Let's set the scene...Jesus is coming into Jericho. There is a huge and pressing crowd. Zacchaeus is short and cannot see Jesus and he desperately wants to see him, so he runs ahead of the crowd and climbs a tree. Zacchaeus is shocked and amazed when Jesus calls to him, tells him to come out of the tree and prepare for a dinner guest. The crowd grumbles. They are not happy with this turn of events. They see the sinner, Zacchaeus, and cannot believe that Jesus would waste his time with such a one as this. After the meal, Zacchaeus is transformed and vows to give away his fortune and make a radical change in his life.
Zacchaeus is a short man. When he is overcome by the desire to see Jesus, he runs ahead of the crowd along the path they are following, and climbs a tree. He has to go to extreme lengths, leave his comfort zone, and climb higher. If we want to see Jesus, we need to remember to leave our comfort zone behind. We will find Jesus in the confessional, in the soup kitchen, in the religious education class, or in any other place or ministry that causes us to stretch ourselves.
Zacchaeus is a very wealthy chief tax collector. In gathering taxes for the Romans, he took more than the prescribed amount. He exploited his fellow Jews and lined his own pockets. He even took a Roman name. Imagine the worst bully on the play ground, or the most insensitive, crass, mean-spirited person you can think of...that was Zacchaeus. If there was one person voted to be least likely to follow Christ, it was Zacchaeus. Yet, despite his sins, on this day, he has a burning desired to know the Christ, to find out for himself what the hullabaloo is all about. He opens his eyes and ears to the message and lets Christ into his heart. He humbles himself and he is transformed. We can follow Zacchaeus' lead. We can let go of our past sins and our pride, and let Christ transform us. We can be made new, just as Zacchaeus was made new.
Zacchaeus hears the grumbles of the crowd. They know who he is, what he is. He turns a deaf ear to the whispers of his unworthiness, of his transgressions, of his sinfulness. He does not let the crowd deter him from his goal and his heart's desire. It would have been easy to slink away in shame, but he knew Jesus was there for him as well as everyone else in the crowd. When we hear the grumbling of the crowd, whether it is the voices in our head playing the endless reel of self doubting phrases, or our children or spouse complaining, or the gong of the media, turn a deaf ear and follow where Christ leads you.
Zacchaeus hears Jesus call him out of the tree. He responds favorably to Jesus' request to come into his house and dine with him. Zacchaeus did not have a chance to tidy up, to remove the idols or the secular decorations. He did not clean his house and make everything perfect before Jesus came. He could not make preparations ahead. He did not know Jesus was coming to his house that day. Zacchaeus brings Jesus into his house as it is...in all the messiness. We sometimes get caught up in the lie of perfection or the other lie of unworthiness, that we have to do this, that, or the other thing before we can know Jesus. Don't fall for that. Invite Jesus into your messiness. Today. Now. Let him transfigure you to be everything you were born to be. We are all a work-in-progress and the conversion happens, the joy happens, the new life happens after we let Christ into our house and into our life.
Finally, Zacchaeus had a radical conversion experience. This conversion, the transformation of Zacchaeus comes after his personal encounter with Jesus. Not before. He vows to give away half his possessions and to repay four times the amount he exploited. This is a radical change and above and beyond what anyone would have expected of him. Zacchaeus is a real example of a wealthy man who is saved by the grace of God. He is like the camel that passes through the eye of the needle. His actions reflect his conversion. He gives more than lip service to his love of God. He acts on that love. We, too, must act on the love of Christ. We must reflect His love of us onto others by whatever means we can.
Take the Sycamore View and prepare to be transformed by the grace of God.