When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Luke 19:5, NLT*
As a child in church, I learned the song about Zacchaeus [say za-KEE-us] being “a wee, little man” who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus over the crowds. I didn’t think too much about who he was as a person. (Luke tells his story in Luke 19:1-10.)
Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, an occupation that brought great wealth and greater condemnation from his fellow Jews. It made him a Roman collaborator, one in a position to cheat his own people.
So… he was rich but hated. All Zacchaeus had was his wealth, power and prestige. I’d expect a man like that to take his dignity most seriously. Everyone around would want to cut him down, so wouldn’t he project an indestructible image?
Yet he’s so desperate to see Jesus in this vignette that he forgets appearances, runs ahead of the procession, and climbs a tree to get one glimpse of Him. Is he up the tree to hide? Or is Jesus’ route so crowded with citizens that the branches are a short man’s only option?
I don’t know how tax collectors dressed in those days, but I picture an extravagantly-clad little man dashing through the crowded street and scuttling up the tree.
His dignity is forgotten in the desire – the need – to see Jesus. In proof of that, when Jesus calls him out of the tree, Zacchaeus takes Him home “in great excitement and joy.” (Luke 19:6, NLT*) There’s no blustering or posturing from wounded pride.
Instead, imagine Zacchaeus’ happiness. Cut off from his people, only dining with those his money can impress, suddenly he’s offered the chance to host this famous miracle-worker and teacher – and Jesus is accepting him, not condemning.
Zacchaeus throws away his self-made status to meet Jesus. What do we cling to that keeps us from fully entering into relationship with Jesus? Is it worth the cost? [You can click to tweet that.]
God our Maker, it matters how we respond to Jesus. Thank You that He makes a way for each one of us to know Him. Help us to give our all for the privilege of living in Your presence – not letting anything hold us back.
I think the David Crowder Band song, “Undignified,” refers to Israel’s King dancing before the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:12-23, but it could as easily be Zacchaeus’ theme song. Could it be mine? Yours?
*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.