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Even the Flawed Have Potential to Do Great Things

Why a Sycamore tree? Zacchaeus was hoping that Jesus would make the connection. No one likes a chief tax collector or a Sycamore tree. The bark peels off, and it makes a mess of your lawn. It has ugly brown blotches and unsightly spots. A Sycamore tree looks like something is wrong with it, sick and diseased, but it is really quite healthy. The chef tax collector looks to everyone like he is sick with evil intent and sin, but with Christ, he gains a generous heart, and with Christ, he will realize his full potential.

Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard tree. What is a mustard tree? It is a big oversized weed. When was the last time you planted a mustard tree in your garden? So why would Jesus compare the Kingdom of God to a weed? In the Kingdom of God, even a weed has potential to greatness.

So there is an eagle chasing a small sparrow. Just before the little bird becomes someone’s lunch, it sees the mustard tree and darts inside its thick branches. The eagle says, “I’m not going into that mess.” Look at a rabbit. It has nothing to protect itself. It doesn’t have any wings to fly, it can’t climb trees, and it does not appear to be threatening to predators It has no defense, but it does have a mustard tree. Even a weed has potential to greatness.

Ezekiel was in a concentration camp in Babylon, and he told a parable to his fellow prisoners who were feeling discouraged. Once again, a tree is used. God took a healthy branch and cut it. Technically, the branch has no chance of survival apart from the roots. But this lucky branch is in God’s hands. God plants the branch in the ground, growing to be a great tree and bearing much fruit. The key to understanding the parable is noticing where God planted the branch.

This year we had lots of tomatoes. Not like last year. This year we planted the tomatoes on top of the roof. That is what God did. He put the branch on top of a mountain where it got full, with plenty of rain, no overhanging plants to compete with, and no joggers to squish it. When Ezekiel’s fellow prisoners heard that parable, they thought, “If a branch that is cut off from its life source and it can grow into the most fruitful tree, imagine what God can do with a few faithful prisoners. He could rebuild a nation.  “And that is exactly what happened.” 

I was thinking the other day about Jesus after the resurrection. If I were the Lord, the first thing I would have done is replace Peter. Throughout the Gospel, he is a loser. He puts his foot in his mouth and denies the Lord three times. Once, he told Jesus, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Is it not true that when we fail, we are replaced? There is always someone who has more talent, is younger, has more energy, and has potential, so we are easy to replace with someone better. What was the first thing Jesus did when He rose from the dead? He instructs Mary to go to Peter, “he thinks I am disappointed with him, and tell Peter, he will be happy to know I want to see him. Tell Peter I did not give up on him.” That is why Jesus uses a weed to describe the Kingdom of God. And that is why Jesus breaks bread with the chief tax collector.

If Zaccheaus were here today, he would tell us, “You may think that you have too many flaws or you are not very popular. For this reason, always invite God into your home, always invite God in your life and he will help you realize your full potential to do great things.

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