Reading the story of Jesus and the freedom he offers us continues a theme of freedom that runs through the bible from start to finish. The bible is the story of deliverance and blessing - rescue and freedom.
Jesus announced his purpose for coming in these words:
God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach
the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, "This is God's year to act!" (Luke 4:18-19)
In Jesus we find an anointed, focussed and complete person whose life’s mission was to bring both the message and the experience of freedom into the troubled world of his time. Eventually it cost him his life, and he was crucified on the cross. But God triumphed as Jesus was resurrected and freed from human death. This hope, this freedom is now available to us too.
A man named Zacchaeus
The story of Jesus’ encounter with a man named Zacchaeus is a story of freedom - although this wasn’t obvious at the beginning.
It happened while Jesus was on a journey toJerusalem, travelling with his usual friends and some interested hangers on. By the time he came to the city ofJericho a large crowd had gathered to see him and hear him speak.
Now Zacchaeus was the head tax collector and a wealthy man, but his was an unpopular and despised profession. It seems he must have been aware of Jesus reputation and when he saw the crowds gather and heard that Jesus was in town he rushed away from his tax collecting duties, in a desperate attempt to see for himself.
Zacchaeus was a short man; and was unable to see Jesus amid the crowd pressing around him. So Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree in the hope of seeing him as he passed by. But as he walked down the road, surrounded by people, Jesus stopped right under the tree where Zacchaeus had set himself and called out to him. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately,” Jesus said. “I must stay at your house today.”
The crowd was outraged and disgusted that Jesus would associate with Zacchaeus, the low life of a tax collector; the crook. But Zacchaeus, overwhelmed at such an unexpected honour, spontaneously gave a promise to donate half his wealth to the poor and pay back those he had cheated to an amount four times what he had taken.
Jesus was thrilled with this response, as he knew that Zacchaeus would now be a new man. Jesus had lifted Zacchaeus’ burden and freed him from his greed and selfishness.
Now Zacchaeus was free to live generously, with a new purpose to enrich the lives of those he had previously extorted. Zacchaeus was now newly alive, and free to live a life of fullness.
Freedom through Jesus - a promise for today
Freedom through Jesus is as real today as it was then, through the spirit of Jesus active in the lives of people who come to him. Jesus promises:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
Just like Zacchaeus, whether we are battered, hurting, burdened, fearful, aimless, living destructive lifestyles, reeling from broken relationships, or in grief, Jesus can still bring freedom; freedom to people who are prepared to come him, to seek him out, to explore his gracious and generous offer of a life of hope and freedom.
Why not try it yourself. Contact us for more of Jesus’ story.