Kindness, and “Mr. Happy Man”

Last night at Elements I taught on Luke 19, and Jesus’ kindness to Zacchaeus.

It struck me that Zacchaeus gets far more than he expected. Jesus doesn’t just pass by and wave to him.

Jesus STOPS, and acknowledges him.

He doesn’t just acknowledge him; he SPEAKS to him.

And he doesn’t just speak to him, he invites himself over for dinner.

And he doesn’t just say “I’d like to come over,” but “I MUST stay at your house today!”

Why does Jesus do that, do you wonder? What’s the point?

Christ-like Kindness meets someone in their deepest need.

Well, with Jesus, sometimes he explains what people’s problems are. But sometimes he let’s his actions speak for themselves. In other words, his “treatment” indicates the “diagnosis.”

And what’s Zacchaeus suffering from? I didn’t see it till I recently studied this, but Zaccheus is LONELY.

He’s alienated, rejected, separated. He’s ignored, he probably hasn’t had physical touch that he hasn’t paid for in years, he’s starving for contact. He’s lonely.

This is something universal to the human condition.

“The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm…is part of our inconsolable secret.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

And Zacchaeus probably felt it more deeply than others.  I wonder if the early Christ followers had reunions. Did they get together and talk about “How did you meet him?” There’d be lots of people there who he healed, cast out demons, fed the 5000. Then Lazarus would tell his story. But then little Zacchaeus would be asked “What did he do for you?”  And Zacchaeus would say “He invited himself over to my house, that WAS the miracle!”

Jesus’ kindness to Zacchaeus led to repentance and a transformed life; and it led to an explosion of kindness from Zacchaeus to others. We often underestimate the power of Kindness. But when we understand how deeply we’ve been blessed by Christ, we are free to bless others.

I didn’t get to show this short film last night, but loved it. Johnny Barnes of Bermuda, aka “Mr. Happy Man,” has made a powerful ministry of simply greeting people. Ithought it demonstrated the power of Kindness in a vivid, delightful way. I love how the man says he’s just a tool in the hands of God. Watch and enjoy!

Mr. Happy Man


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4 thoughts on “Kindness, and “Mr. Happy Man”

  1. It is interesting isn't it! After reading your thoughts, I was musing over how loneliness when it feels like it hit its peak, you will be willing for a small window of time to do something radical for hope. For Zacchaeus it was climbing a tree. Curious, how are you seeing students on your campus "climb trees"?

    Honored to be part of with you.

    • I like your question about "climbing trees" Brandon. In Zacchaeus' case, the tree represented his shame, in that it highlighted his own physical shortcomings, as well as his social rejection (no one would make room for him, and it distanced him from others), but it also was an attempt on his part to hope, even a little.

      Our ministry frequently gives out free food on Friday nights to people downtown, going to and from parties. Often, we'll get people who are a little bit drunk, and begin to open up about their beliefs and their stories. They become remarkably honest and transparent, and start asking the deepest questions they have about God, forgiveness, and grace. It's not uncommon for people to say "I'm such a bad person…God could never love me…could he?" And we get to share grace and truth with them. At least once every time we do it, someone is so overcome with our simple gesture of kindness (remember, we're giving away a HOT DOG) that they break down and cry and say "This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me!" Stopping and having a hot dog is a "up in the tree" moment for them, I think!

  2. Hot dogs and evangelism! Contextualization at its finest! Ha. Love it. Ya, we've had similar experiences as we gave rides and bottle water at closing time at the bars. It is amazing how the appeal of hope creates those moments of vulnerability. This goes well with your book and how churches and campus ministries need to think through how to be innovative in order to be missional. Very good indeed!