Can God Use a Person Like Me?

Read Luke 19:1-10

The Bible is full of unexpected converts.

One of them was a wee little man named Zacchaeus. (“And a wee little man was he.”)

This short-statured Jewish man from the city of Jericho was, by trade, a tax collector. In his world, this was one of the most despicable lines of work a person could be in.

Of course, people have never liked having government agencies come for their possessions—I feel for IRS agents and accountants this time of the year—but in Zacchaeus’s day, tax collectors were seen as more than government auditors. They were seen as extortionists, traitors working for the foreign oppressor named the Roman Empire. Tax collectors also had a reputation for taking a little extra money for themselves.

People would have put their noses in the air when they crossed paths with Zacchaeus. I imagine very few people took the moment to look down into his eyes.

But Jesus didn’t see him the way others did.

Zacchaeus could never have anticipated what Jesus would do in his life—never in a million years.

When Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus decided to go out and see what all the fuss was about. But Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowds (and this was a day before big projection screens). So, he found a nearby sycamore tree to climb in and get a better view of Jesus.

Jesus spotted Zacchaeus, and the weird thing is, he knew him by name. “Zacchaeus,” he said. I can imagine Zacchaeus being stunned by Jesus’ knowledge of his name. “How does a famous traveling prophet know me, a tax collector?”

Jesus’ next words said were probably even more remarkable to him: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house” (19:5).

Zacchaeus couldn’t get down out of that tree fast enough. He raced to see Jesus and “welcomed him joyfully” (19:6).

Of course, the town immediately started buzzing because Jesus was not only hanging out with religious people but all of a sudden he was hanging out with tax collectors who were thieving traitors to Israel.

Zacchaeus had a dramatic conversion. After encountering Jesus, he had a changed life, giving half of his wealth to the poor and promising to pay back people whom he cheated four times what he owed them.

Jesus said, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he, too [even if his business was disreputable] is a son of Abraham.”

Jesus then clinches this dramatic story with these words: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (19:10).

Some of you might read Zacchaeus’ story and think, “That’s nice, but it could never happen to me. I’ve fallen too far for God to love me or use me. You don’t know what I’ve done.”

First, you should know that Jesus can transform any life. You can’t be so far from God that he can’t rescue you. Second, he knows everything about you and your life, just as he did with Zacchaeus. But he still invites you to be with him! He still wants to be part of your life!

Finally, you should know that as much as Jesus loves you, as much as he wants to make your life new, you have to be willing to climb down out of the sycamore tree. When he calls your name, you must respond in order to take the offer he has for you.

Imagine how the story would have turned out if Zacchaeus was too embarrassed to come down, or too nervous to let Jesus come over to his house. What if he felt too ridiculed to come out to see Jesus in the first place?

If you have never taken that initial step and listened to Jesus calling for you, we can explain how. If you are not part of a local church family who will encourage you how to know Jesus better, how you can have a changed life, we would love to have you be part of ours.

We meet on Sunday mornings at 1400 Williams Blvd, Kenner, LA 70062. We have a worship service at 10:30 a.m. and age-specific Bible studies at 9:30 a.m. We would love to have you.

If Jesus calls your name and asks to be with you, listen to his voice and come down from your vantage point to meet him.


Rhyne Putman serves as the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at FBC Kenner.

His day job is at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he serves as the Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture. (Yes, he’s the nerdy theology type.)

Rhyne is the author of In Defense of Doctrine (Fortress Press, 2015) and of When Doctrine Divides (Fortress Press, 2017). He greatly appreciates any contribution you make to his son’s college education by buying his very (interesting) books.

He’s also a pop culture geek who thinks himself Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. He also bleeds Mississippi State maroon.

More importantly, he’s the husband of the stunning Micah and the father of a rambunctious preschooler named Ben.