In the city of Jericho, there was a very unliked man. He was unfair, unjust, and….un-tall (okay, that’s not a word…he was short).
His name was Zacchaeus. We find his story in the Bible, in Luke 19.
In the time that the gospel of Luke was written, Israel was under the control of Rome. The Romans imposed heavy taxes upon the nations under their control so that they could financially support their empire. The Jews hated these taxes because they supported a secular government and pagan gods. But, they were required to pay the taxes. Zacchaeus was a tax collector so he was regarded as a “sinner” by the Pharisees. Pretty safe to say he was friend-less.
Enter Jesus Christ, Son of God. The purest, kindest, most honorable Man to walk the earth. A Man from Heaven who was loved and followed by many on earth. Not loved by all, but by many. So many more than Zacchaeus, who was loved by no one.
Jesus was traveling through Jericho, and as was throughout most of His ministry, He was surrounded by a crowd. To the outcasts, the rich, the poor, the sick, the rulers, and the sinners, Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. He was a force, drawing in the hearts of any person in His path.
Even Zacchaeus, a greedy outcast. A sinner.
Two interesting things about Zacchaeus here:
1.) He is described as “short in stature” (Luke 19:3).
2.) The name Zacchaeus means pure.
Zacchaeus was a “chief tax collector,” so he was very rich. He could have anything he wanted in material possessions. However, on this day, what he longed for was of a heavenly nature.
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.
I imagine in the crowd that he was pushed aside, grumbled over, and perhaps stomped on. He strained up on the very tip of his toes, calves burning like fire–for even just a glimpse of Christ would fill him more than the earthly riches he currently consumed. So, being the resourceful guy that he was, Zacchaeus came up with a solution for his problem.
He climbed a tree. A sycamore tree (and sing it with me–for the Lord he wanted to see!).
And Jesus came by, knew exactly where to stop, knew exactly where to look for His beloved brother, Zacchaeus, Child of God.
The nerve of that guy, went the whispers. He steals from the poor, gives our money to the pagans, and…and…he just looks ridiculous up there. What a loser!
But Jesus looked him right in the eyes and said loud and clear for all to hear, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree. I’m going to stay at your house today.”
And do you know what Zacchaeus did??? The Bible says he came down immeditely and with gladness. Leaves floating, dust rising, and bark flying, this rich business man made a hasty exit from just being able to “see” Jesus and embarked into a true relationship with Christ. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
You know…sycamore trees are noted for their longevity. Some live more than 250 years. Long before Zacchaeus ever needed it, God planted that tree.
He is so Awesome. He is all-knowing. It’s just like God to plan for us, down to the very last detail. It’s what He does. It’s why He is God, and He is in control.
Not only did God plant the tree for Zacchaeus before the tax collector-turned follower ever needed it, but when He formed him in his mother’s womb, He named Zacchaeus for what he would become under the blood of Jesus…pure.
Because he was able to see Jesus and know Him that day, Zacchaeus became a changed man. He gave half of what he had to the poor and paid back those he had cheated their amount by four times. And he followed Jesus.
Think of those around us, friends. The cheaters. The haters. The unfair. The unliked. The unloved. The sinners (much like us). They may not be short in stature, but unless we show them, they cannot see Jesus.
So, long before they ever knew they needed Him, God planted something in their path, so that they may rise up and see Jesus, the Savior.
Maybe He planted you. Could it be that you were planted right where you are today so that you could lift up a Zacchaeus, that he or she may see Jesus? That he or she may know Him as Friend and Savior?
You may lift them up with a kind word or gesture, by including them when no one else will. By showing love. They will recognize a difference in you that is not in the world. Seeds will be planted, watered, and some will be harvested. Souls will be saved by God because someone lifted them up and showed them the way to see Him. Maybe you are that someone. Maybe you are that tree.
Or….maybe you are Zacchaeus. Unloved, unliked, undeserving. You have a Friend. Look for Jesus. Find Him in His Word, the Bible. If you are unsure about finding a Bible or its meanings, look for a tree that He has planted in your path. A person who professes Him as their Savior. A Christ-preaching, Bible-believing, love-giving church family. Look for the trees.
Before you were ever born, He named you. He calls your name now. No matter what you did before, He calls you pure.
He knows what we need before we’re even aware that we need it. And God provides, just like He did when Jesus walked the earth. He will give you what you need today just like He did for a lonely tax collector 2000 years ago.
He will give a tree for Zacchaeus.