“All who saw it began to complain, ‘He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!’” (Luke 19:7)
Zacchaeus never won the “Most Popular Man in Jericho” award.
He had three strikes against him. Strike one: He took money from hardworking people. That was bad enough. Strike two: He worked for the Romans, which made him suspect to every patriotic Jew. Strike three: He skimmed off some of the money for himself.
So he’s a tax collector working for Rome and lining his own pockets. No wonder people hated him.
Then along comes Jesus who not only calls him down from the tree, but invites himself over for a meal at Zacchaeus’ house. If you had taken a poll that day and asked, “Name the most hated man in Jericho,” Zacchaeus would have been named on 99% of the ballots. Virtually everybody would have said, “This is the worst man in town.” And then you’d ask the second question, “Who is the least likely person to want to see Jesus?” Zacchaeus would once again have been at the top of the list. People had written off this crooked tax collector long ago.
Sometimes we get discouraged when we share the gospel. We think our friends and loved ones are never going to listen. We try to share Christ at work. We try to share Christ with our friends and our neighbors. We try to build bridges. We try to get to know people who don’t know the Lord. We get discouraged when they don’t respond quickly. Sometimes they go months and years without responding at all. We look at them and conclude that they are hardened to God. Zacchaeus reminds us not to jump to hasty conclusions. If you had looked on the outside, you would have written him off because society had written him off. But all along the Holy Spirit was working, waiting for the day when Jesus would pass through Jericho.
Thank God, there are hungry hearts everywhere. Just because you don’t see the signs on the outside doesn’t mean that on the inside your friends and loved ones haven’t climbed up in a tree to see Jesus as he passes by. On the outside it may not look like anything is happening, but on the inside God is at work.
Evidently Jesus stayed at his home. No wonder people got upset. Religious types often get offended at the people Jesus chooses to be his followers. Isn’t it true, then as now, that some people are offended by the fact that our Lord loved to be with the worst of sinners?
There are no hopeless cases with Jesus. He’s not ashamed to hang out with drunkards and prostitutes and crooked tax collectors. Here’s a real shocker: He’ll even spend time with religious people if they want to spend time with him.
I’m glad Jesus hung out with Zacchaeus. If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for me too. We all get to heaven the same way: the free grace of God.
You never know when Jesus may find another Zacchaeus up a tree.
Thank you, Lord, for amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. Help me to keep believing for those who don’t know you yet. Amen.