Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name.“Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” 6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
Luke 19:1-10, NLT
Zacchaeus was a resourceful man. Jericho was a prime toll center in the entire region, and Zacchaeus would’ve been the richest man in town. He was very wealthy, being an overseer of other tax collectors (in a region with a major export of balsam wood.) He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire (at least, the ancient Judean version of it.)
We should know two things about Zacchaeus:
- His Hebrew name meant “pure.” This was an ironic moniker for a despised man who had sold out to the Roman tax business. (Perhaps he had had a ‘godly mother?)
- He was very short in stature. (I suppose we could call him ‘vertically challenged’?)
I suppose there is one other thing, my guess is it’s the main one. He simply wanted to see Jesus. He was so short that he couldn’t see over the crowds. Perhaps he could’ve bribed his way to the curb, but apparently there wasn’t enough time. Jesus was coming this way!
He looks and sees a tree. It grew on the side of the road, its branches hanging over the well-traveled path. He clumsily climbs up (in a robe!) and finds a spot to get a good look at Jesus. He is a simple man, and this is all he wants– to see Jesus!
Within the Christian faith over the many centuries, there has always been a heart’s desire to get closer to Jesus. Many of the established ‘disciplines’ such as:
- the study of scripture
Think of each of these as simply branches of the tree.
It is critical to grasp the end result; they are merely the methods we use to see Jesus clearer. It is folly to climb the tree, just for the sake of climbing. No. The branch we are sitting on is just a means to an end. To behold our Lord, to somehow get closer to Him.
For example, I don’t pray for ‘prayers sake.’ I must pray like Zacchaeus climbed, just to see Jesus, and Jesus to see me. Prayer has become a ‘stumbling block’ when we cling to it. It was never meant to be the ‘ultimate’ Christian spot.