Why Zacchaeus Climbed Up The Tree

It looked like a funny scene.  First, we have the description of Zacchaeus as a wealthy man.  During the time of our Lord, the surest sign of wealth was being overweight.  If you were underweight, it was probably because you did not have much to eat.  If you were able bodied and muscular, it was probably because you had to do a lot of physical labor.

But since you had people doing things for you, as Zacchaeus had, he was physically challenged not just by his waistline, but also by his height.  This short man, however, was a big man as a tax collector in Jericho, a major trading center in Israel. 

Now one day he heard a great commotion of people running up to see Jesus.  He, too, wanted to see the carpenter from Nazareth.  Despite his wealth and his connections, he could not get to the front.  So with his expensive clothes hiked up and his short little legs, he climbed up a tree. 

Just imagine how the crowd laughed at this overweight, short, richly dressed man seeing him in the tree.  Some of us could relate with Zacchaeus.  We had been on that tree before.  Some of us had been misjudged by our so-called friends.  They said things we never did.  They insinuated words we never said. 

Those misjudgment and backbiting did not just come from our friends.  Some of them came from members of our own families.  How many families do we know who had been broken and divided because of a misunderstanding or miscommunication?

Or probably we were the ones down there, looking up at Zacchaeus.  We had judged people unfairly.  We had spread the gossip and the rumor.  We had wronged people, because we thought we were right.  Our constant nagging about their faults, their weaknesses, and their sins made them the Zacchaeus of our lives. 

Jesus was also down there when he passed by the tree and he turned things around, as he normally do.  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly,” He said, “for today I must stay at your house.”  He knew him by name, just as He knows us.  He longed to be with Zacchaeus, just as He longs to be with us. 

Because you see, God has never been short on us.  We may be short in forgiveness, but He is not.  We may be short in generosity, but He is not.  We may be short on love, but He will never be.

This must be one of the reasons why Zacchaeus climbed up that tree.  He heard about Jesus, who dined with tax collectors.  He knew about Jesus, who spent time with sinners.  He was a tax collector.  He was a sinner.  And he felt in his heart, that Jesus would see him, that Jesus would invite him, that Jesus would accept him.

Every sinner is a potential saint.  Forgiveness is always there for those who ask.  There is always redemption for those who have fallen.

Then hear what happened next.  Zacchaeus, while dining with Jesus, had a change of heart.  He stood up and promised Jesus to give half his possessions.  Redemption has taken its form in paying back.  He had hurt many people with his actions and his arrogance and now he made a public commitment.

The road to recovery starts with saying, “Please forgive me.  I am sorry.”  The road to restored relationship begins with “I was wrong.”  Many people can be hurt by our words or actions.  Apology helps.  People may not accept it but we must offer it.  The road to healing and redemption happen when we start making things right. 

Finally, our lives would change if we allow Jesus to visit us in our lives.  He has been and is already in our homes and in our families.  Perhaps, he came uninvited.  Like what he did to Zacchaeus, He invited himself.  What did we offer him?  As Zacchaeus offered his possessions, what would you offer? 

The story of Zacchaeus tells us that whether we think that we look too fat or too thin, too short or too tall, Jesus loves us as we are.  The story of Zacchaeus is about sinners like us who need to be reminded about God’s love.  Jesus loves us more than enough to stay in our homes and remain in our hearts.

3 November 2013

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