Jesus, the Great Equalizer

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:4 ESV)

sycamore
A sycamore tree in Palestine

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus was short…so short he feared he wouldn’t see Jesus in the crowd. He did what any dignified, wealthy Jewish man would never do. He ran. The elite in Jesus’s day didn’t run–they walked confidently wherever they went. Zacchaeus was rich but when he heard Jesus was coming to town all of a sudden his money didn’t matter. All that mattered was seeing Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Football quarterbacks give him credit. Army Generals pray to him. Presidents humble themselves before Him. Billionaires call him Lord. Paupers call him King. All who follow Jesus die to themselves and live for Him.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree. It wasn’t just any tree, it was a sycamore tree. When we think sycamore tree, we think flaky bark and maple looking leaves. The sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed was a fig-bearing tree. As a matter of fact, poor people often climbed this tree to pick its fruit. Zacchaeus, the rich (chief) tax collector climbed the tree of the peasant so he could see Jesus.

Jesus is the great equalizer.

But You, O Bethlehem

Micah had a resounding message: social injustice.  The rich oppressed the poor.  The haves dominated the have-nots.  I’m reading The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.  Ripken served as a missionary to Somaliland after the country had been ravaged by civil war.  He describes unspeakable injustice:

I encountered one of the most lasting images of depravity when my Somali guides took me to see the compound that the current leaders had seized (after reportedly slaughtering the family that had previously lived there) to serve as military headquarters and personal residence.  Inside heavily armed gates, the war lord and his minions generated their own electricity, watched satellite television, and ate like kings.  Just outside was a mob of several hundred desperate children, bellies bloated by malnutrition, gathered around the walls of the compound.  The children were anxiously awaiting what was a frequent, though not daily, occurrence.  When the carcass of whatever animal had been slaughtered for the leaders’ supper was heaved over the wall, the starving children descended like locusts, tearing and ripping off chunks of bloody animal hide to chew on and find the little nutritional value that it provided them.

What would Micah say to these warlords?  In Micah 2:1-3 he says,

Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.  Therefore thus says the LORD: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.”

And then Micah gives the unexpected prediction in 5:2,

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Through Micah God essentially said:  I’ll call the Messiah from an unknown town.  He won’t come from the rich, but from the poor.  My ultimate answer for oppression isn’t political reform, but an unlikely reformer who will come out of Bethlehem.  And how fitting.  Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Where else should the bread of life come from!

This Christmas don’t be surprised at how God brings justice to an unjust world.  And be reminded: God’s ultimate answer for all injustice is His one and only Son, born in an unknown town to an unknown couple, in an unknown cave to make known a great God.