Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’ Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I giver half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’” And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
Such joy we read in the Gospels. In this lesson from the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of the conversion of a tax collector.
We learn many things in the space of a mere few sentences. Foremost we see the great zeal of a man despised by his own countrymen. We see an incredible transformation of the spirit of Zacchaeus, and we see yet again the unfathomable mercy of our God.
Our God was incarnate to save fallen man and to restore us to that original image. Our Lord came to heal us for He is the Physician of our soul and body. We should not be aghast at the company our Lord kept. Though the Scribes and Pharisees used this in their condemnation of the Saviour, we rejoice that the Lord came to seek and restore the sick, the fallen, the outcasts. All of us fall into these categories, whether we believe it or not.
A closer look at this parable shows a certain tax collector wrestling for space to see the Lord. He was curious and something inside of him drove him to great lengths to see this Jesus of Nazareth. Zacchaeus was pierced in his heart and his soul. He was imprisoned and clearly longed to be set free. Consider his eagerness in climbing that Sycamore tree and welcoming the Lord into his home.
Zacchaeus was no ordinary citizen, he was a tax collector, which is also called a Publican. His lot was an extremely unpopular profession to the point of it being used as an insult. The Jewish Scribes and Pharisees, ever eager to attack our Saviour to justify themselves, were sure to take advantage of this. Of the audacity of our Lord to dine with sinners! We hear elsewhere in the Gospels where the Scribes and Pharisees continually challenge our Lord for his mercy. If our Lord really was a prophet, they would say, then He would surely know the type of person Zacchaeus was, or any of the countless others our Saviour healed. Oh the wonder, Him, who came down from His Throne, came down to heal us!
Upon entering Zacchaeus’ house, the transformation was complete. Without any prompting, Zacchaeus repented of his past sins and even went further to restore all that he stole four-fold. So great, so powerful, so sweet the countenance of our Saviour that it converted the harshness of Zacchaeus.
May we all have the zeal of this little man, going to great lengths to see our Lord and to strive for forgiveness of His sins, remembering our Saviour’s words, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”.