The story of Zacchaeus is not a kids story. It’s for us.
Luke 19: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! 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.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Don’t give up.
The first lesson from this story is “don’t give up.” It doesn’t matter if you can’t see over the crowd. Don’t use your limitations, your circumstances, your handicaps, or anything else as an excuse to give up. Fight to see Jesus. Do whatever it takes. Zacchaeus was vertically challenged. So what. He humbled his rich little self and hoisted himself up a tree! Why? Because he had heard about this Jesus; this movement and all these crowds referring to themselves as “believers of The Way.” He heard about the miracles and the parables; and about the baptisms. It gave him hope that perhaps even a chief tax collector could be saved. Perhaps he even learned of Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples.
Matthew was also a tax collector before cashing in his old life to set out on this journey with the Messiah. Who knows exactly what was in the mind of the “wee little man” that day. But whatever it was it inspired him to climb. And so he did. Zacchaeus didn’t give up. And so his life was forever changed. That’s a lesson for us: Don’t ever give up. Find away to see the Lord of Lords and be ready when He passes by. Don’t make excuses: “Well, I’m too much of a sinner, or I had a rotten father, or I can’t believe how hypocritical Christians can be.” Don’t think these things and so miss the Messiah walking by. Don’t give up.
Answer yes to the Call.
The second truth we can take from this tale is when Christ asks to come to our home “answer yes to the call.” Opportunity. At some time in life, for every Christian, God will ask to come “home” with us. There is a reason Jesus asked to go home with Zacchaeus. The home is where the heart is. The home reveals our priorities — our hobbies, our family life, and our habits. At home we are vulnerable. Jesus doesn’t ask to meet him at Starbucks or go out for pancakes. He wishes to see where he lives. Perhaps this was Zacchaeus’ second test. First, he climbs a tree. Second, he takes Jesus home. He answered yes to the call. We have to answer yes to that call as well. And make no mistake God will call every one of us, and often times just as sudden as he did Zacchaeus.
Make Things Right.
Finally, when Zacchaeus’s heart began to change, when he was touched by the Lord, he “stood up” and he promised to make things right. I love that he jumped to his feet. Perhaps it was just to get a head height over his guests. But I don’t think so. I think he was inspired to repent and his entire body responded. In his repentance he promised to give up half his possessions to the poor and repay those he had cheated back four-fold. Can you imagine if you were the person on the street the next day who saw Zacchaeus coming at him? You couldn’t run from this man. Everyone in town knows him. He’s the chief tax collector after-all. So you wait for him to ask you for more taxes. But this time something’s different in his face. And suddenly, out of no where, he pulls money out of his own pouch and hands it…to you! Then he says, “I cheated you and now I’m repaying you four times the amount I took from you.” As you gasp for breath in unbelief he explains that he has been changed by the King of Kings, and that he too is now a follower of the Way.
What a testimony. Zacchaeus teaches us a very important lesson. We are called to make things right. If we have wronged someone we are to go to them, repent, and reconcile our wrong. And when the Spirit of Christ touches our heart we cannot hesitate. We have to stand up just as fast as our short friend and act. God gives us a conscience for a reason. If we listen to the voice of God to our conscience, and if we obey the promptings of the Spirit of Christ, we will find life, joy, and peace. But we have to act! We have to make things right. Each of these lessons apply in our families and in our marriages as well. Our spouses and our children need us to be so committed that we’ll climb a tree, not giving up to see one another. We need to answer the call for each other. And we must be determined to make things right. The story of Zacchaeus is not a kids story. It’s for us.