Inviting Yourself

jesus_zacchaeus_1“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down,” Jesus said to the treed tax collector in Luke 19:5. “For I must stay at your house today.”

Jesus invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house.

Usually, Jesus was invited in to people’s homes- the wedding party at Cana, Mary and Martha, Peter- they all requested that He visit. They had time to prepare for his arrival. But this time, Jesus didn’t wait for an invitation. He was coming over, ready or not. I get the feeling he did the same with Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. Maybe it was Jesus’ tax-collector strategy. He simply told people that He was coming over.

In both cases, He extended the invitation (to Himself) in public. It wasn’t a private R.S.V.P.- sort of thing. Even if He wanted to, Zacchaeus couldn’t turn Jesus down. “Uh, Teacher, we’re in the middle of a remodel in the kitchen. Can we take a rain check?” The tax man really had no choice but to accept.

How often do you invite yourself over? This is different than inviting yourself in. Inviting yourself in is knocking on the door, and being pushy. But this was different. Consider what Jesus’ self-invitation did for Zacchaeus. Jesus, a (momentarily) popular guy- the one everyone wanted to listen to, the one Zacchaeus had climbed a tree to get a glimpse of-publicly invited himself over. Zacchaeus is a gracious host. Zacchaeus was grateful (and maybe slightly flattered) that Jesus would make the suggestion.

I imagine everyone around the sycamore tree that day heard Jesus’ exchange with Zacchaeus and followed along. Zacchaeus was a well-known guy in town, and not in a good way. Luke tells us that the religious people around complained about Jesus, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’.” Some of the disciples we’re probably hoping Jesus was going to crack a whip and turn over some tables in his living room (He didn’t). They probably didn’t go into the house with them, but I picture the crowd peeking in the windows and holding their ears to the doors to hear what the Rabbi was going to say to the Cheat.

In this case, it’s Zacchaeus, not Jesus, who is the “witness.” The transformed life of the tax collector (and his entire household) is the “public proclamation of the gospel.” Everyone knew the man Zacchaeus had been. Now, because of this encounter with Jesus, he wasn’t that guy anymore. There’s power in that witness.

Put yourself in a position to be invited over by the people to whom you minister. Make the most of those opportunities. But don’t be afraid to invite yourself over.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.