A blind beggar and a wealthy civil servant got a fleeting opportunity for permanent, radical change during Jesus’ only journey through Jericho (see Luke 18:35 – 19:10).
(1) Respond with alacrity
By definition, alacrity means: with cheerful willingness, eager promptness, lively action and sprightliness. Bartimaeus heard a crowd ‘going by’ who told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by’ (Luke 18:36, 37). Zacchaeus realised that ‘he was passing through’, so he ‘ran ahead’ to climb a tree under which Jesus was ‘about to pass’ (Luke 19:1, 4). For both men it was necessary to seize the day –carpe diem! And their lesson to us is: * Position yourself in readiness for God-sent opportunities for meaningful, purposeful, fruitful ministry. As Paul advised: ‘Make the best use of the time’ [Greek kairos = season] especially ‘towards outsiders’ – such as the beggar and the tax collector (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15-16).
Bartimaeus positioned himself just where the Passover pilgrims would leave old Jericho (Mark 10:46; Matthew 20:29) – ahead of all the other beggars stationed between there and the entrance to the new city built by Herod the Great further down the Jordan valley (Luke 19:1). And Zacchaeus shinned up a tall tree with alacrity, hoping to see Jesus and assess who he is (Luke 19:3). The beggar wanted eyesight, the taxman wanted insight – 20/20 vision. Don’t you too?
Although the crowd reckoned that Jesus had ‘gone to lodge with … a sinner’ (Luke 19:7), he had already told Zacchaeus, ‘I must stay at your house’ (Luke 19:5) – the word of permanence he would presently use concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit who will ‘dwell with you’ forever (see John 14:17, 23).
- Make some prior enquiry
‘[H]earing a crowd going by, [Bartimaeus] enquired what this meant’ (Luke 18:36). And [Zacchaeus] was seeking who Jesus was’ (Luke 19:3). So what did they learn? That (i) Jesus is Lord (Luke 18:41; 19:8); (ii) he is the Son of Man (Luke 19:10, who would inherit the kingdom of heaven in Roman times, Daniel 7:13-14); and (iii) the Saviour who came to seek and to save the thing that was lost’ (Luke 19:9-10 Greek/English New Testament) – come to restore the Paradise Adam lost (including blind beggars and lost tax collectors). * Make the effort, like Paul, for ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:8).
- Show humble integrity
The ‘sycamore tree’ in which Zacchaeus hid was the poor man’s fig (Greek sukon). Like Adam and Eve he hid behind fig leaves (Genesis 3:7! And he recognised he may have cheated clients ‘by false accusation’ (Luke 19:9) – using the Greek word that gives us sycophant (‘a fig displayer’) – a flatterer. What a shock when Jesus addressed him by name – he knows me! Zacchaeus, meaning pure, maybe indicates his parents’ hopes – now about to be fulfilled. * Stop hiding –open yourself accountably to a mentor.
- Act with generosity
‘I give half of my possessions to the poor’ (19:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Matthew 25:40) – compare Lydia’s open home in Acts 16:15. * Be a cheerful giver.