When Jesus entered a synagogue on the Sabbath, he didn’t adjust his language, any mannerisms, or thoughts. He didn’t force a smile to his face. The Jesus who walked into the place of worship was the same Jesus who walked the roads of Judea and Galilee on weekdays. He embodied truth and grace.
For most, it’s easy to be good inside the church building. Smiles, hugs and friendly handshakes come easy. Praise hymns ring out with gusto. Serious thought time is given to life, or when a minister says something lighthearted, wholesome laughter erupts.
In classes, when a Bible teacher's emotions are moved by a text, many Bible students are also moved and shed tears. The Holy Spirit presides over gatherings uniting worshipers. Praise, conviction, repentance, comes easier when we’re gathered with like-minded believers.
When it’s time for church members to leave a worship service for their separate homes, church leaders pray that the individual congregants will step out into their unique circles where their personal convictions will shine against the dark backdrop of the world. Godly leaders also long for our Sunday-hearts of worship to guide us Monday through Saturday.
Hearty corporate worship blesses us, but the extremes of Christianity—fanaticism and hypocrisy—can throw buckets of cold water upon someone who seeks to know more about God. Even an ounce of cynical spirit can douse a seeker’s curiosity.
In my home congregation, we’re encouraged to find one person, lodged in our weekdays, who shows an interest in learning more about Christianity. An important part of reaching out is to not prejudge whether someone might or might not come to Christ.
If I had been a traveling companion of Jesus when either the rich young ruler or Zacchaeus sought Jesus, I’d have placed my hopes on the rich young ruler, who was a member of the chosen Jews. He confessed that he kept the commands of the Mosaic Law. He had initiated his search for Jesus and asked what he needed to do to be saved. But, I would have been wrong. When Jesus told him to sell all he had, give it to the poor and follow him, the very rich young man turned away from the Messiah. While Jesus knew the young man’s heart, I would have only seen his outward appearance and heard his list of good deeds.
The last person, I’d expect to turn to Christ was literally found up a tree. Short in stature, Zacchaeus had climbed a tree to get a better view of Jesus when he walked on a nearby path. I’m told that the average height of a Jewish male during this time was 5’ 4”. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, known for underhanded shenanigans. He’d short changed plenty of local citizens. Surely, his failures and tarnished reputation would not fit in with a holy group of people. Could his sin encrusted heart really make a turn around? Wouldn’t his loathsome past cancel out any future good he might do? And yet, he was the one who longed to repent, to repair, and be replenished.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35). Jesus wanted his disciples to know that opportunities were everywhere to share their faith.
We would do well to put away our prejudices of who will accept Christ. A better stance is to remember that God doesn’t want any to perish, and he alone knows how to look deep into a person’s heart and draw them to himself. We are Yellow Pages for Christ, pointing others to him, anyone who asks!
We best light the path to God when we behave and love like his Son. The real Jesus walked into a synagogue and the real Jesus walked out, no pretense, no change to his demeanor. He remained true to God at all times. To shine against the backdrop of this world, fully imitate the Christ seven days a week.
Index Card Scripture for Week 17 – “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 5:1).