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.” (Luke 19:1-10)
Zacchaeus was a small man with a big bank account. As a wealthy city and a major border crossing, Jericho ensured a rich lode of tax revenue for the chief tax collector.
When Jesus entered the city, word spread quickly. Anxious to see the man who seemed to have all Palestine abuzz, the diminutive Zacchaeus scrambled up a tree to get a good look. He did see Jesus; more important, Jesus saw him.
It must have been a shock when Jesus called him by name and declared He would come to his house. Only a genuine prophet would know his name, and no matter how high their status, inviting yourself to someone else’s house just wasn’t done. But Zacchaeus’ shock quickly turned to delight and he quickly made his way down from his perch.
The disapproval of the assembled crowd as just as deep as Zacchaeus’ pleasure. Why, they muttered, would Jesus want to spend time with a reviled tax collector, a sinner? Not only did tax collectors work for the hated Roman rulers, they routinely cheated people by collecting more than was due so they could line their own pockets.
Whatever Zacchaeus had been, he was changed forever by his encounter with Jesus. He pledged half his wealth to the poor and promised to repay four times the amount back to anyone he had cheated. He made restitution, and then some. He was clearly showing that money was no longer his motivating force, the ruler of his life. He had met the true God — the God who knew his name, who cared so much for him that He made Zacchaeus a priority — and that changed everything for him.
In turn, Jesus confirmed Zacchaeus’ salvation and affirmed his worth in God’s sight. Jesus hadn’t come to pat the righteous on the head, but to seek out those who had lost their way and offer them a new way.
Zacchaeus had begun the day short: short on truth, short on character, short on hope. His meeting with Jesus resulted in real growth in both spiritual stature and the realization of what life is really about. His wealth shrank; he grew.
For me, this is a good reminder that my value is not in what I have, or how others see me. My value comes from the fact that Jesus knows my name. I am a priority to Him. He sought me out and invited Himself into the place where I live — the messy, not everything where it should be, things left undone life that is mine. All I had to do was to welcome Him, and to keep welcoming Him every day of that life — the life He changed forever.
And I didn’t even have to climb a tree.