The Hitchhiker

The highway I travelled was lonely and serene
For mile after mile not a soul was to be seen
Though potholes and danger lurked at every bend
I stepped on the gas pedal right to the end

Then far in the distance I saw a single man
Standing on the highway with an outstretched hand
First one car stopped then two then three
But each sped onward and He signalled to me

Stepping on the brakes I pulled to the side
To see if the hitchhiker would like a ride

His face was radiant, his eyes were aglow
No questions were necessary for me to know
That he was the Messiah, Christ the Lord              
The one from heaven I tended to ignore

He looked at me with a tender smile
And said he would like to ride for a while                
But where we're going we'll only arrive
If you move over and allow me to drive

Journey with me back in time. 
Two thousand years to the city of Jericho. The city is buzzing with excitement. For 400 years an eerie silence has filtered through the land. There has been no prophet like Elijah. No leader like Moses. Nor a king like David. Roman rulers are ruthless and the people eagerly anticipate the coming of the promised Messiah.   

The Miracle Worker
Then shattering the stillness, the commanding voice of a miracle worker, echoes through the land. The wind and the waves are silenced. Lepers are healed. The eyes of the blind are opened. The lame leap to their feet and the dead are raised back to life. The buzz sweeping through the city is that the miracle worker is coming to town. News spreads like wildfire and an expectant crowd lines the streets. Jesus is on his final trip to Jerusalem, not to be crowned as king, he is going there to die. To sacrifice his life and pay the penalty for sin. But he pauses to hitch a ride into the life of Zacchaeus. 

Profile of Zacchaeus
He is a short little man, cunning and resourceful. There are no banks, and because Jews know best where another one hides his money, the Romans hire him to collect taxes. It’s a sweet deal. The more he collects over his quota the more he keeps. Consumed by greed he cheats and steals and rises to the rank of chief tax collector.

The People Reject Him
Despised and hated he's treated like an outcast. Picture him trying to sift through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the miracle worker. Negative taunts and stiff elbows brush him aside. Unable to see he improvises. Up ahead is a sycamore tree with spreading branches. Setting his dignity aside he climbs till he has a good view.

Divine Appointment
As Jesus approaches time stands still. Then a commanding voice rings out with authority, “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” The word "must" indicates this is a divine appointment. The chief of saints hitches a ride into the life of the chief of sinners. Stricken with awe the little man scampers down the tree and rushes to his home. The conversation is not recorded. But my guess, and I believe it’s a good one, is that it touches on his need to repent and believe in Jesus.

The Dramatic Result
The result is startling. Zacchaeus pledges to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times what he cheated. This is two times more than what was required under the law. The tax collector hands over the keys to his life, moves over and lets Jesus do the driving. And the Lord promptly declares he is now a true son of Abraham, or as we understand it, a true child of God.

The Mission.
The story then concludes with Jesus declaring his purpose for coming into the world.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

He came on a rescue mission to restore humanity. To seek those who ignore Him and to save them from the devastating consequences of sin. To steer them away from potholes and dead-end streets. To hitch a ride into their lives and steer them onto the road that leads to eternity.  Forty three years ago during the Summer Olympics in Montreal it was my time to be rescued. Jesus hitched a ride into my life through a chance encounter with Sara Anderson, a complete stranger. This resulted in the life-changing experience that led me to write the above poem.         

What about you?
Have you tended to ignore him like I did? Is Jesus standing on the highway of your life with an outstretched hand? If he is, have you considered pulling over to give him a ride?

And if so, are you willing to hand him the keys and let Him do the driving?

Scripture Luke 19:1-10


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