The Winning Way of Jesus
“. . . today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5
The story of Zacchaeus’ conversion is one of the cleanest illustrations of the way Jesus brought others into the kingdom. It’s a beautiful description of the love of God in action. The winning way of Jesus was that of saving friendship. The great challenge of bringing others to Christ is first being a friend to them.
Jesus’ winning way was building a friendship which broke down barriers of resistance and suspicion, and made a way for a love that was both the message and the messenger. No one can be argued into the kingdom, they must be brought in by the winsome, persuasive power of love. Christ’s only key to the heart is the key of loving friendship. This story comes in three stages.
The barrier of alienation.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector for Rome. In the eyes of the Jews, he was working for the enemy. He was tested both as a social and moral outcast, who had no right to the kingdom. It hurt him to the quick. He had heard Jesus was a friendly person, free of pretense and artificial social barriers. Zacchaeus thought Jesus might be a friend to him as well. As disciples, we see others as fellow seekers.
The bridge of friendship.
Zacchaeus saw that Jesus had to pass through the flames of disapproval and scorn of others in order to be friends with him. Zacchaeus saw the love of Jesus was a love that suffered for the sake of friendship. The closer Zacchaeus got to Jesus, the more his real self was awakened in him and the more his outlook began to change. All in the context of friendship, his view of work, money, and ethics were altered as he sat talking with Jesus.
Zacchaeus was a new man living in a new world. There was no fear in Zacchaeus, he was turning his love for money into a work of grace toward others. He was confident he would be able to live this new life, because in his friendship with Jesus he had found eternal life.
Who are the Zacchaeus’ in your life? Who are you building a redemptive friendship with? Are you a friend of sinners?