Open Your Bible
Luke 19:1-10, Leviticus 6:1-7, Matthew 6:19-24, Hebrews 13:5, Galatians 3:7
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man/ And a wee little man was he. / He climbed up in a sycamore tree / For the Lord he wanted to see.”
If you grew up in Sunday school classes like I did, it’s likely that you sang this song surrounded by Cheerios and orange juice. For me, it was also the only thing I knew about Zacchaeus until I reached adulthood. Zacchaeus was short, he wanted to see Jesus, and he climbed a tree in order to see Him. End of story—Everyone grab your coloring pages and some crayons!
But reading Zacchaeus’s story now paints a different picture entirely. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, meaning he got rich off of everyone else’s money, which likely meant those people didn’t like him very much. He was an outcast, a loner. And just like everyone else in the town, he wanted to see Jesus. He wanted to find out more about this man people were talking about, this man who promised eternal life. So Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore tree to be able to see, and when Jesus passed, He told Zacchaeus to come down because He was going to be staying at his house (Luke 19:5).
All the people in the town who overheard this were shocked. But Jesus, as He often does, was spending time with the people who were regularly looked over and cast aside. He was spending His time with the marginalized. After Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus in kindness, aligning Himself with the tax collector, Zaccheus became convicted of his sin and was then led to repent (Romans 2:4), declaring that he would give half of his possessions to the poor, and return extorted money four times over (Luke 19:8). In the eyes of everyone else, Zacchaeus was merely a rich, greedy man, but Jesus saw him as a man to invite into conversation, into community and relationship. Jesus told Zaccheus:
“Today salvation has come to this house…
because he too is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9–10).
Jesus came to earth to save the lost. He came for Zacchaeus. Jesus saw him up in the tree, and Jesus saw him when he came down. He saw Zacchaeus for who he truly was: a child of God, one of the very reasons He’d left a heavenly kingdom in order to bring the good news of salvation and His kingdom to us (Matthew 6:10).
From that day on, Zacchaeus chose not to serve the gods of money and wealth, but to serve the God who saved him from himself. His heart turned from a love of money to a love of Jesus and His message (Matthew 6:24)—all because Jesus saw him in the midst of his sinfulness and chose to love him anyway. Jesus does the same for us.