Luke 19:1-10 - Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.'
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.'
Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'
This is a story that I have read so many times and have known for so many years and I could rhyme it all off to you. We can often do that with many pieces of scripture or prayers; like the Our Father, or the Apostles' Creed and we don’t stop to read the lines. Not read between the lines but actually read them and soak them in.
I was asked to speak on this passage a few years ago and I remember when I was driving and thinking out loud about what I was going to say that it struck me that I can relate to both Zacchaeus and the crowd of people in this story. The main aspect of this story and, this is my interpretation of course, is in that moment Zacchaeus changed. That silent redemption, that moment within us when God has spoken words and love in a way that we dared not imagine. That moment when we are truly transformed. That is what happened to Zacchaeus; Jesus saw him……truly saw him. He looked beyond the short man, up the tree; saw his heart, saw his desire to truly be who he wanted to be and spoke to him. Jesus didn’t call him out on his behaviour but just invited Himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner. You could say it was the crowd that changed the behaviour of Zacchaeus and yes, that is true, but I think what the crowd did was call Zacchaeus into action. I think this is the quickest transformation in the Bible!
Here is a man rich from being a tax collector. It’s not the nicest job in the world, it's a tough job because many people don't like you because of what you do. People have forgotten about the person and only see the job. They think he is a crook and a sinner. We are all sinners and yet it’s funny how quick we can be to point the finger.
This story is about value. I believe that we were all created with a sense of value and I think that our feeling of being valued fades as we get older. Can you think of a time recently where you felt valued? For some of us it might be easy but maybe for a lot of us the true value of who we are is hard to pinpoint.
When Jesus came to Jericho, Zacchaeus couldn't see over the shoulders of people. It was like all those people didn’t believe that he was worth seeing Jesus. They were willing to take an opportunity away from Zacchaeus because they had this perception of him; that he wasn’t good enough. They were blocking him from him seeing his true value. But something in Zacchaeus made him run ahead...climb a tree and hope to see Jesus. I don’t think he believed that Jesus would see him but I think he just wanted to see this man everyone was talking about. I believe that Zacchaeus had no ulterior motive except to see Jesus. I do think think a deep desire is what propelled Zacchaeus to that tree and hope gave him the energy and strength to climb it. Jesus saw his true value, his desire to change and called Zacchaeus down from the tree.
People thought that he didn't deserve to have Jesus in his house but something that Zacchaeus says “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.” says that he has already been transformed. I’m sure many were skeptical but to pay someone back four times if he has cheated them is going above and beyond and that can only happen when all you have wanted is someone to see who you truly are; to know your worth and how much you care; care enough to see someone.
Let us be propelled by our deep desire to understand how much we are valued and let that allow us to react in a way that sees people. Let us not take an opportunity away for someone to have Jesus speak into their life and if we have, let us ask for forgiveness and be transformed again. This doesn’t ever stop, we are always in a cycle of transformation, if we allow it.
Susie Keegan is a creative, a font nerd, a graphic designer and the Church of Ireland Chaplain to Dublin Institute of Technology with 11 years experience in youth work. Use ‘Comic Sans’ in the wrong context and you’ll feel her wrath! Being an author on this blog has really pushed her comfort zone and she is very happy to be part of this community.