“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.” (Luke 19:3,4)
Read Luke 19:1–10
I am reminded of the story of Zacchaeus every time I am in a crowd and not able to see what is happening. Whether it’s some public activity, a sporting event or a Christmas parade, I want to get a clear view over the heads of the crowd, but no matter how desperate I am to see clearly, it rarely happens.
The question that this story about Zacchaeus raises is why does he actually want to see Jesus? He was, by all accounts, a very wealthy person. He was not well-liked by his community because that wealth was accumulated through corrupt means, and the people around him were his victims. He was not just short in stature; he also fell short ethically. Zacchaeus just doesn’t sound like the sort of person who would want to see Jesus or who would brave a large crowd to do so. It’s also hard to realise what he hoped to gain simply by seeing Jesus. After all, he could not anticipate that Jesus would stop to speak with him, let alone invite himself to his home. Despite that, his eagerness was so strong that he, a grown man, climbed a tree to get a better view.
There was clearly something missing in Zacchaeus’ life, something he recognised but may not have been able to articulate. Perhaps Zacchaeus realised he was morally lost, so when he announced he would give half of his wealth to the poor and make restitution to those Zacchaeus cheated, he seemed to have realised that it was his wealth that was a burden.
We can’t ask Zacchaeus about his motives; however, we can see that Jesus, ignoring the attitude of the crowd, shows that anyone — regardless of previous character or history — can see and be seen by Jesus. It is Jesus who finds Zacchaeus, not the other way round, and it is mercy from Jesus that Zacchaeus joyfully recognises, for the first time in his life.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the many times you have poured your mercy on us, even though we have been undeserving. We ask you to help us see you clearly and, like Zacchaeus, find joy in your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.