At All Hazards

As most of you know, all three of my sons
played basketball on some level. They are tall
boys (the shortest being my height, and I am 6’
2”), and all are athletically inclined. Interestingly,
the way it turned out, it was the shortest son who
continued his basketball career beyond high
school (Stacy and I find it hard to believe, but he
is in the midst of his final year of college
basketball. It all goes by so quickly.).
Fans of the Atlanta Hawks remember Jerome
Webb, better known as ‘Spud.’ Spud played in the
NBA for fourteen seasons. Along the way, in
1986, he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that
Spud is 5’ 7”. Typically, people who are 5’ 7” do
not play basketball in the NBA, let alone dunk. But
Spud did, and he did it well. In fact, in that dunk
contest he stole the show, defeating another
Atlanta Hawks player, Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins
is 6’ 8”, a hall-of-famer, and the guy who during
his career was known as “the human highlight
reel.” I remember watching that 1986 contest and
being amazed. Spud was awesome.
But physically Spud was a giant compared to
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues. Bogues also played
fourteen years in the NBA. And here’s the thing—
he was only 5’ 3” (notably, after his playing days,
he coached in the WNBA for the short-lived
Charlotte Sting. Even there he was three inches
shorter than his shortest player). Bogues had a
great college career at Wake Forest (they retired
his #14 jersey), and he had success in the NBA
as well. As with Spud, I recall watching Bogues
play. It always amazed me how a man so small in
stature could have such a profound effect in a
sport that seems designed for very tall people.

Luke 19 tells us that Zacchaeus was
small in stature. We sing about this in a
children’s song, “Zacchaeus was a wee
little man, and a wee little man was he.”
People in the ancient world were much
smaller on average than we are today, so
Zacchaeus must have been rather “wee”—
especially from our perspective—in order
for Luke to mention his lack of height. Yet
whatever disadvantages may have
resulted from his physical stature,
Zacchaeus refused to be deterred from
seeing Jesus. This diminutive fellow was
committed to laying his eyes upon Jesus
as Jesus passed through Jericho.
It may sound odd to say that
Zacchaeus was being courageous, but I
think he was (stick with me here). Luke
describes Zacchaeus as a rich chief tax
collector. We know enough about tax
collectors to appreciate that they were not
very well liked. In other words, I imagine
that Zacchaeus’s social calendar was
pretty wide open. Doubtless he had few if
any friends. It is also not a stretch to say
that there were folks that would love to do
him harm. As a result, he likely did not go
out much, and when he did, he was very
discreet (possibly he had protection, too).

When he hears that Jesus has come to
town, however, Zacchaeus throws caution
to the wind. He sets aside whatever
potential risks he may have to face for the
sake of drawing near to the Christ. In so
doing, he makes himself vulnerable, even
to the point of climbing a tree for vantage.
Zacchaeus’s efforts pay off, as Jesus calls
to him and, after a discussion with Jesus in
which Zacchaeus commits to righting any
possible wrongs he may have perpetrated
in his work, Jesus declares salvation for
This “wee little man” serves as a
shining example of being unrelenting in our
pursuit of Jesus. What are we willing to put
at hazard in order to get close to Jesus?

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