Jesus and Zacchaeus

Posted on: March 27th, 2022

It is the most destructive thought we could possibly conjure up: “I am not worthy.” Unfortunately, this is a sentiment we have all expressed in some fashion or another throughout life. In this world, we all experience trials due to our failures. At times like these, our shortcomings seem to say, “I’m not good enough!”  Intellectually we know this is not true, but sometimes we do fail to meet the standard. In spite of the godly attributes that also define us, we tend to listen to our doubts more than our faith and the Devil more than our Father.
Paul reminds us of the truth about our self-worth, “but God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8). It is God’s will that He love those who are not deserving. The value of God’s gift to us (His Son) is immeasurable and by extension so is His love for us. What better example of this love is there than Jesus bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus?
In the Bible account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10), it is impressive what we learn about Zacchaeus first. It is not that Zacchaeus was short in stature but rather we see that he is a tax collector and a rich man. His prominence in the region is evident because he was a chief tax collector, which meant that he ruled over other tax collectors or that he possibly oversaw an entire Roman province. Being a Jew himself, Zacchaeus would have been regarded by his peers as a traitor since he was employed by the Roman government.
Isn’t it interesting that before we learn anything about his physical appearance, we are given a glimpse into what’s in his heart? The Scripture states in verse 3 that “he sought to see who Jesus was.” This is the key to understanding how Jesus comes into our lives today. In Matt. 7:7 Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Zacchaeus was a common sinner and easily overlooked by those around him, but because he sought Jesus by whatever means necessary, he found Him. Zacchaeus was rewarded with an invitation to have Jesus stay at his house. It was ultimately Zacchaeus’ desire to know Jesus and to seek Him above the crowd that brought salvation to his house.
Initially Zacchaeus was hindered from seeing Jesus on account of the crowd and his short stature. Yes, Zacchaeus was a man of short stature but the application for us today is incredibly straightforward. Isn’t this still the reason we have trouble seeing Jesus today? Not because we are short in stature but more because we are short minded. We are distracted by the crowd. We are often distracted by our desire to be seen by everyone else except for Jesus. Jesus is the only way to salvation. In my mind the mention of Zacchaeus’ short stature represents things we have no control over. We do not have control over our appearance, this is the reason we are told not to worry about these earthly things (Mt. 6:25-32). Zacchaeus could not do anything to cause himself to grow even one inch taller but he could grow his faith and he did that by “seeking first the kingdom of God His righteousness” (Mt. 6:33). It is not lost on me that for Zacchaeus, seeking Jesus meant running ahead and climbing a sycamore tree so that he could learn about who Jesus was. What are you willing to do to seek Him?
Zacchaeus defends himself to the crowd by stating, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Despite these seemingly righteous business dealings Zacchaeus was not remembered for his impeccable record of fairness or generosity; he was not even respected for his occupational success as a chief among tax collectors. Instead, he was regarded by others as nothing more than a sinner. It was his failures that people chose to focus on. In the eyes of others, Zacchaeus was not worthy of Jesus’ time or attention. However, Jesus was not interested in what Zacchaeus had done to deserve salvation, because Jesus would love him and his household in spite of his sin.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The matter of Zacchaeus’ small stature becomes secondary in this story because it is clear that none of us measure up. The take away in this historical event is clear; our value is determined by God, and He has already expressed his love for mankind by offering us all an opportunity for the atonement of our sin.
Even today, Jesus is seeking to save that which is lost. He looks around and takes notice of the seemingly insignificant among us and desires to bring us salvation. Salvation is for all… even me. <Josh VandenEinde