When I was a little boy, the only thing I knew about this man was that he was small. Later I realized that he was a tax collector and nobody has to tell someone from West Virginia the government is bad and the tax collectors are the worst of the worst. Later when I was studying the Romans, I learned that many tax collectors were allowed to charge what the market would stand, pay off the government, and keep the rest.
Nothing ever changes.
But it was his size that stuck in my head, since the first song I learned about him (with hand motions!) began: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.” This is not Shakespeare in As You Like It. It isn’t even Sesame Street, but if you ever heard the tune you can never forget it. This is not so bad, because a major point of the story is the smallness of this big powerful man. He wanted to see Jesus and could not. The historical records tell us:
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
He was rich. People in town had to stay on his good side or find their taxes going up. The problem with winning is that when you have won, if you are smart, you see yourself and you see that you cannot see Jesus. He is coming, but you are too small in stature to see him. Zacchaeus was not as stupid as many of us. He did not try for bigger prizes, a faster horse, a larger house. He climbed a tree to see Jesus. He was half way to change.
Jesus “looked up, and saw him.” How sweet it is to think that Jesus will see us! I recently read a sad little atheist meme about how “creepy” it is to think that Jesus is with us always. It came illustrated with “shocking” images as if Jesus transgresses our privacy. God knows everything He wishes to know. Jesus sees everything that must be seen and is with us always . . . when we need Him, but Jesus is a gentleman. He does not transgress. We cannot really hide from Him, but He averts His gaze because if He saw us, we would die of the shame.
The day is coming, after death, when the balance of our life will be revealed. All will be seen that must be seen. The good news is that if we would only look at Jesus and let him see us, then He would come to our house and stay joyfully. He would make us ourselves. He does not want slaves, though He is the only being with the right to demand our service, but friends and siblings. Zacchaeus looked for Jesus and Jesus saw Him and said He would come to the house of the sinful man.
The turning point came when people began to murmur.
Zacchaeus stood. Like the fictional Grinch, the complaints hit home and small man grew large. He gave up the money, repented his evil, and turned away from the love of money. To be Seussian, “his heart grew three sizes that day.” He was no longer small, he could stand and see, because he was looking at Jesus and not power and money.
God help us.
We must call sinners to repentance and one sin many of us commitment is to love money and power. Sometimes our power and money comes wrapped in a nonprofit ribbon, we are going to do good for others, but we are really building the Kingdom of Self. We end up being tax collectors for Hell, living off Satan’s scraps.
Isn’t it time we looked for Jesus and learned to stand?
Thank God, He will never kiss up to power or worship our money. He is not impressed with our ministry, our budget, or the people we know. He never name drops. We must give up our ill gotten gains, but if we will, then he will come to our house to stay. He will let us into the family and He will save us when we are lost.
I am small. I look for you, Jesus. See me and come to my house to stay.