Today, Zacchaeus may be fondly remembered as the wee little man in the Sunday school song; but for much of his life, he was ostracized by his community.
He was the tax collector for Jericho. Not only was he hated for working hand-in-hand with the Roman Empire, but for being a cheat. No wonder those who crowded the streets to catch a glimpse of Jesus as he walked into town wouldn’t let Zacchaeus elbow through.
So, as we know, the cunning Zacchaeus rose above it all by climbing a sycamore tree. I wonder what it was he was hoping to see and hear.
He must have been searching for something new, for more than riches and power could bring him. And when Jesus said,
“Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house;”
well, the wee little man didn’t wait around. He hustled down the tree and accepted Christ joyfully and sincerely. He promised to give half of all he owned to the poor and restore fourfold all that he had stolen.
Meanwhile, the skeptical crowd murmured that Jesus never should have dined with such a sinner. They missed the miracle that had unfolded right under their noses. Jesus stopped what he was doing, looked past all the labels attached to Zacchaeus, and straight into the needs of his heart.
It reminds me of the line from the lovely song of the same title: “He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”
Oh, how I wish I were more like Jesus. I want to stop and see people, not their labels of social standing or appearance.
I’d even emulate Zacchaeus: searching, finding, receiving, giving back far more than he ever stole. Once a thief, now a restorer of riches and joy.
I hope never to be like those in the crowd – judging, murmuring, forgetting that God is the God of second, third, and fourth chances.
How do you identify with Zacchaeus’ story? I greatly appreciate your perspective.
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Luke 5:30-32