Where we left off, Zacchaeus was out on a limb– literally. He had climbed a tree because there were obstacles in his way, and he wanted to see Jesus.
As we explored in Part 1, Zacchaeus was a man with many needs. He came from a background of rejection. He had no doubt suffered verbal and emotional abuse. He was reviled by his neighbors. He was a broken man.
But one thing I admire about Zacchaeus is that he didn’t stay mired in his misery. Zacchaeus decided to take action. He reached out to Jesus.
THE FIRST STEP TO TRANSFORMATION
That’s the first step in living a transformed life.
I can relate to Zacchaeus because my life had been filled with rejection. I was the victim of relentless bullying from an early age, and it continued right through my teen years. My emotions were battered and bruised. I suffered from depression, recurring nightmares, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts. At the age of 18 I felt my life was over. But a high school acquaintance had invited me to church, and in my desperation I decided to check it out. That decision was the first step to a life transformed by Jesus. (My salvation is quite a story, but I’ll have to save that for another post. Stay tuned.)
But back to Zacchaeus. Picture the scene: a hated tax collector, a jeering crowd– and Jesus. We pick up the story in Luke 19:5: “When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'”
Can you imagine Zacchaeus’ reaction? Here is a man who has been rejected his entire life– yet out of that whole crowd, Jesus chooses him. Jesus accepts him where he’s at. Jesus even calls him by name!
You see, God already knew Zacchaeus intimately. He knew every detail of his life. He knew the longings of his heart. He knew his shortcomings as well (no pun intended). He knew what everyone thought of him, and He knew what Zacchaeus thought of himself. And still He accepted him.
LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND
And Zacchaeus responded. Luke tells us, “So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” This is significant. Zacchaeus had to leave his position in that tree behind in order to receive from Jesus. If there is to be change in our lives, we too must leave our past behind. We must reach out in hope for what God offers us.
Up there in that tree, Zacchaeus stood out from the crowd. But I don’t think that’s why Jesus singled him out. It’s probable that some in the crowd were scoffers, and some were seekers, and some were just curious bystanders. But it was Zacchaeus who desired an encounter with Jesus. God loves it when we desire to be in His presence!
Luke’s account continues, “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.'” Of course they were right; we are told in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned. But that’s not necessarily what the crowd meant by this. They were evaluating Zacchaeus by what he was. But Jesus evaluated him by what he could become! God knows the potential of every person He’s created, including Zacchaeus– and you and me as well.
SEE YOURSELF THROUGH GOD’S EYES
And when Zacchaeus saw this, when he experienced the unconditional acceptance Jesus offered him, there was a sudden and radical change in his life! Look at the conclusion of the story: “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'”
We are not told the reaction of the crowd. I would guess there was some snickering at the words “if I have cheated anybody.”
But I also think there was a collective gasp of surprise and shock at what Zacchaeus promised. A rich man giving half of his possessions to the poor is certainly impressive. But for this tax collector to do so? And then to pay back four times what he’s stolen from his neighbors? The crowd must have been speechless.
I get so excited when I read these verses! Zacchaeus had a dramatic transformation when he met Jesus. The thief became the giver– his mindset totally changed. Seeing himself through God’s eyes completely changed his life.
CHANGE IS POSSIBLE
It doesn’t matter what others think of you. It doesn’t matter what others say about you. The only things that matter is how God sees you, and what He says about you!
Our limitations are no problem to God. He knows all about our “habits, hurts and hangups,” to quote Celebrate Recovery. God is eager to forgive all those wrong choices we’ve made. God desires to bring healing and wholeness to our lives.
His love does not exclude you, and His power will not fail you.
You probably won’t need to climb a tree as Zacchaeus did– but you do need to take some action. Reach out to Jesus. When you do, you’ll find Him reaching right back.
And in His embrace, change will come.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit with Zacchaeus. I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment, and if you’d like to read more posts like this, just put your name and email address in the Subscribe box.