Luke 19:1–10 (NLT) Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” 6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
When our kids were young, they sang a song about Zacchaeus…
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree
He said, “Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today,
I’m going to your house today.”
I can still remember how cute they were singing it, but it doesn’t really tell us much about this story. As a Jewish man who collected taxes for the Romans, he was doubly hated. The difference between what the Romans demanded in taxes, and what Zacchaeus charged them was how he made his living. Plus, his short stature might have given him a complex like two other Bible characters Knee-high-miah (Nehemiah) and Bildad the shoe-height (Bildad the Shuhite). (Sorry, those are, as my kids say, “cringeful” preacher jokes!)
Zacchaeus was so determined to see Jesus that, sacrificing all dignity, he climbed a tree. The sight of this wealthy swindler up in a tree gave an opportunity for people to mock him because of his short stature.
But it wasn’t Zacchaeus seeing Jesus that this story is about, but Jesus seeing him! Jesus noticed him and invited Himself over to his house for dinner. What an extraordinary gesture of acceptance this was for Zacchaeus—a famous rabbi of Israel was going to break bread in his home. And it changed his life forever. In fact, because of his new life in Messiah, he vowed to restore what he had wrongfully taken fourfold—which is commanded in the Law of Moses (see Exodus 22:1).
The reaction of the religious insiders, however, was predictable. Instead of rejoicing because a sinner repented, they were judgmental.
Years ago, when I was pastor at my first church, Dusty brought a homeless man named Steve to church one Sunday. I got to meet him and realized he was educated and articulate but was homeless because of addiction. I was delighted he worshiped with us, but after the service one of the church members pulled Dusty aside and told him, “Those aren’t our kind of people.” That church member should be glad I didn’t hear him!
On Tuesday, Dusty got a call to go to the city morgue to attempt to identify the body of a homeless man. As they pulled out the refrigerated drawer to show Dusty the deceased man, he noticed a toe tag that said simply, “John Doe.” This was Dusty’s friend, Steve, who had been killed on Monday when a truck dumped leftover dry ice into the dumpster in which he was sleeping. Steve might not have been some church people’s kind of people, but like Zacchaeus, he was Jesus’ kind of people! Although Steve had no family to identify him, Jesus identified him as one of His own! Like Steve and Zacchaeus, Jesus “came to seek and save those who are lost!”
So What? Write a prayer for those who are lost in your life.
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