Today the boys and I read about Zacchaeus during our Bible time. This Bible story made an impression on me. I couldn’t help but compare the two main characters in this narrative. Zacchaeus was physically unattractive. Zacchaeus was socially unappealing. Zacchaeus morally appalling. Zacchaeus was everything we don’t want to be — other than rich. His wealth was gained from cheating people. The only people he could socialize with were those who hoped to share some of his wealth — that and his money. The cold gleam of money is a lonely companion, but money was all he could really claim. Even the wealthy sometimes wish for human companionship, and I wonder if that was one of the reasons why he went to see Jesus. Perhaps, he hoped to finally gain acceptance from someone famous to insure Zacchaeus’ own popularity or acceptance among the religious elite.
Then, we have Jesus. We are told that Jesus was not overly attractive. We are also told he didn’t worry about doing the popular thing. He did the right thing — no matter what. He could care less about wealth. He only cared about the hearts of people. He demonstrated that people were his greatest treasure.
Zacchaeus finally had his chance to meet Jesus. The crowd was too tall and too dense for a very short man. Zacchaeus knew how to push his way to the top though, and he did just that by climbing the tallest tree in the vicinity. From that vantage point, he could see the press of the crowd and finally Jesus.
Zacchaeus was another type of person that you and I would have probably rolled our eyes about, made disparaging remarks about, or simply overlooked. We don’t often like to socialize with those who make us uncomfortable or threaten our popularity due to association. Sure, we would have liked sharing his wealth, but that’s about it. We’ll take your money and fill our church coffers but the rest… too uncomfortable. Not Jesus! He didn’t ignore, make snide remarks, offer empty and shallow platitudes. Jesus saw a man with shallow aspirations, limited love, but with a “mile-high” longing for acceptance… a man who felt disdain all his life but who still hoped and dreamed that someone would accept him and love him — not for his wealth — just for himself.
Jesus met Zacchaeus that day and commanded him to come down from the tree. Jesus told Zacchaeus that he would be eating with him that day. Can you imagine the gasps and whispers at such a statement?!! “What was Jesus thinking? Eating with the likes of Zacchaeus?!”
Jesus saw a man who was yearning and ready to be confronted with love. Zacchaeus changed forever after that visit with Jesus. He finally meant someone who loved him unconditionally, and who gave him the courage to confront his own sins and fears and the power to change through forgiveness. Love does that! It gives confidence — confidence to confront our own weaknesses and courage to reach out and love others. Zacchaeus just needed to see God’s love in action, and then as a changed man he was able to love others. No longer would he be a cheater or have only his wealth to call a friend. From then on, Zacchaeus would have a Savior to call his own and the gift of loving others to replace his former wealth. The cold gleam of money had been replaced with the warm beam of love!