Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small in stature.
So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
What made Zacchaeus climb the tree that day? Sure, he was short, but that’s still a lot to go through just to see someone. Yes, Jesus was developing a quasi-rock-star celebrity status—but tree climbing? It was so impulsive and so uncivilized. Others in the town had heard of Jesus. Many turned out—although doubtless some did not, thinking that Jesus wasn’t worth the time. So why was Zacchaeus different? Why did grace move in his heart on this particular day, to get him to drop what he was doing and put himself in a position where the Lord could speak to him?
But lack of dignity aside, all Zacchaeus really did was climb a tree for Jesus. That’s all it took. He put forth the effort to see God, and God noticed—and responded in kind. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of mercy. Mercy would be nailed to a tree to offer Zacchaeus a glimpse of heaven and the love-filled sacrifice required to get there. His story invites us to ask ourselves what we need to do to catch that same life-changing glimpse.
Journaling Prompt: Can you relate to Zacchaeus at all? Answer the following questions, and record your answers in a journal for further reflection.
- Have you ever had “everything” and realized that, in reality, you had nothing?
- Would you risk embarrassment or your reputation or even your job for the sake of Jesus?
- Are you willing to do anything different in order to “see” Jesus more clearly?
- Is the crowd around you the reason you can’t see Jesus clearly?
- Are you afraid to break out of your routine or your comfort zone?
- When Christ looks at you and calls your name, do you respond or look away?
- When the Spirit convicts your heart, do you admit your wrongdoing or redirect blame?
- Are you seeking only personal forgiveness, or do you desire to make restitution to those you have hurt along the way?
For Zacchaeus, salvation came knocking that day. How many days has salvation come knocking, come seeking you? He stands at the door of your heart, knocking (see Revelation 3:20). Picking up the word of God, you scale the sycamore. The question is whether or not you want the adventure to continue. Do you have the courage to come down and to live in even greater abandonment to Christ?
This is a selection from Mark Hart’s latest book, Unleashing the Power of Scripture: A Guide for Catholics (The Word Among Us Press, 2017). Available at wau.org/books