By Joshua Cooley
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:18-42, Luke 19:1-28
If you grew up in church, it’s hard to read the story of Zacchaeus without hearing the distant strains of that familiar Sunday School song ringing in your head …
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.
And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree
And said, “Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today!”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a children’s ministry curriculum without this wonderful story in it. But Luke didn’t include the account of Zacchaeus in his Gospel simply so we could sing campy little jingles before snack time and coloring sheets. This story reveals significant truths about Jesus—and us.
Much is often made about Zacchaeus’s diminutive stature. Due to his size and the large crowd in Jericho jostling to see Jesus, Zacchaeus was forced to climb a tree to catch a glimpse of the Messiah.
But Zacchaeus wasn’t just a wee little man in height. Before his encounter with Christ, he was a small person in every sense of the word. As a Jewish man who collected taxes for the oppressive Roman Empire, Zacchaeus was a Benedict Arnold of his day. He would have been known as a money-hungry liar and an unscrupulous cheat. By overtaxing his own countrymen, he padded his pockets with the excess before giving Rome its share. There’s a reason that the Jewish religious leaders employed the phrase “tax collectors and sinners” to describe society’s undesirables—people they deemed to be outside of God’s grace.
Zacchaeus, though, was squarely in the sight of God’s grace. As Jesus navigated the masses in Jericho, He picked out the little man in the tree and invited Himself into Zacchaeus’s life. “Zacchaeus,” Jesus cried out, “hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
While Scripture doesn’t reveal what the two discussed that day, it’s clear that Zacchaeus’s once-callous heart had softened to the gospel. He put his newfound faith into action, declaring plans to restore all stolen funds, above and beyond, and use his wealth to bless the poor. “Today salvation has come to this house!” Jesus declared (v.9).
Zacchaeus isn’t the only wee little person out there. As fallen people, we all start life diminutively, struggling with our sinful nature and choosing to chase life’s shiny trinkets rather than welcoming the largesse of heaven’s grace into our lives. Yet like Zacchaeus, we too are in view of God’s grace.
Today, the Savior calls to us by name, inviting Himself into the home of our lives. He calls us to turn from our sins and receive Him in faith, just like Zacchaeus. He calls us to welcome His presence into our lives, transforming our hearts to care less about worldly pleasures and more about honoring Him.
Written by Josh Cooley
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