Who's In Your Tree?

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
— Luke 19:6 ESV

“What is your mission?”

General George Patton was fond of that question. He asked it of soldiers in battle. Patton wanted his soldiers to be able to clearly articulate the current mission. This was the most important piece of information a soldier carried in combat.

What is true in battle is true in business. What is true in business is true in your family. What is true in your family is true in the family of God (the church).

We must know and practice our mission.

Followers of Jesus are a people on mission. Jesus said:

  • Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
    John 20:21 ESV

  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Paul and Peter each carried out that mission, though God gave them unique expressions of it. Paul went to the Gentiles. Peter went to the Jews. Each had their respective pieces of the Great Commission pie.

I recently reminded our church about our unique expression of that great commission:

Practicing gospel living to help
the casually connected
deeply engage with Jesus.

For just a minute, let me zoom in on the phrase, "casually connected." God has put people all around us here in Boca who are "casually connected" to Jesus through their connections to our church collectively and our lives individually. We want to see these friends become deeply engaged with Jesus.

Jesus was all about the casually connected. Interestingly, as he passed through Jericho he found his casually connected person in a tree.

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:1-5 ESV

As I read that passage I realized we all have casually connected people in our trees, our trees of influence and relationship.

Who is in your tree?

As I reflected on that interaction between Jesus and Zacchaeus, I saw three questions I need to ask about the person in my tree?

  1. Is this person capturing my heart?
    Jesus said, "I MUST stay at your house today.” One commentator called that "must", a divine necessity. It revealed Jesus' heart. Jesus came "to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He ached over the fate of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). Does my heart ache over my friend in the tree? If not, something is wrong with my heart. I need to pray, "Lord, give me your heart!"

  2. Have I invited this person into my home?
    When was the last time I invited a seeking fried into our home? Jesus did this. The Scriptures are filled with events that occur around meals. Table time is common courtesy. It also gives people a taste of the grace of God. I don't need to use the meal to "get them." That's God's job. I just need to extend hospitality, build a friendship, and watch God work.

  3. Am I letting the glitter keep them from God?
    Jesus met Zacchaeus in Jericho. The Jericho of Jesus' day glittered. It boasted a tropical climate, great wealth, protection, beauty and entertainment. King Herod built his winter palace in Jericho. There was a race course for horses and chariots and huge pools. It glittered with extravagance. But Jesus didn't let the glitter distract him. He knew Herod had it all and had nothing. He knew Zacchaeus' money couldn't buy happiness. Glitter can cover a lot of emptiness. I need to remember that. Stuff does not equal satisfaction. The person I may think doesn't want to "hear it" may be dying to hear about what Christ gives.

Why not take a moment and think about who is in your tree. A family of God is on mission for God. Here are three things to consider as you are look at your tree today:

  1. What was it like when I was "in the tree?"
    I need to remember that time when I was seeking so I'm sensitive to the person I'm reaching. Patience, grace, and truth are all important at this stage.

  2. Am I praying for my friend in the tree?
    Relax. It's not your job to change them. God will bring it about. But it is your responsibility (and privilege) to share Christ. Pray for that friend and to take that opportunity.

  3. When will I invite them into my home?
    We're talking about building a friendship not making someone a project. People get a taste of the grace of God around the table. What might God begin when you invite that friend into your home for a meal?

You meet the “casually connected” in the strangest of places. Who’s in your tree?

Here's more:

  • "Patton wanted his soldiers . . ." from Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2003. Page 199.