Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
Key verses: (2-4) 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
Reflection: I love telling the story of Zaccheus to children. Most of them can relate to someone short. They have all been behind someone tall blocking their view. They want to sympathize with Zaccheus because they understand the impulse to climb that sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. But Zaccheus is not a particularly sympathetic character. He has cheated others and lined his own pockets while collecting taxes for the empire. The people call him out as a sinner. Still, Jesus chooses to stop and call him down from the tree and dine with him. We hear Zaccheus tell Jesus that he will repay others, and give half of his possessions to the poor. We don’t know if that actually happens, but clearly Jesus believes in Zaccheus.
He’s a great example to us that what Jesus thinks about someone is not as clear-cut as we might like. We prefer to have easy delineations between who’s in and who’s out. We like to call someone good and someone else bad. It’s easier that way. Jesus isn’t so quick to judge in this story. Zaccheus is a mixed bag of motivations, like all the rest of us. He likes money, and works in ways that benefit him and his pocketbook at the expense of others – bad (but sounds uncomfortably familiar). He is interested in Jesus and goes out of his way to see him – good (but climbing trees is a little much.) He listens to Jesus and has his heart changed – very good (but it means his lifestyle has to change…wait, is mine supposed to change too?!)
Perhaps we need to develop some of Jesus’ ability to see people in all their messiness. If we are followers of Jesus, perhaps we need to be seeking out those who are not so sympathetic, instead of hanging out with others who are like us. And perhaps we might think more about how to give others a glimpse of Jesus, instead of blocking their way. Then everyone’s hearts might be changed in remarkable ways. Maybe even our own.
Prayer: Lord, I want to see you, and follow you. Forgive me when my own messiness complicates things. Help me be less quick to judge others. Help me offer a glimpse of Jesus in and through me. Change my heart, and teach me to love as you love. In your name I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].