By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
Focal Passage: Luke 19:1-10
The story of Zacchaeus is a powerful reminder that no one is too far gone for the grace of God. His name means, “righteous one.” This is very interesting when you think about the man we meet in this chapter.
Perhaps his parents had different plans, more righteous hopes for him than the life he had chosen. He is a chief tax collector, one who not only betrays his people by collecting exorbitant taxes for the Roman government but (aided by the threats of Rome) extorts a great deal extra from them and also supervises others who do the same.
This is not a righteous man but one who steals from his own people and profits off their pain. Luke tells us he was a short man. He is noticeably shorter than others.
One wonders if his short stature led to him choosing such a powerful profession. I know it’s a stretch, but I can imagine seeing Zacchaeus raised to live righteously before God and look for the Messiah only to trade all his character and upbringing for the promise of riches and power over others.
Regardless of what drove the choices he made, he discovered very quickly that power and riches did not satisfy that need inside him.
When he hears that Jesus is coming through town, he does all he can to see him. He can’t see through the crowd, not only because of his short stature but very likely because they refuse to make room.
Desperate to see Jesus, he does something no man of position would ever do. He runs. He runs ahead and he climbs a tree to wait and see Jesus. Jesus approaches, stops, and looks right up to where Zacchaeus is. This is the only time we see God looking up to a sinner who is looking down to Him. While Zacchaeus was desperately trying to simply see Jesus, Jesus was deliberately looking for him.
Jesus says something shocking to Zacchaeus, “Come down because I must stay at your house.” This is not something anyone would expect. A rabbi would never stay at the house of such a sinner. In fact, that’s exactly what the crowd grumbles.
Everyone saw Zacchaeus as a sinner, but they did not see themselves as sinners.
Zacchaeus, though, welcomes Jesus into his heart and his home. We see a different Zacchaeus here than one would expect. He is surrendering all he has before Jesus and promising to repay those he wronged beyond the requirement of the law.
Zacchaeus likely sees in Jesus the hope and the purpose he has been seeking elsewhere. Power and possessions could not satisfy Zacchaeus’ longing to matter, to be accepted, forgiven, and transformed. He had, as Blaise Pascal said, “a God shaped void.” All he accumulated could not fill it. One encounter with Jesus, though, changed everything.
While sinners give their lives seeking after things that can never satisfy, Jesus gave His life to satisfy the longing of the sinner’s heart. He seeks out and He saves the lost. B&R