Since I read the story of Zaccheaus this morning I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Driving into the office this morning I was pondering the story and I was struck with a thought that I had never had before. But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the story:
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Luke 19:1-10 “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.'”
Okay, let’s break it down for a moment. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, not just in stature but in character. He was a tax collector but not just a tax collector the chief tax collector.
Tax collectors were despised by their own people because they collected taxes on behalf of the Roman government. But it wasn’t just their job title that caused their own people to marginalize them, no it was the fact that they were dishonest, cheating their very own people out of their money. They would inflate the tax and then cushion their pockets with the extra. And Zacchaeus was the chief of them all.
And this chief sinner, when hearing that Jesus was coming through was drawn to His presence. There was something about Jesus that beckoned to Zacchaeus, that caused Him to desire to see who He was. It was this something that caused a grown man to become undignified and climb a tree.
One of my favorite parts of this passage though is that Jesus knew Zacchaeus was in the tree. He knew without looking up and He desired Zacchaeus to be in His presence and know Him. Jesus called out to the chief of sinners. And it was from being in the presence of Jesus that Zacchaeus repented of his ways. He repented of his sin and offered restitution and reconciliation to his people.
Zacchaeus released control of his money. He released control of the very thing that he had held onto comfort before, the very thing that he had tried to use to ease his sin. He released providing for himself and self medicating all for the presence of His Lord.
And it was this thought that caught me anew this morning. As I was thinking about Zacchaeus’ response to the presence of His Lord my mind turned to an encounter that had happened just a chapter earlier. The encounter of the rich young ruler:
The Rich Young Ruler
Luke 18:18-23 “A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’
‘All these I have kept since I was a boy,’ he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.“
Such a different response from Jesus and these men. Zacchaeus, the chief of sinners, gladly gave all that he had from his encounter with Jesus. Zacchaeus gladly gave up his wealth for the true life from Jesus. The rich young ruler, although considered pious, still lacked in that he clung to the temporary riches.
One clung to the eternal and the other the temporary.
Jesus exclaimed salvation to Zacchaeus but not the rich young ruler. The chief of sinners received salvation and rejoiced while the pious ruler left sad.
Are we clinging to the eternal or the temporary?
What is our response to the presence of Jesus?
Are we encountering a teacher or our Lord?