19 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 because he was short he could not see over 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.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
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 the lost.”
We are all broken, imperfect sinners. This reality is rather easy to accept in light of the grace provided to me through Christ. I can admit I am a mess, knowing that God can use even my messiness to reach others. But, before and during Jesus’ time on earth, faith was not viewed in this manner. The Jewish people had spent their lives following specific rules to be in right relationship with God. And other popular “Gods” at the time required particular offerings and behavior of the ancient peoples as well. So Jesus’ actions and teachings about faith were a radical departure from any religious understanding that existed at the time.
In this story from Luke, we see how the Jews saw Zacchaeus. He was a sinner. He was not to be trusted or respected. Plain and simple. That is how Jews saw all tax collectors, because of their association with the Roman leadership. Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho, would have been greatly despised within his own community. The Pharisees would have avoided association with him at all costs. Jesus again challenges everyone’s preconceived ideas and decides to be a “guest” in Zacchaeus’ home.
Do you notice how quickly this changed our friend Zac? Jesus only had to express his interest in him, and it changed Zac’s life forever. He did an immediate turn-around from his former life. Do you have people in your life who you see as a “sinner,” maybe someone beneath your care, or unworthy of your interest? Think long and hard, because we all have a tendency to judge. Perhaps that person only needs to know they are loved, Jesus is for them, and salvation is theirs for the taking. What are you waiting for? Pull them down out of that “sinner” tree you put them in, and invite them into your life, messy as it may be.
Loving God, I know our world is not as it should be. Help me be an instrument of peace. Give me words to comfort and heal. Guide me to see through cultural barriers, hardened hearts, and destructive actions. Let me bring grace to those around me. Give me courage to see my neighbor as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.