This is a very famous story in the Bible, and it’s one I’ve heard (and sang) since I was a kid. But as I looked at it today, verse 3 struck me.
[Zacchaeus] wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.
Zacchaeus, of course, was a tax collector. In our day and age that would be bad enough. In the Jews day and age it was worse, because as I’ve mentioned before, they were basically considered collaborators with the Roman government, not to mention crooks. As a result, they were utterly despised by their fellow Jews.
And yet, he wanted to see Jesus. Why? Probably because though he had all the money he could possibly want, he still felt empty inside. And in Jesus, he saw something different. He saw life and hope.
But because of the crowd, he couldn’t see them. This was a crowd, that if you had asked them, would probably have said that they were very religious. That they loved God. And yet because of them, Zacchaeus could not see Jesus.
Part of this was because he was short, of course, and because of the sheer number of people. But I think there’s also a chance that Zacchaeus knew what would happen if he tried to push through to draw near to Jesus. That being who he was, the crowd would not be inclined to let him through.
And so he climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. When Jesus saw him, however, he said,
Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. (5)
If there had been any doubt at what the people’s reaction to Zacchaeus would be, it was quickly dispelled as the people grumbled,
[Jesus] has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’
But touched by the love of Jesus, Zacchaeus became a changed man, and he said,
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. (8)
What can we get from this? How often are like that crowd? We say we love God. We say that we even follow Jesus. But because of us, people can’t see him. They can’t see him because we fail to tell them about him. Or even worse, because we look down on them and even push them away.
But let us always remember Jesus’ reaction to Zacchaeus. He longs for a relationship with them. That’s why he went to the cross. Not just for you and me. But for those around us. Even the despised. So let us not despise those around us. And let us not block others off from him. Rather let us remember these words of Jesus and live them.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (10)