“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he …” I remember my grandfather singing this song to me. The words and jingle have stuck with me for the last 20 years. Even now, I have favorite people of the Bible and he is one. He enters into the scriptures in such an unusual way — by climbing a tree. He didn’t burst through a roof. He didn’t get healed by touching the tassels on Jesus’ clothes and he didn’t step out onto the crashing waves. I’m sure there are people who have read the Bible from start to finish and probably the idea of a little man named Zacchaeus didn’t even impact them.
Still, I can relate to this little man. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking but if I can speculate for just a moment this is how I think it might have gone. Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming to town — a man that had already garnered so much speculation and wonder surrounding Him. I can picture him digesting this news. I’m sure there was a tug in his heart that made him want to meet Jesus but the doubt found its way in. The last minute jitters got to him. The past ridicules of family and friends ran through his head.
I can hear the thoughts. Why would He make time for me? Who am I to get that chance? There are more worthy people. He won’t want me to see me. I am a nobody. I don’t have the right clothes, the right words, and the right kind of heart. I am a sinner. I am lost.
The town starts buzzing. One can feel the excitement building as the crowd starts to gather. Everywhere Jesus went He drew people to Him. There was always a crowd. Well Zacchaeus couldn’t resist but he knew he didn’t measure up in his heart and in reality he didn’t measure up in physical stature either. He was too short but he was determined. He was going to get a glimpse of Jesus. So what did he do? He climbed a tree that was up ahead of the path Jesus was taking.
Can you imagine it? The sweaty palms, the beating heart, the buildup of emotion as he waited in the branches of that tree? Can you relate? I can. In the moments where I knew something amazing was going to happen — the first ultrasound to see my son in the embryo stage, to hear his first heartbeat, buying my first home or starting my first job — the list is endless but the effects are the same. He waited. He held on because no matter what, he wanted to see Jesus.
But there were questions. What if Jesus turned to walk a different way? What if he didn’t glance up in the tree? What if he decided one minute earlier to go rest? Zacchaeus would never have been mentioned in the Bible if any of these things had happened. His life wouldn’t have been changed. He may have went on being a ruthless tax collector, destroying lives without regret.
Not everyone’s redemption story is BIG. Not everyone’s testimony is a huge test of faith. Some of us just took a chance and Jesus met us where we were. But Jesus did walk the path. And He looked up into that tree and He told Zacchaeus to come down because He was staying at Zacchaeus’ house.
Then it happened. The muttering, the murmurs of disbelief, the confusion on people’s faces when Jesus could have had His pick of loving and kind people but instead He chose this man. Every person in the crowd who knew who Zacchaeus was were outraged. They looked on with frustration and knew that they were more worthy. They had fought for their space. They had served and loved. They hadn’t cheated and lied so why wasn’t Jesus coming to their house?
I can relate to this part the most. Here I know that the excitement of being chosen by Jesus was dimmed. Here the words were like daggers, the angry voices cut to his heart and he hung his head. But then, Jesus spoke among the crowd saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
In that moment, Zacchaeus found grace. In that moment Zacchaeus encountered love. In that moment, he could start over. Just Like That. It wasn’t a big story and there is no mention of him again but it is his story.
My salvation wasn’t big either. My testimony won’t amaze people. My sins are long and my heart was empty but He came to seek and save the lost … and for that I am so thankful.
Kathleen & Kiddies