A traitor to his people, Zacchaeus had no reason to expect much more than a glance at Jesus, this person, so many people were talking about. Such wild claims were made of this man. Some were even calling him the Messiah. Could that be possible? Israel had waited so long that the thought of that dream coming true had long since died in most people. Besides, many claiming to be the Messiah were just as bad as he, liars, and cheats playing on the emotions of their own people. Still, something about this Jesus was different. “I have to see him,” Zacchaeus thought.
Jericho was the perfect location for the chief tax collector. The city had everything that a man of the world could want, and he had the resources to provide himself with all of it. Of course, his ability to live that way rested squarely on the backs of his own people. The people he managed, lower-level tax collectors, routinely collected a surcharge on all taxes paid to Rome. God knew that Rome gave them nothing except shame, so it was up to them if they were to make a decent living. He, overseeing so many, took his cut from what they had stolen along with what he added to the people of influence that he collected taxes from directly. It was an excellent system. He had all he could ever want, and yet he had nothing … nothing of real value. He was despised.
Needed to See Him
Jesus was passing through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem for the last time. This trip would end in his crucifixion, though only he understood this. Still, his work was not done. There was a purpose in taking this route to the capital. There was someone he needed to meet.
Zacchaeus inquired about the route Jesus was taking. It wasn’t difficult to discern. People lined the road for miles ahead of him. The crowds were so dense and his reputation so heinous that he could see nothing. As he ran ahead of the masses, he came upon a fig tree of the Sycamore variety. It had low, sturdy branches that stretched out over the road. In his excitement, he nearly ran up the trunk of the tree and perched himself just to the side of the path, hidden in part by the large leaves. He didn’t have long to wait. Jesus was making good time like he was on a mission of some sort. Suddenly he stopped. He was directly below Zacchaeus. “What luck!” Zacchaeus thought, until …
Jesus looked up. Their eyes met for a second, and then Zacchaeus turned away. It seemed as if everything he had ever done was seen in that part of a moment. Everyone else was looking at him too, but he was not aware of their horrible glares at all. The only thing his brain could hold was the look in Jesus’ eyes. It was not the look of hate and condemnation that he fully expected and deserved. No, it was a look of love, compassion, and acceptance. He forced himself to look back into those eyes, needing more.
Jesus smiled and said, “Zacchaeus, come down from there. I’ll be staying at your house for the night.” Zacchaeus nearly fell out of the tree in his hurry to reach the ground. Of the faithful Jesus could choose to stay with, his heart was set on staying with the least worthy. “I choose you, Zacchaeus.”
I don’t know about you, but I often feel inadequate. More than just that, I feel unworthy. If Jesus just knew who I really am inside he would want no part of being with me, much less using me to grow his kingdom. But Jesus does see me and loves me anyway. The look of love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance that Zacchaeus saw in Jesus’ eyes is there for me. He chooses me. He chooses you. What a humbly beautiful thought!
Our response to that acceptance needs to reflect Zacchaeus as well. He took immediate action and completely turned his life around. Can we do any less? What is it that Jesus is asking of us? What are we holding onto that he wants to free us of? Let go and leave your hands open to receive what Jesus has for you, the life and work that he has designed for you. You’re not alone!