Jesus is on his way through Jericho when sees Zacchaeus, an outcast of outcasts, perched in a sycamore fig tree trying to catch a glimpse of him. Everyone saw Zacchaeus as a traitor and outcast simply because of his profession but Jesus saw something different. Jesus saw a man bent towards helping the poor and doing right. It’s not our jobs that define us, but our hearts (4 Sentence Story).
A short retelling from Luke 18:31-19:10.
Jesus, the hero of our story, continues on his way to Jerusalem. He’s performed many a miracle. Healed a man’s withered hand, raised a widow’s son back to life, given sight to the blind, and these are just a few of the miracles he’s performed.
But… it’s not the most miraculous thing going on.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.
So that we can live.
And no one seems to get it…
The most selfless act in all of human history is about to go down in the near future, a miracle that will be the defining force behind all other miracles.
Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost and even hell multiplied by infinity isn’t going to stop him. Others though, they’re on a different mission. Many don’t realize that they’re not on the same page as Jesus. They’ve come to believe that Jesus is going to free them from the god-forsaken Romans and that he’s headed to Jerusalem where all of this will take place.
Maybe that’s why those leading the way try and silence a blind beggar as Jesus nears Jericho. The beggar crying out to Jesus for mercy keeps being met with calls for silence and to leave Jesus be. It’s obvious that Jesus is up to something big and that he doesn’t have time for a random stranger to call out to him for help. But Jesus does what he always does and he pays attention to the outcast.
Jesus answers the man by restoring his sight and continues on his way. People are passionately praising God because of him at this point. A moment in time that many generations have awaited for is about to be fulfilled. The Messiah is about to be revealed in Jerusalem and the people, growing impatient, want to it to happen already.
Maybe that’s why they tried to silence the blind beggar. They didn’t want Jesus to stop on his way to Jerusalem. It must have been a huge surprise when Jesus decided to stop and have dinner with a different sort of outcast.
A social outcast.
And a religious outcast.
The worst kind of outcast.
Zacchaeus, a chief tax-collector, a man diminished. A man just trying to take care of his and his own, found himself employed by the Roman government. On that alone, others considered him traitor and all they could see him for was his vocation. They couldn’t see past their own misgivings about Zacchaeus to see who he was as a person, a redeemable and redeemed son of Abraham who belonged in the fold as much as anyone else.
Jesus was nearing Jericho and Zacchaeus had a deep desire to see who this Messiah was. There was something about Jesus that was different than anyone else and Zacchaeus knew it. Being the social and religious outcast he was, Zacchaeus was not able to get through the crowds to see Jesus so he runs ahead and climbs up a sycamore-fig tree.
As Jesus continues through Jericho, he spots Zacchaeus and calls out to him. In that moment something happens to Zacchaeus. He was a man no one wanted around, a man considered traitor, and all of a sudden this would-be Messiah with eagerness tells him, “Hurry, come down, I must stay at your house today.”
Of course the people grumble. This is Zacchaeus after all. I’m sure they thought he stood against everything they thought Jesus represented. Zacchaeus is shocked. He didn’t even say anything to Jesus. This miraculous healer and teacher did something for him no one else would and that was to see past how he made his living, to see him for more than just his job.
Zacchaeus was more than the sum total of his wealth and title, something to be grasped by today’s standards. Even Zacchaeus himself wasn’t wrapped up in these superficial identities. Salvation came upon Zacchaeus and his household because he understand that who Jesus is as Messiah reigned supreme over any of his wealth or titles.
The heart of Zacchaeus was bent towards helping those in need. This would cause him to give away half his possessions to the poor in his lifetime. His heart was bent towards integrity. It’s a good thing to not cheat people out of money but it’s something entirely different to pay above and beyond what you owe some one if you’ve accidentally defrauded someone (Retelling).