November 6th, 2022 by Robert Moorey
Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes
Forget what you learned in Sunday school as a child. Zacchaeus was not a little man!
I know, I know . . you’re remembering the song that we’d sing about his story in the Gospel of Luke.
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. . . “
And, yes, scripture supports that Zacchaeus was a short man.
Luke 19:2-3 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.
But should we evaluate someone spiritually by their physical attributes? God forbid! The point of the story is not that Zacchaeus was short, or rich, or even a tax collector.
The point of the story of Zacchaeus is the story of redemption and power of forgiveness.
Luke tells us that, as Jesus was entering Jericho, a man named Zacchaeus seized an opportunity to see him. Interesting to note is that the name Zacchaeus means “Pure”, and yet we find this man, Zacchaeus, has lost his purity.
Luke tells us that Zacchaeus is a tax collector and that he is rich. Why is this important?
First, to be a tax collector would mean that he would have betrayed his people in support of the occupying force – Rome.
Second, we are told he is rich. By implication, we know that Zacchaeus is very good at his job. Tax Collectors were paid a percentage of what they collected. If he was rich, he had made Rome very rich and off the backs of his people.
We learn early in Luke how the Jews felt about Tax Collectors when Jesus had a meal with them.
Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
So why do I say that Zacchaeus was a giant? If you evaluate Zacchaeus spiritually after meeting Jesus, you can come to no other conclusion.
First, knowing that he was not liked by his people, he risked ridicule from the crowd should he show up to an event of religious significance. They would have wondered why a hardened sinner would seek a Rabbi. Yet Zacchaeus did not allow their scorn or slander to keep him from Jesus.
Second, Zacchaeus could have allowed his physical limitations to be an excuse. When he showed up and saw the crowd, and knowing he was short, he could have walked away while telling himself, “I tried!” But he did not. Instead, he found a solution so that he could see Jesus.
I am sure that as he climbed the sycamore tree, which would have only brought on additional ridicule from the crowd, he never thought he would get more than a simple glimpse of the great Rabbi as he walked by. He knew he did not deserve more. But that also did not stop him from climbing the tree to see Jesus.
To his surprise, Jesus saw him, as He always does for those who are seeking Him. And Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name. This alone was more than Zacchaeus would have dared to hope for. He could have gone home satisfied that his experience exceeded his expectations.
Then Jesus did the impossible, he told Zacchaeus He would stay at his home. Zacchaeus could have been satisfied to entertain the great Rabbi and let him leave his home unchanged. He would have this amazing story to tell his friends and family. And he could have used the event as proof that he was okay the way he was. He would have reasoned that a great Rabbi would not have stayed at his home if he were truly a bad person.
But remember, Zacchaeus was a giant.
Unprovoked, once he had his audience with Jesus, he offers proof of his repentance and belief in Jesus.
Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Zacchaeus was under no obligation to do anything. He could have continued to live as he had lived up until this point.
But Zacchaeus knew he needed to change. He knew he was in the presence of the only being who could offer salvation. His heart was finally pure – He was truly Zacchaeus again.
Never forget that Zacchaeus could have offered far less than he did. And if he did, we would still study him as an excellent example of Faith and Obedience. Instead, he offered fruit worthy of repentance. (Matt 3:8).
Jesus knew from the moment he looked up in that tree and saw Zacchaeus that he had found a giant of faith. A man whose example would be studied for centuries afterwards in the hopes that our actions would match his.
How many of us would try as hard to come to Jesus? Would we face scorn and ridicule? Would we allow our physical situation to prevent us from being with Jesus?
When in the presence of Jesus, would we allow His presence and power to change us so completely and instantly?
The point of the story of Zacchaeus is not that Zacchaeus was rich, a tax collector, or that he was short. The point of the story is the power of Jesus being shown in the heart of a spiritual giant.
Zacchaeus was a giant! Now, how about you?
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