Z is for Zacchaeus

Well, here we are at Z again for ABC Wednesday. And I’m happy to say I successfully made it all the way through the bible. Oh yes, there were letters that had me worried…like Q and X. I believe it was a controversial theme to pick, but I hope those of you who visited regularly enjoyed my meme theme.

So let’s end this round with someone you may remember from a Sunday School song…a “wee little man” named Zacchaeus.

There he is, the blood-sucking tax collector, Zacchaeus. The pariah of the town. The lowest of the low. A turncoat Jew who now works for Cesar and his thugs. When he shows up, you know he’s going to take more tax than necessary…just to line his own pockets. And take he does. Zacchaeus is a very rich man. He’s walked away from his Jewish moral code to become a profiteer, making money off his fellow Jews because of Rome’s occupation of Jericho. There are many people to loathe in Jericho; the town prostitutes; the Roman guards; the crazy man down the street; the woman with the strange illness. Yes, Jericho has tremendous scapegoat potential. But Zacchaeus’ reputation tops them all.

One day, Zacchaeus is sitting in his penthouse apartment counting his money when he hears a commotion coming down the street. He’s heard of a man named Jesus causing all sorts of concern. And being a Jew, he’s heard all the Promised Messiah, King, Savior rumors. His curiosity leads him to the street to see what’s going on. Has Jesus come to debate the Pharisees? To heal some poor, sick soul? To pardon another woman of questionable character? In any case, Zacchaeus wants to see what kind of trouble is stirring.

The problem is, when he hits the street, Zacchaeus can’t see much of anything…because he’s a bit vertically challenged.

He’s short. And all he sees is other people’s….well, you get the idea.

So he spies a tree up the road. He runs as fast as his little legs will carry him and climbs the tree to watch the mob with this free-lance teacher. There he is, dressed to the nines, sitting in a tree. He’s ripe for ridicule and he knows it. But a driving need to see this man overcomes his pridefullness, and now he’s out on a limb straining to see so not to miss anything that might happen.

And then he sees him, surrounded by people trying to get his attention. He hears more than a few invitations to come for dinner. He hears challenges for debates with the local attorneys. Everyone seems to want a piece of him. But as Jesus passes by, his attention is taken away from the crowd and up into the tree.

Their eyes lock. Seeing what is obviously a very rich man, clothed in the latest fashion, hanging on to branches of a tree is not something one sees every day. But without missing a beat, Jesus looks deep into Zacchaeus’ eyes and calls him by name to come down out of the tree…because he’s coming to his house for dinner!

Zacchaeus just about fell out of that tree.

How did he know my name?
My house? For dinner? No way!

The crowd is shocked and appalled. Doesn’t Jesus know who this man is? Doesn’t Jesus know how despicable he is? Surely there are better people in town with whom Jesus could be seen. Surely, if Jesus is a great prophet, he knows this is not the type of person that’s going to win him any popularity points.

But that’s how JC rolls. He’s more interested in seeking and saving the lost than fine dining at a 5-star restaurant with the mayor. He’d rather hang out with the scapegoats and offer moral rebirth and salvation than endlessly debate the fine points of theology with the priests. He prefers to offer those…those…sinners… liberation and grace rather than condemnation and ridicule.

Well…in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!

Oh wait, wrong Grinch…

Anyway, as Zacchaeus looks into those eyes, he changes. He’s so overcome that he vows to give back half his wealth and apologize for all the wrongs he’s committed. And if he’s cheated anyone, he’ll pay them back four times the amount…which probably takes care of the rest of his wealth. He comes to faith in Jesus with empty hands and walks away with a full heart.

And with that, Jesus replies, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:9-10)

Have you ever found yourself out on a limb and vulnerable?
What would you do if God called you by name to come down from the tree?
What would you let go of to accept the invitation of grace?

Sub­mitted for ABC Wednesday

And that,  my friends, is the end of Round 9 of ABC Wednesday. I hope to see you back next week to begin Round 10!



8 thoughts on “Z is for Zacchaeus

  1. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all your posts during Round 9. You truly have a way with words and hopefully, many non-believers will have learned a bit or two. Maybe even have enough curiosity to open the Big Book! Look forward to seeing you in Round 10.

    abcw team


  2. A delightful, fresh telling of the story. You told the Gospel in a nutshell. I agree with Leslie that I pray seeds were planted through your ABC series.
    I have enjoyed every single post. Thanks so much.


  3. Oh yes, one of the first songs I learned decades ago in Sunday School, then became a Pastor’s wife, and taught the song and told the story a ZILLION times….(just kidding…but I did tell it many, many times.

    You’ve done a great service by using Biblical characters for your ABC post…you have been a good and faithful servant.


  4. Pingback: Just a carpenter – peripheral perceptions

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