I have a confession to make. One of my most favorite church songs as a child was the one about Zacchaeus. You know…Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree……..Oh, not because I visualized myself crawl up a tree to see Jesus. I was to wimpy for tree climbing. I related to the story because I was a wee little girl, and most generally couldn’t see over anything. At least not without having to stand on something to see. So, I was fond of Zacchaeus. I thought it was way COOL, that he climbed a tree to see my Jesus.
Anyway, Zacchaeus skidded across my mind earlier today. Probably more like the Holy Spirit dropped him into my thought process. So, I pulled up a chair and the Bible Gateway website. Then spent a few minutes reading the story about Zacchaeus again. I read this story from three different translations of the bible. And today, my heart skipped a beat when I ran across a couple of truths in this story.
Let’s recap just in case you aren’t familiar with Zacchaeus. (Luke 19: 1 – 10) Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a very rich tax collector. In gathering his wealth, he had cheated more than a fair share of people. To say he was despised by the common man is an understatement. I suspect Zacheus was more that a bit arrogant and had a tendency to flaunt his wealth amongst the people. He probably didn’t have many friends, but had a town full of enemies. Quite frankly, Zachesus with his pride and arrogance didn’t care either.
So, when Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming to town, he ran ahead so he could beat the crowd and see Jesus. I pause here and question why he wanted to see Jesus. Don’t you wonder? Did he think he was seeing the “King” as in a new ruler of the land. You know how politics go. Did he think he could gain favor in this new ruler’s eyes? Or was he just curious because of the large crowds Jesus was drawing. Whatever the case, Zacchaeus had to see this man called Jesus. Little did Zacchaeus know this man would change his life.
The first truth that jumped out at me is his heart was ready to meet the Savior. (Luke 19:4) Although no where does our text say he was sick of his life as a tax collector, one can’t help but wonder. He may not have known why he was so intrigued by this man, but his heart was ready for a change. After all, he ran ahead, preparing to meet his savior.
Imagine his surprise when Jesus called him out! (Luke 19:5) Not to condemn him for the life he had lived, but to tell Zacchaeus He was going to his house. The text reads he was delighted to take Jesus to his home. Delighted? (Luke 19:6) Since Zacchaeus reacted in delight, he obviously did not feel shame or condemnation from Jesus. In fact, text goes on to tell us that Zacchaeus heart was restored. He gave away half his income to the poor. (Luke 19:8)
This brings me to the second truth. In the church as a whole, I believe somewhere theology has taken a turn south. Not for one minute, do I consider that we as Christians are to shame or hate people who:
- Still choose to live a lifestyle of sin
- Beliefs don’t line up with ours
We are not to criticize or rebuke. Did Jesus? Jesus just loved. He loved that wee little man who climbed the sycamore tree. He didn’t holler at him to come down, so he could blast him for the wrong he had done. No, Jesus called him out of the tree to receive the freedom and grace that comes only through Him.
The take away from Zacchaeus story is this…..None of us know the work God is doing in people’s hearts. We don’t know who is running ahead to climb the tree in order to find the life changing Grace of Jesus. And when our paths cross with someone who has climbed the sycamore tree, we aren’t to call them down to ridicule or condemn them. No! We are to gently call their name, offer our love and then lead them to the freedom and grace that comes from Jesus. Freedom and Grace which brings them restoration of their heart.