“He wanted to see who Jesus was.”1 The chief tax collector may have been short in height, but he was big on desire—determined, a doer we might say. So, when Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, not even the towering crowd would stand in his way. He found a suitable sycamore, climbed to an acceptable height, and waited—a curious man curiously perched in a tree. What happened next is something no one of any stature could have seen coming. “Zacchaeus,” said Jesus, stopping now and looking up at the man, “come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”2 The tax collector had become accustomed to religious scorn, but this man of God was different—engaging and unafraid to befriend a person cast off by others as “a sinner.”3 And He had called him by name.
With the exception of a couple notable exchanges, we are not privy to any detailed conversation that ensued between the rich man and his house guest that day, but we do know this: He who had harshly seized from others amounts they did not owe now humbly received from God a gift he could not earn—salvation. It was a grace that would change Zacchaeus forever. “Look, Lord!” he exclaimed, “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.”4 Said Jesus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”5 Indeed it had, spiritual birth already bearing spiritual fruit.
Luke opened his gospel narrative with Zacchaeus wanting to know who Jesus was, but the story began quite differently and long before then. It began in the heart of God, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”6 It is Jesus who seeks us out, both as a people and personally as individuals. And when He stirs in us, we respond by seeking Him, too—the sheep recognizing his Shepherd, the created reconciled with her Creator, neither content with separation but each finding joy in the other. Then being born of the Spirit, we begin to grow as He transforms us into the likeness of Him who knows us best, loves us most, and calls us by name. In this very real way, Zacchaeus’ story is our story, too.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to seek and to save the lost. Thank you for sending Him to seek and to save me. Change me to be ever more like Him. Amen.
1 Luke 19:3
2 Luke 19:5
3 Luke 19:7
4 Luke 19:8
5 Luke 19:9
6 Luke 19:10