Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Z is for Zacchaeus
Z is for Zacchaeus
For the last and final A to Z challenge post I am pulling away from the theme of attributes of God and instead share with you a story of someone God brought into His fold.
The story of Zacchaeus is told in Luke 19:1-10.
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 being a short man he could not, because of 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 what was lost."
What's so special about Zacchaeus? He was short, he was a tax collector, he was wealthy.
He had all those things and was still lost.
Jesus saw past those attributes, those character traits, those shortcomings, tee hee, and called him a son of Abraham.
Despite his reputation of being a "sinner" Jesus called Him a Son of Abraham. That had to have irked the people watching, who you can be sure had their reputable Jewish lineage already on the scrolls of heaven. They saw Jesus as conversing with a sinner, Jesus saw his host as lost.
He loved wealthy and powerful Zacchaeus.
He loved short Zacchaeus.
He loved tax collector Zacchaeus.
He didn't want to stay with him because he was any of those things. He wanted to stay with him because he was lost.
Zacchaeus climbed a tree so he could get a better view of Jesus, but Jesus had already picked Zacchaeus out of the crowd. Zacchaeus didn't have to climb a tree for Jesus to see him. Zacchaeus had to climb the tree for Zacchaeus to see Jesus. He'd had enough of the empty life his wealth and job title brought him. His heart must have been longing for something more. And Something More was coming down the road and looking for a tax collector named Zacchaeus.
His heart wasn't getting filled by stuff or power. His empty heart climbed that tree. His empty heart was beating for Life to begin. His name meant righteous one, pure one, but I'm guessing he and those who knew him looked at him as neither of those.
Jesus looks up in that tree and calls out his name, "Righteous one, Pure one. Yea, you. Come down out of that tree and take me to your house."
Can you imagine?
Zacchaeus, I would speculate, felt anything but righteous, anything but pure. Maybe even those who knew him mocked him.
He comes up to your door, demanding money for taxes, and you might whisper under your breath, "righteous one, my foot. I'd like to spit on you."
I'm speculating he knew what his name meant, and underneath all the wealth and power, he felt like a hypocrite, a failure, a sorry excuse for a human being.
(Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you have wealth and the world calls you greedy, without passion. Maybe you are not all that handsome or pretty to look at and you get lost in the crowd of beautiful people, no one noticing you even exist. Maybe....)
I don't know. I wasn't there. I'm not Jewish. I don't study Roman history or know much of anything about being in a job where people hate you because of what you do.
But the thing is, Jesus looked beyond all that the world saw in Zacchaeus and saw potential. Potential to be called a Son of Abraham. In front of perhaps the supposed sons and daughters of Abraham.
They were the ones waiting for a personal invitation from Jesus to invite them into their homes. They were the ones who felt worthy for such an invitation. Zacchaeus, in their eyes, wasn't worthy. But Jesus doesn't look at the heart with human eyes, Jesus looks at the heart with eternal eyes. His eyes see the potential. His eyes look through the filth and see the possibility of a heart set free.
Zacchaeus' wealth meant nothing to him. His job meant nothing to him. The power he had meant nothing to him. In fact, instead of tithing the ten percent that most good Jewish people tithed, he was ready to give fifty percent of his income to the poor and pay back four times the amount of what he stole! Jesus transformed him and immediately the transformation could be seen.
He came down from that sycamore tree at once, speudo - he hurried, Luke tells us, and welcomed Jesus gladly. When Jesus came around, nothing else mattered to him. Zacchaeus welcomed him chairo - he rejoiced, he was glad, he was delighted.
The presence of Jesus in our lives made Zacchaeus and us glad and makes what we have, or are pursuing without Him yoked to us, meaningless.
Those watching saw a sinner. But Jesus, He saw a Son. And when the Son calls you a son, you are free.
Peace, and thanks for reading!