The story of Zacchaeus is one of those well known salvation stories that surfaces in children’s church and he is mostly remembered for being short. I’d like to take another look at it today and see what else we can glean from this meeting.
First off, we see that he is a rich tax collector which means nobody liked him. He is also referred to as a sinner in Luke 19:7, but I want us to think about how much he was disliked. I know several people who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, however, I still visit with them. I don’t hate or try to avoid them because of it, and they in turn respect and accept me for who I am. With Zacchaeus, the issue was much deeper. People despised him! To be honest, they probably didn’t even want someone like him to come to Jesus because deep down they wanted to see him get what he deserved! They wanted him to receive some type of punishment, not forgiveness.
Now, I’m sure Zacchaeus knew exactly how most people felt about him, but what about Jesus? Verse 3 of Luke 19 tells us that he wanted to see who Jesus was. He was curious about who this crowd was blocking him from. So he climbs a tree to see for himself. And guess what? Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus too! All it took was this act of kindness and willingness to go to his house, and Zacchaeus would be a changed man! The bible tells us that he not only tried to make things right by giving back to those from who he had taken, but he would restore it fourfold — wow! Jesus knew this was a sincere confession because he tells him in verse 9, “This day is salvation come to this house.”
Let me ask, has the inward change in your decision to follow Christ been demonstrated by outward action? Do you hope others will find Salvation, or are you secretly waiting on them to suffer the consequences? Think about this, if Jesus had not given Zacchaeus a chance, look at the people who would never have received a fourfold blessing. We can also look at this from the perspective of why do these things happen, or even something like, why am I short? The answer is because God has a plan! He wants to restore and bring salvation to all who will receive. He can use the bad experiences you’ve face and turn them into something better.
Let me encourage you today to never give up on giving people a chance. It doesn’t matter how bad they seem, or what they may be doing, we just need to be that positive influence they need so that change can occur. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” So who are we to withhold what has been given freely to us when we did not deserve it either!
I pray, “Father, help me to remember I could do nothing on my own to receive the precious gift of Salvation, and that I did not deserve it. You loved me enough to send Your Son, Jesus, to pay for my sin. Let me live to honor You by sharing this love with others, and may I never resolve to thinking that some are beyond saving. Give me the strength I need to encounter, and accept, the “Zacchaeus” in my path today, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg.