In the Gospel of Luke we see how Jesus initiates the encounter with Zaccheus (who looks ridiculous climbing a tree because he is so short) and invites this past sinner to become forever changed. Zaccheus swiftly accepts this invitation, inspiring us to accept God’s invitation in our lives as well!
What shall me make of Zacchaeus? The Gospel of Luke shows this encounter between him and Jesus. Consider these points about Zacchaeus:
He is a chief tax collector – no one likes him!
He is wealthy and powerful.
He is “short of stature” so he has to climb a tree to see Jesus.
He repents, giving half his possessions to the poor and promising to pay back fourfold to anyone from whom he has extorted money.
Tax collectors were despised in the Jewish culture. They were Jews who collaborated with the Roman Empire and often used unscrupulous ways to get money from their neighbors. Thus the title “sinners” was commonly given to them as people who flagrantly rejected God’s law.
Now add to this attitude the element of the ridiculous. Here is a wealthy, powerful, short, sinner…standing in a sycamore tree to see Jesus! Something is going on in his heart, and as the crowd blocks his view (and he can’t get near) he does the only thing he can to glimpse the Lord.
And that means that he stands out. His repentance – and God’s merciful grace – now become a public act. People see Zacchaeus and Jesus, they grumble, and the Lord shows that no one is left out of God’s mercy. Here are a few final questions to ponder today:
Like Zacchaeus, is there something in me that is calling for a change of heart?
Am I willing to make a change, even if it means calling unwanted attention to myself?
Am I like the crowd, grumbling when someone experiences mercy?
God’s mercy is present to the world. Zacchaeus made the change, encountered the Lord, and received the transforming grace of Christ. His example shows us the way to experience the love of Jesus in our hearts today.