“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way, He looked up in the tree. And He said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down. For I’m going to your house today. For I’m going to your house today….’”Sound familiar? For many of us, that’s about all the thought we have given to Zacchaeus. Luke’s gospel is the only account of Zacchaeus in the entire Bible, and we only have nine verses to go on in Luke 19:1-9. However, there is so much packed into those nine verses, and from them we can gain insight into God’s heart in walking out Matthew 18. Zacchaeus indeed was a wee little man. As Luke tells us, he was short in stature. The average height of men in the days of the early church was 5’2”. With that said, the observation of “short” must have truly been about the height of my ten-year-old son, or even less. As a chief tax collector, we know he was a Jew, and chose to betray his own people and work for the enemy, the Roman Empire. The Jewish people would have considered this the ultimate betrayal, as he would’ve been gaining wealth through oppressing them, robbing them, and keeping them in a constant state of poverty. He would have been completely despised by all. Think for a moment how you would feel about a person who continuously robs from you, your family, and your neighbors. Of course, with all the hype of this Jesus passing through town, and the inevitable crowds that must have been forming on the streets with everyone wanting to get a peek and see for themselves, it makes sense for this wee little man to climb a tree to make sure he could get a good look. I also imagine that tree was a bit of a shelter, a hiding place, as Zacchaeus knew who he was and how everyone felt about him. If this Jesus was in fact the real deal, He probably wouldn’t take too kindly to such a dishonest, greedy man as Zacchaeus. It might be safe to bet that Zacchaeus wanted to get a look at Jesus without Jesus necessarily noticing him at all. Given just those facts, can you envision how modern-day religion would approach or “handle” Zacchaeus? Remember, he had been quite naughty. Would he be told that he can’t be a member or can’t “join” until he gets himself right and makes amends? Would he be told what a sinner he is? A liar? A thief? Would he be commanded to turn from his ways or else? We can all picture the finger-pointing, the accusation, and the demand for groveling and apparent brokenness. There quite possibly could be some five, seven, or ten-step plan that he would have to complete before being accepted. It’s so important, in light of our religious climate, to take notice of what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say to Zacchaeus, “Hey you, I know what you’ve done and you better get down here right now and bow before Me or else you’re going to hell”. He could have, but He didn’t. What Jesus did was unheard of. Despite us having this teaching from Him for two-thousand years now, it is still, unfortunately, pretty unheard of. Jesus looked at Zacchaeus, and without ever having met him before, said his name. This is what we would now call a word of knowledge. According to Zacchaeus’ understanding, there would have been no way for this Man, Jesus, to know his name. Just in saying his name, Jesus was expressing to him, “I see you and I know you”. It must have sounded as different to him as the language of the foreigners, and yet at the same time a sense of home so deep. I sense for Zacchaeus it was as if he had finally heard his own native tongue for the very first time in all his life. The power of his name being said by Jesus, goes much deeper than we can ever grasp in the children’s song. You see, the name Zacchaeus actually means: pure one, righteous one. Although, his name was of course spoken throughout his life, up until that time, something tells me that he had never heard it quite like that before. To be a man whose own people looked upon him as evil, while having the name “pure and righteous one”, must have felt like the 300 pound football player that everyone called “Tiny” or the child who is continuously referred to as “Einstein” after failing class after class. Was there ever a time he had heard his name, Zacchaeus, said without it being seasoned with ridicule, sarcasm, or scorn? I imagine not. Yet, Jesus IS Truth. When the voice of Truth itself says, “Pure one, righteous one...Zacchaeus.” It calls that truth forth into existence. Even though the crowd was already most likely aghast at their foe being the one Jesus took notice of, the radical evangelism was going to get even more extreme. As if it hadn’t already been enough, Jesus then told Zacchaeus in no uncertain terms, “Come down here, I want to hang out with you. I need to abide in your house today.” Zacchaeus was a man who was lost. Everyone knew it. "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10, NIV). Jesus’ simple “evangelizing to the lost” plan or “dealing with those who are in rebellion” plan, was and is simpler than most of our religion is willing to fit into:
- Speak Life, Value, and God’s Design, into and over the person.
- Let them know they are seen and they matter.
- Get close to them. In fact, get so close to them that the Love that overflows in you, oozes onto them in such a way they will never be the same.