If you ever went to Sunday School or Bible Camp, probably know the story of Zaccheus. Maybe you sang the kid’s song:
“Zaccheus was a wee, little man,
And a wee, little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree,
For the Lord he wanted to see.”
If so, you might be tempted to skim over the familiar passage in Luke 19. But there is more to the story than a man of small stature who climbed a tree to see Jesus. It’s a story that has life application lessons for you and me today.
What do we know about Zaccheus?
Zaccheus was a tax collector. In fact he was in charge of other “lesser” tax collectors. As such, Zaccheus had acquired a great wealth, perhaps some of it by over-charging the poor. Probably most of us who live in America do not consider ourselves rich nor robbers. Most of us work hard to make what we consider to be a modest living. Yet, none of us have to do much study to discover that we are in fact rich in the sight of much of the world. And a little more research would reveal that many of our gains come at the expense of those who have little. We buy cheaply priced goods that are made by workers in slave-like conditions and who are paid little for their efforts. I don’t make the point to belittle or shame anyone, but merely to help us see that we are more similar to Zaccheus than we might think and to show how this little story applies directly to us.
Zaccheus was short. Yet he did not let his physical stature hold him back, not in advancing his career or in overcoming the challenges of seeing Jesus when everyone taller blocked his view. I know a lot of people who are small in stature yet are big-hearted and full of spirit. Others of us are challenged by other shortcomings. But these challenges in themselves do not stand as impenetrable barriers to those who have the deep desire to overcome them.
Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus and was thrilled to come to know him. Have you ever noticed that those who are curious about Jesus often end up becoming more excited about knowing him more? It is a common theme of those who have genuine encounters with Jesus. We sing “Open my eyes, Lord; I want to see Jesus.” But those who truly want to see Jesus will go to great heights to get to know him more. Is that your real desire? What are some barriers that stand between you and your walk with the Lord? What steps could you take to overcome these?
Zaccheus received Jesus with eagerness and joy! He rushed down and welcomed Jesus into his house. Zaccheus was put in a place of honor when Jesus came to his house. Imagine any high profile public figure singling you out in a crowd, calling you by name, and saying he must come to your house! Jesus knows his followers by name. And he generously and eagerly offers to grace us with the gift of his presence, to come into our “house” – even into the depths of our heart.
Zaccheus responded to the condemnation of others with both repentance and joy. Judging by the lavish generosity of his willingness to make restitution to anyone he cheated, perhaps he was “not as bad” as others judged him to be. His eagerness to know Jesus deeply compelled him to generosity. And he didn’t leave a future bequest; he acted IMMEDIATELY! He didn’t want anything to stand in the way of knowing Jesus more. In reflection, I wonder how many people I may have judged wrongly, and I ponder the evidence of my own repentant heart. I recognize that a joyful heart and generous spirit does not always automatically flow as an extension of my own blessings. Zaccheus spurs me on to climb to greater heights in my own faith.
Be blessed in becoming a little lower in stature today, in humbling yourself, in spending time encountering the real Jesus who knows you by name, and by responding immediately to his call on your life…with joy!