Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Therein was a man there named Zaccheus. He was the chief tax collector and he was wealthy. He wanted to see Jesus but was unable, due to the crowd – and because he was very small. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus – as he was traveling the path nearby. When Jesus reached that spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, because today I have to stay at your house.” So he hurried down and welcomed him with joy. When the people saw this, they began complaining, saying “He’s gone to be the guest of a man who is a materialist.” (Luke 19:1-7)
The mercy of Jesus
We can see here that Jesus is offering the mercy of the Supreme Being to anyone and everyone who wants to receive it. It is not as if Jesus eliminated those who were wealthy, or those who were of a different race or a different sect. He saw the spirit-person within, and whether they were eager to return to our relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is our primary choice in life. If we boiled down all of the choices and all of the challenges that put us to the test, we find that it boils down to this one choice:
Do we want to return to our loving service relationship with God or not?
All of our choices ultimately add up to this one. Some of our smaller choices we have might relate to honesty, or virtue, or following instructions someone has given us, or following our conscience. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that relate to our values.
While some of these choices may seem mundane, as we add them up over a lifetime we accumulate choices that essentially yield the grand choice: Whether we want to return to God or not.
Illustrating this, we find that Zacchaeus decided to climb a tree so he could observe Jesus. He was a short man so this was his best means to have a glimpse of God's representative.
Climbing the tree required a number of decisions. These included determining where Jesus might walk. It also required finding the right tree to climb. A short man would have needed a tree with some low-hanging limbs. Then, of course, he had to get up there in time for Jesus to pass by.
All of these decisions may seem mundane when looked at independently. But together they formulated a grand choice, also made by Zacchaeus: He wanted to get closer to God, and God's representative.
Jesus, of course, understood this. As God's representative and loving servant, Jesus enjoys an intimate relationship with God. And because God sees our hearts, He indicated to Jesus to stay at Zacchaeus' house.
Yes, when someone makes the choice to return to Him, the Supreme Being offers guidance. This includes the Supreme Being arranging contact with His representative.
Jesus stated this clearly:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them..." (John 6:44)
How God gives us the potential to return to Him
This illustrates the relationship existing between God and His representative, and those who wish to return to Him. He creates the opportunity: God sends His representative. Then He arranges for those who want to return to Him to meet His representative and take guidance from him. Jesus clarified this relationship elsewhere:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day." (John 6:38-39)Thus we can understand that not only does Jesus see his role in relation to serving and pleasing the Supreme Being - but he understands that his guidance is critical for the future of those who have accepted that guidance.
But what about "raising them up at the last day"? Sectarian teachers like to talk about some time in the near or distant future when Jesus will come back and round up everyone at the same time. As if everyone who has died up until that point has to wait around in some limbo state for him to come and get them. Does this make any sense?
'The last day' explained
In the NIV translation of John 6:38-39, "the last day" comes from the Greek words ἔσχατος (eschatos) and ἡμέρα (hēmera). The former means, "extreme - last in time or in place" while the latter means "the day, used of the natural day" and "used of time in general, i.e. the days of his life."
When used together, this quite clearly indicates that Jesus is speaking of one's last day of his life - which is the time of death - as indicated in the Gospels of Jesus:
"For I have descended from the spiritual realm not to please myself but to please Him who sent me. And what pleases Him who sent me is that I shall lose none of those He has entrusted to me, but raise them up at the time of death." (John 6:38-39)What kind of "raising up" will Jesus be doing then? Sectarian teachers like to preach that Jesus is speaking of raising up their bodies into heaven.
Wait a second. It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus said this. That would mean that all those dead bodies of followers of Jesus that have died are in advanced stages of decomposition. Some have completely decomposed by now - even their bones turning to dust.
So how would he be "raising up" their bodies if they have decomposed?
This philosophy simply makes no sense.
Jesus was not preaching a doctrine that didn't make sense. This notion that the physical body rises up to heaven is a nonsensical notion invented by those who did not carefully learn Jesus' teachings regarding our composition as spirit - not matter:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matt. 10:28)
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41 and Mark 14:38)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matt. 6:25 and Luke 12:22)
"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life." (John 6:63)
"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6)These indicate clearly that Jesus taught that our composition is spirit, not matter. As such, when we die, our spirit-person leaves the physical body. It rises up, out of the body.
Clinical death confirms this
This, in fact, has been proven over and over in clinical death cases, where a person rises up from their body and looks down upon it from the ceiling. They have left their physical body. They have rose up out of the body. How else could they look down upon it?
This also means that those who have imagined heaven as this place where a bunch of old people go in their suits and ties - looking like the physical body just before they died - is just that: Imagination. It is speculative imagination created by the mind.
For example, one popular story put out by a sectarian pastor that was involved in an auto accident says that he went to heaven. Yet when he recalls going to "heaven" he doesn't recall seeing Jesus or God. He only recalls seeing a bunch of old relatives and a few other people he knew whose bodies had died. They were all standing there in the clouds - in suits and ties - looking just like their bodies looked before they died. He recalls seeing his grandparents for example - in their suits and ties and with gray hair and all - just as their old pictures looked.
Was this man really seeing heaven? If he was in heaven why didn't he see the Supreme Being? Why didn't he at least see Jesus?
Because he didn't go to heaven.
He went to a place in his mind that he had imagined previously. His mind recalled all the images - the faces and the suits and even the notion of a pearly gate. So when he was suspended - when his heart stopped - his spirit-person was still covered by the mind. And his mind was recalling all of the physical images of his lifetime.
This recall of one's lifetime is a common principle in clinical death cases - it is one of the first steps before one leaves their body. This doesn't mean their aren't authentic cases of afterlife experiences. But in this case, the man did not leave his body, but rather explored imagery arising from the mental speculation of what heaven might be like.
Many imagine heaven as this place where all ones relatives meet up again - whether in their suits and ties like in church or in white robes sitting on the clouds playing harps. In both of these scenarios they imagine everyone in their old physical bodies - as if their bodies don't decompose after burial.
Jesus specifically criticized this imaginary view of heaven. When some sadducees came and asked him about a woman who married seven brothers, they wanted to know whose wife she would be in heaven:
"Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection." (Luke 20:28-36)Thus we find that Jesus clearly reveals that the family and relatives of the physical body are not relevant in the spiritual realm. The woman in the story would no longer be married to any of the brothers because in order to go to heaven, she would have to leave her physical body behind.
Because the family relationships of the physical world are based upon this physical body - when we leave this physical body we leave those relationships.
In the spiritual realm, our family is the family of God. We are all His children. Jesus confirms this as he instructs his students to transcend the family of the physical body:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
"Truly I tell you," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)Why does Jesus want his followers to reject their families? Because the physical body is a temporary vehicle - that we leave behind at the time of death. We are composed of spirit - not the physical body. For this reason, the forms and names of the physical body are not important to our choice of whether we return to our relationship with God. And identifying with the family of the physical body can a hindrance to ones spiritual progress, as Jesus taught.
Jesus further clarified the identity of his (and our) real family:
"My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:21)This is God's spiritual family. This family exists among both the spiritual realm and the physical world. Those who live to please the Supreme Being are part of God's family, whether they have a physical body in the physical world or they reside in the spiritual realm - where God's personal presence is seen everywhere.