There have been a lot of famous short men throughout history. Napoleon was only 5’ 2”, and James Madison, Moe, Larry, and Curly were all only 5’ 4”. On behalf of short men everywhere who are below the statistical average of 5’ 10” in the U.S., I am proud to say I’m a Zacchaeus.
The story of Zacchaeus is another story about not being able to see. Just as the blind man from yesterday could not see because of his blindness, Zacchaeus could not see because he was too short. Just as the blind man’s blindness was a symbol of his and our spiritual blindness, Zacchaeus’ lack of stature was a symbol of his and our lack of stature in both a social and spiritual way.
It wasn’t just that Zacchaeus lacked stature physically: socially, as a tax collector, he was a social pariah, an outcast. Somewhere in the vicinity of prostitutes and Samaritans, tax collectors were near the bottom of the social totem pole. And Zacchaeus was the chief among the tax collectors.
Zacchaeus lacked stature before God as well because he, like us, was a sinner. Before God, not just as a part of creation before an Almighty Creator but also as arrogant creatures who set ourselves up as being as important and glorious as He is, we lack stature before God. We are the covenant-breakers, the creation-wreckers, and the God-deniers. As such, we lack stature before God.
Now I’m sure there were lots of short people in Zacchaeus’ day, but not all of them made a point of going to see Jesus when their natural condition wouldn’t permit it. But Zacchaeus goes to the trouble to run ahead, climb up a sycamore tree, and wait for Jesus. Zacchaeus takes steps to make sure he can see Jesus, and for this he is rewarded not only by Jesus making a point to speak to him but also by having the privilege of Jesus saying He must come to his house and eat with him today. When Zacchaeus learned that Jesus would visit his house today, he made haste, came down, and received Jesus joyfully.
Zacchaeus is therefore a picture of how we are to receive Jesus. We are to desire to seek Him, but because there are often circumstances in our life that prevent us from seeing Him, we are to take the steps necessary to make sure we can see Him each day. There are, in fact, many ways to see Jesus, but chief among them are 3 that we are employing this morning: hearing the Word of God, responding with prayer, and responding with obedience.
Make sure to take the necessary steps to see God every day, and God will respond by visiting you. The result will be joy!
But there is one more thing we can learn from Zacchaeus, and that is that another obstacle to our seeing Jesus and eating with Him every day is our sin. But Zacchaeus knew that it was not enough to seek Jesus and invite Him into his house: he also had to repent to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Zacchaeus knew, as well, that repentance was not only in word but also in deed. It would have been easy for Zacchaeus to simply say that he was repentant and let things go at that. But knowing what God required, and now having a heart joyfully ready to submit to the Lord, Zacchaeus took an unprecedented step for a tax collector: he vowed to return all that he had unrighteously taken. Furthermore, he would restore four-fold, thus making the restitution for stealing required by God’s law. Finally, he vowed to give half his riches to the poor!
Zacchaeus’ restitution and repentance is all the more remarkable because the primary reason one became a tax-collector, presumably, was because of all the money you could rake in by taking it in falsely. All that was now gone, but Zacchaeus gladly denies his former life and sinful way of making money and shows a true turning to God.
Zacchaeus was one of the last, the little in stature: he was the shortest man, chief among tax collectors (sinners), and near the bottom of the alphabet, but he was made first by God, for that which was lost was now found. Salvation had come to Zacchaeus.
As Zacchaeuses, we are without stature before God. But when we arrange our lives to that we can meet Jesus each day, and especially on the Lord’s Day, the He has said we must meet with Him, then He comes to us. And when we repent and make right the things we have made wrong, then He blesses us.
Having acknowledged our lowly state before God and bowed before Him, He raises us up to life with Him.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be Zacchaeus today. Help me to see myself in a humble light, and give me the desire to see You above all else. Where there are obstacles to my seeing You, please help me to remove them. When You come to me may I recognize You and receive you with joy and repentance.
Point for Meditation:
- In what ways are you small, like Zacchaeus? How could you become larger by turning to God in your smallness?
- What obstacles are there in your life to seeing God more clearly? Are you willing to work to remove them so that you may see God?
Resolution: I resolve (vow) today to change my life and arrange it in such a way that I am more likely to see Jesus. I resolve to find one practical way to work on this today.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson