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.”
What do you think Zacchaeus was really hoping for when he climbed a tree to see Jesus?
Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was wealthy and not just any tax collector, but chief tax collector. He was successful, but it’s very likely he cheated his own people as he climbed that ladder of success. He would have been considered a puppet of Rome, a crook, and an outcast. Even though he reached professional success, Zacchaeus would have also been well accustomed to feeling unseen, unwanted, and unloved.
As Zacchaeus climbs his way up a tree, hoping to see Jesus, I can’t help but wonder if Zacchaeus also hopes Jesus will see him.
On our best day, and on our worst day, we have a deep longing to be seen, wanted and loved.
So, just imagine what it is like for Zacchaeus as Jesus reaches the spot where he is sitting alone in that tree. Jesus sees him. Jesus stops everything for him. Jesus goes home with Zacchaeus and becomes his friend, even as bystanders mutter and grumble about it.
I love the way Rev. James Martin describes this encounter. He writes, “When Jesus offers to come to the house of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, the Gospel says that all who saw it "grumbled." Why? Because an offer of mercy to someone on the margins always makes some people angry. But, don't stand with the grumblers. Stand with Jesus.”
Through the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus reveals to us that God always sees us, always wants us and always loves us. And, Jesus teaches us how to offer mercy to those who are marginalized, to follow him in stopping everything to stand with them, to stand with Jesus right there.
- Like Zacchaeus, have you recently felt unseen, unwanted or unloved? Who do you think God has sent to stand with you and reveal God’s mercy and love to you?
Like Jesus, have you recently noticed someone, or a group of people, expressing feelings of being unseen, unwanted or unloved? How might you stop everything for them, stand with them, and reveal God’s mercy and love to them?
Lord, open our eyes that we may see the needs of others. Open our ears that we may hear their cries. Open our hearts that we may love all people, as you love. Let us not be afraid to defend the oppressed, the poor, and the powerless. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 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.