Zacchaeus Waiting on Jesus to Pass By, in Auburn?

Auburn Football vs Louisiana Monroe

Every week there is a home football game in Auburn huge crowds gather for the traditional Tiger Walk where the players walk down the street through the fans and on into the stadium.  I saw this guy up in the tree waiting for the football players to pass by and thought of that great story Luke wrote about when Jesus was passing through Jericho and stopped to speak with Zacchaeus the tax collector.

Of course you do have to keep in mind, as you can see from the photos below, Elvis was also there, along with the guy from the Psych ward, so why not Zaccaeus?

Jesus Does Tiger Walk in Jericho

As the story goes in Luke 19 (see below), Jesus was walking from the Samaritan country side to Jerusalem (on His way to the cross), and was “passing through Jericho”, when Jesus comes upon Zacchaeus who has climbed a fig tree.  Zacchaeus knew this location was on the route Jesus would follow into Jericho and he wanted to just get a glimpse of Jesus and the parade as He walked by.  Since Zacchaeus was a man who was tall-challenged, climbing a sycamore tree was going to be his only way to see Jesus (and this is no easy tree to climb).

Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

To me, these photos have several parallels to the story presented here in Luke, and you can draw your own as well, but climbing the tree just to get a glimpse of the Auburn football players is our culture of today.  The football players, perhaps athletes in general, are the Greek gods of today for many of us, and we pack stadiums (I included myself here and I love Auburn football) with city sized populations each week to watch these very talented, hard working athletes do what they do best.

Auburn Football Lined up for Tiger Walk

Auburn Football with the Auburn Elvis

Auburn Football vs Louisiana Monroe

We have raised these athletes to a mythical level, and pay a ton of money to see them at any chance we get.  As I lined up with 10,000 other fans two hours before the start of the Auburn vs LSU game, I saw this guy who had climbed a tree (albeit an oak tree in Alabama) while all the others, me included, lined up along the street to watch the players walk by.  The second photo is the center of the street where the players actually walk (now barricaded off on each side) just for a bit of perspective.

This is all part of the fun and excitement that is football in Auburn, and Bama football in Tuscaloosa, and is surely repeated in LSU, Florida, and all the other NCAA teams across the country, and then NFL stadiums on Sunday.  You have to line up about an hour before they do their walk through to be able to see the players, so I did, and stood there in the blazing heat with everyone else.

Standing there, thinking of story in Luke 19, I wondered if we would line up like this for Jesus as he walked through Auburn?  Would we still climb trees just to see His face?  Line the streets with banners, flags, and take photos and videos as He walked by?  Do we put these football players in His place in our mind?

Jesus Comes from Atlanta to Birmingham via Auburn

The really interesting part of the story told in Luke is in the very first verse.  “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.”  Looking a little deeper we see that Jesus was walking from Samaria to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho.  Samaria was due north of Jerusalem and Jericho is just about due east of Jerusalem, just north of the Dead Sea.  In our terms, that would be like someone driving from Atlanta to Birmingham and passing through Aburn on the way.  Jesus went to Jericho on purpose, to speak to Zacchaeus, whom He knew by name.

The football players walk through the streets before each game because it is part of a great tradition that goes along with Auburn football.  They get pumped up for the game, we all yell and scream chants of WAR EAGLE as they walk by, and then win or loose, next week we line up to do it again.  I love the tradition and much of this is done in appreciation for all the hard work the football players do throughout the week in preparation for the game.  Not once though did Tommy Tuberville ever pull me off to the side and ask to come over to my house for dinner.  He did give me this really annoyed look when I probably got to close to him with my camera on this day (sorry coach), but that’s about it.

The story goes on in verse 9 to talk about the salvation that Zacchaeus received that day which began when he climbed a tree to see the parade go by.  Tiger Walk is great, and it give us all a chance to see one of the great traditions that is Auburn, but I doubt it changes lives, but it changed Zacchaeus’ life forever.

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

In light of Auburn’s 13-14 loss Saturday to Vanderbilt, the first time since the 1955 Gator Bowl, it makes me cringe to think about how much pressure we put on these kids today to perform.  I can remember playing high school ball and being nervous when the minor league recruiters would show up at our games.  I can’t imagine the pressure these 18-22 year old college kids feel with thousands upon thousands (87,451 to be precise) all expecting perfection for each game.  In the end, they are not Greek gods, even if we treat them as such, and they are not perfect.  We shouldn’t expect them to be perfect either, we already have One who is perfect, and His Tiger Walk took place in Jericho 2,000 years ago.

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