Many people are familiar with the story of the biblical character Zacchaeus, perhaps more so from the children’s song than from the account in Luke 19. Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, wanted to see Jesus, but because he was a short (wee little?!) man he had trouble seeing through the huge crowd of people who followed Jesus as he traveled along the way.
Not to be deterred, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the throng and climbed a tree in order to get a better view. Now he could get a really good look at Jesus when he passed by. His plan seemed to be working until something unexpected happened. Jesus did not pass by. Instead, he stopped, looked up in the tree and spoke to Zacchaeus. He told him to come down from the tree so that they could go to Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus came down at once and gladly welcomed Jesus into his home.
Meanwhile, people began to mutter and gossip about Jesus going to visit such a sinful man as a despised tax collector. Why in the world would Jesus do such a thing?
At some point during his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus declared that he was giving half of his possessions to the poor, and that if he had cheated anybody, he would pay them back four times the amount.
Jesus was impressed with the reaction of Zacchaeus. He stated that salvation had come to his house and declared, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10).
What can we learn from this encounter with Jesus?
First of all, don’t let any short-coming (pun intended), real or imagined, deter you from seeking Jesus. Many people come up with various excuses not to pursue an encounter with Jesus. Show some determination and do whatever you have to do to get close to Jesus.
Secondly, don’t pay attention to the naysayers. Many will question why Jesus should care about people like you. Just know that he does. No matter what sins you might have committed in your past, Jesus wants to come into your life and have a relationship with you.
Third, we should know that Jesus rewards those who seek him. If we show that we are serious about getting close to Jesus, he will invite us to an even closer relationship than we ever imagined!
Fourth, we must realize that a true encounter with Jesus will bring dramatic and lasting change to our lives. Zacchaeus was very likely a greedy man before he met Jesus. After he spent time with Jesus he became extremely generous. The change was indeed remarkable! Jesus still changes people for the better, transforming his followers in ways that are observable, and quite often rather amazing.
Finally, let us understand that the ultimate purpose for having an encounter with Jesus is to experience that salvation that we all so desperately need; the salvation that only he can give.