There was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.
Nasty publican. Filthy tax-collector. Getting rich on the backs of his own people. Most likely friendless. Collaborating with the enemy for his own gain. This guy is the worst.
Then one day the worst meets the best.
Jesus is walking towards Jerusalem. So many people crowding, pushing, elbowing. His friends wonder, is this when Jesus will finally liberate us from the crush of the Roman boot? Jesus has tried to tell them what really awaits him there, but they cannot grasp it. It is not Roman blood that will be shed.
The publican wants to see what all the hype is about, but he can’t see past the heads of the mob.
Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.
He thinks his view from the tree will serve his purpose, but actually it’s the view from the man below that gives him his real purpose for the first time.
It begins with his name.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Jesus, on the final leg of his journey that will end with him giving his life, gives another man’s life back to God. Zacchaeus, a man out-sized and ostracized, a despised publican gets called out in public, in full view of the crowd to receive Jesus right then, right now.
I must be a guest in your home today.
Zacchaeus can’t contain his joy and scrambles out of the tree while the uptight upright grumble about Jesus eating with another sinner because they just can’t help themselves. How their faces must hurt from all that eye-brow raising and mouth-grimacing.
We don’t find out what happened between Jesus and Zacchaeus inside the house, but whatever it was, Zacchaeus went into his house a scoundrel and came out of his house a lover of God and lover of people.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Who gives back what four-hundred percent of what they’ve stolen?
Someone who finds out that God knows his name.
For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.