Summary: This is a sermon that focuses on how we respond to God’s call in our life.
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.”
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
It was a cold, dark, and wet night. The Captain of the ship was at the helm as they sailed the dark and vast sea. Being tired, cold, and wet… the Captain began to wonder why after all these years he still chose to be there. Needless to say, he was in no mood to be working. Almost to the point of drafting a retirement letter in his head, something caught his eye. In the distance, he could see a light approaching. This light appeared to be headed straight for his ship. “Well, at least this is an easy fix” he thought. So he used his light beacon to signal ahead to the light… “You are on a collision course with my ship, change your heading five degrees!” The reply that came back did not please the already impatient Captain, “You are on a collision course with me, change YOUR heading five degrees!”
This was too much for the seasoned Captain, the gall of this person. So he sent another signal. “I have been a sea Captain for 40 years, change YOUR heading five degrees!” The Captain smiled a little to himself. He had really showed THAT person. A frown quickly formed on the Captains face again when another signal came back. “I too am a captain, and I’ve been at my post for 40 years as well, so please change YOUR heading five degrees.”
The Captain was in NO mood for this. It was storming. He was cold, wet, and tired, and he was not going to put up with this any longer. So he pulled out his final trump card, “I am a 2,000 ton barge, change YOUR heading five degrees.”
But the light signaled back one last time. “I… am a lighthouse. Change YOUR heading five degrees!” (Pause)
In this story, we have a battle of wills. Ultimately, we find out that one of the wills, that of the lighthouse, is what I would describe as an immovable will. In the scripture readings today, two men come face to face with this same kind of immovable will. One runs from it, while the other embraces it.
In the case of Zacchaeus, he jumped out of the tree and ran to Jesus, while Jonah jumped on the very first ship going in the exact opposite direction. They met the same immovable will, yet Zacchaeus jumped to run towards God and Jonah jumped to run away from him. These two stories make me think about my own life. If I were to come face to face with God, would I be the one to run to him, or would I be the one making excuses and running the other way. Before answering that, I think we should consider the examples of the two men closer.
Let’s examine Zacchaeus. He was a very wealthy man. We know from the scriptures that he was a very rich and powerful man, a chief tax collector in fact. This meant that he was so good at what he did, he had a whole team of tax collectors working under him. He had to have been a very busy man indeed, with a very busy schedule to keep. And yet, word of the coming messiah intrigued him. Intrigued him enough to drop everything and force himself into the heart of the crowd.