquently and publicly declared his faith in the One who had more beings and elements than Roman soldiers at His command.

The servant was healed, and I imagine the household rejoiced; yet by faith they sacrificed (or at least deferred until the second coming) one of the greatest treasures imaginable.

{Read the Centurion's story in Matthew 8:4-13 and Luke 7:1-10, and my favorite commentary about him in The Desire of Ages.)

Jesus could look down the ages, and see there would be others who wanted nothing more than to catch a glimpse of Him, but who might fear to come near because they were society's outcasts.  He knew they needed to know that if He could spend the day in Zacchaeus's house, He would welcome them as readily.

Then again, looking down the ages, He knew there would be others who would need the assurance that no matter how far away they feel (and are), His power extends that far and farther.  Even if He's not in the room, even if we don't feel worthy, even if we or those close to us are tucked away in some distant sickroom at death's door.  Jesus can simply say the word, and work miracles from afar.

Only our God really knows how many people gave their lives to Him because they were there on those days, with the Centurion or with Zacchaeus, or how many people have held on to their faith because they read these stories in the Bible at just the right time.

Zacchaeus didn't get to see how far-reaching his story would be; he simply acted on his faith and drank in every word that came out of the mouth of God that day, at his own dinner table.  The Centurion didn't expect Jesus to be in awe of his faith when he humbly begged Jesus to just say the word; he simply made the sacrifice only faith can make, and trusted Jesus with the results.

Countless others made the same sacrifice, and even greater ones than the Centurion made that day.  A widow gave all her money to the Lord, not knowing where her next meal was coming from.  John the Baptist spent many dark days in prison, apart from the Light of the world, dying a cruel death alone yet not forsaken.  Stephen was stoned, his face aglow with the glory of God, giving up his life with peace and even joy because he had seen God.  

Out of all their suffering, these faithful ones did not see the blessings accomplished by their sacrifices.  

They didn't get to see how a small offering could turn into a rich treasury, the thread of humble gifts traced back to two mites for inspiration.

They didn't get to see how a dark, lonely death after a successful ministry might encourage the countless others who suffered cruel mockings and scourgings for their faith.

They didn't get to see how perhaps a man holding the coats on the sidelines of a stoning could trace part of his conversion story to the moment of glory on Stephen's face, or how countless more through the centuries could trace the beginning or the longsuffering and endurance of their faith to one of these two men.

We don't always get to see the results of our faith, either, but my prayer is to be faithful, even when the days seem long and the price for faith seems high, and to be used by God in somehow blessing someone nearby while His pen writes my story.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful & inspiring photos and writing! (as always).


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