Reflection on Zacchaeus’ story
For our reflections in July and August we are taking different characters in the Bible and asking the questions who are they and what was life like for them before they met Jesus, how did they meet him and what changed for them.
Today we are thinking about Zacchaeus.
Often we are attracted to the way Jesus interacts with the poor, the sick, women and children all of whom were marginalised in Jesus’ day. Zacchaeus was none of these things. Luke tells us he was rich, a wealthy man who lived and worked in Jericho. However it was his job and what it represented that meant that he was on the edge of the community. He was a chief tax collector, charged with collecting money for the Roman government. Even today those who collect taxes can be looked on with suspicion, but at least today they have a salary whereas Zacchaeus was permitted to take more money from people to keep as his wages, and this is how he got rich. What a sad place to be, rich and lonely.
This was going to change the day he met Jesus. Oh yes, the other thing we know about Zacchaeus is that he was short. He was keen to see Jesus so he climbed up a tree to see over the heads of the crowd. Jesus was coming, coming closer, and he stopped; right under the tree where Zacchaeus was hiding. That was Zacchaeus’s first surprise that day. A moment later came the second surprise. ‘Zacchaeus come down immediately I must stay at your house today.’ Jesus sees him, Jesus invites him to respond.
What do we learn of his response? He believes and repents.
Firstly he came down and welcomed Jesus gladly- he believed Jesus really wanted to come to his house, he took him at his word and responded in faith.
Secondly, he experienced acceptance and kindness which led him to repentance. How do we know he had repented? Well, by his actions, he didn’t just say sorry or even just say yes I took your money please forgive me – we call that confession, he literally turned his life around and gave back 4x what he stole and gave away half his possessions to the poor. Meeting Jesus changed his life. We never hear of him again but I wonder if he became part of the church in Jericho, generous to the poor, a disciple of Jesus.
We really see here an example of the kindness of God bringing someone to repentance.
Jesus says to each of us today, come down, don’t hide I want to come to your house today, how are you going to respond?
The temptation, when we feel unworthy is to keep hiding, but the better way is to look Jesus in the eye swallow that pride and come down, and welcome him gladly, allow him in, or back in if you have pushed him out. Allow him to accept you again. Don’t put it off until tomorrow, he loves you today and nothing you can do or omit from doing will make him love you less and nothing you can do will make him love you more.
So I say again, how will you respond? When you know, why not tell your story.