By Jean Bloom
I’m not what most bystanders would call a thrill seeker—especially when it comes to crazy high speeds, heights that make gravity a real threat, and the potential for an entirely avoidable early death. I’m not proud of this final lack of bravery, but the possibility of acute embarrassment factors in too.
Envisioning a leap from a plane thousands of feet closer to heaven (as though wearing a parachute on my back would make it a plausible choice) puts rocks in my stomach. The thought of whipping around a racecar speedway in a flashy vehicle going way too many miles an hour is terrifying. Do these people not retain in their brains the possibility they could crash into one of those drivers equally determined to thrill themselves to the finish line? Climbing Mount Everest—or, really, any high-ish hill? Uh, no. Ziplining maybe? You just don’t know me, do you?
My list of “never” thrill-seeking careers has been lengthy. A spy for the CIA would have been one hundred percent laughable. I would be discovered in two seconds flat, what with my green-tinted face above my shaking hands and knees. A career as a thespian or performing vocalist is, even if I had the talent, nearly as unlikely. Stage fright does not necessarily lead to thrills, anyway, even if you hang in there and the audience thinks you managed to be wonderful. Add in zookeeper to mammoth creatures who would just as soon maul a woman as look at her face, totally drained of all life-giving blood, and you’ve got a good start on my list. I make no apologies for this life. But I’m also not condemning those who seek such thrills. They usually know what they’re doing. And they are probably far more like Zacchaeus than I am. You know, the guy in the Bible who stepped up—literally.
Most of us probably think Zacchaeus climbed that sycamore-fig tree to get a look at Jesus because he was curious. He’d heard about him and, well, no one would ever crowd around him like that, right? He was a despised tax collector.
But I think he might have also been seeking a thrill. I don’t know how high that tree was, but, apparently, Zacchaeus had no qualms about the possibility of falling out of it like I would. And his climb paid off. Really, who could deny that this man of small stature was absolutely thrilled when Jesus invited himself to his house for lunch? The NIV says, “He came down at once and welcomed him gladly” (Luke 19:6). Zacchaeus didn’t hesitate to answer that call, just as Jesus didn’t hesitate to give the invitation even though he knew the crowd would object.
(Am I the only one who thinks Danny DeVito as Louie DePalma on the old TV show Taxi provides the perfect image of Zacchaeus?)
Then in verse 8, we’re told this happened at Zacchaeus’s house, presumably after some great talk and a good meal:
“Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’”
Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9 NIV).
I’m betting Zacchaeus wasn’t seeking every thrill he got that day, but got them he did. Let’s review:
- Thrill one: Zacchaeus climbs that tree and sees Jesus with his own eyes.
- Thrill two: Jesus seeks him—him, a man everyone else hated—and asks to go to his house for sustenance.
- Thrill three: Zacchaeus has the opportunity to serve someone like no other.
- Thrill four: He discovers what Jesus offers is worth far more than he has ever gained on his own.
Many of us have received the thrill of a relationship with the Lord. But then do we become thrill seekers or let a fear of any height, speed, or shake-a-bit-in-our-boots call he sends stand in our way? Sometimes we fail to make a climb that would help us see him more clearly. Sometimes he asks us to serve him and we say we’re sure he couldn’t mean it; someone could do it better, or now’s not the time. Sometimes we listen to his gentle instruction, but then just give him lunch and call it good.
Sometimes we miss a thrill meant to be ours. Are you missing out on a thrill God has for you?
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Llywelyn Nys, used with permission