“Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
Zacchaeus literally means “Innocent and Pure.” However, by the time we read this story he had been compromised by Bad Habits until Jesus offered a new way to live. As a tax agent for the Romans, a lot of money began flowing through his hands. Before long he developed the bad habit of over-charging merchants and pocketing enormous profits I imagine that Zacchaeus had once wanted to be an exemplary citizen, a good neighbor, a role model for kids. By the time Jesus arrived in Jericho, Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, but he had lost his aim in life. He was hated by all of his countryman. They called him a sinner which meant outcast.
The Zacchaeus story has many chords that can strike close to home. Who of us have not made decisions that have created confusion and trouble in our lives and we have wished that somehow, someway we could turn back the clock and get a do over? How many of us have developed bad habits that have hurt others? Thankfully for Zacchaeus he came to seek out Jesus who was the Lord of the do over. If you have come seeking salvation, you have come to the right place if you find yourself fighting through the crowd to meet the Messiah.
I believe that the story of Zacchaeus beautifully describes the path of healing and restoration for those feeling trapped in bad habits. It starts when Zacchaeus realizes that doing the same thing over and over again will mean that the same results will occur. So much garbage had been accumulating in his life that he was really beginning to stink. If you want to get rid of the stink in your life, you have to be willing to carry out the trash out to the curb so that it can be hauled away. I know that while God will give us a new lease in life, we have to be accountable for the trash that we have stored up. We have to stop making excuses for living in filth and stop blaming everyone else for the garbage we are living in.
Now the second step in Zacchaeus’ path of healing and restoration is to not only to carry out the trash but then be willing to climb a tree in order to gain a new perspective. All of us have been in situations where we can so caught up in our own situation that we lose sight of the big picture that God has for our lives. In the case of Zacchaeus, he couldn’t see Jesus because the crowd was blocking him. Instead of giving up, he ran ahead to find a place where he could get a new vantage point by climbing a tree. I believe that when we are willing to climb out on a limb and get a new perspective we discover a better view which helps us see God’s new horizon for our lives.
It was from that vantage point after climbing the tree that Zacchaeus could then confirm the offer that Jesus made to him to come down and eat supper with him that evening. Jesus didn’t wait for an invitation from this short little tax collector. The Bible tells us time and time again, that Jesus came to reach out and get people, even folks like Zacchaeus who was lost. Jesus sees him and calls him by name to come down. There are things in life that we need to be in a hurry to do and when Jesus calls us by name we need to scamper down the trees that we have been climbing in order to come to the place that Jesus calls us. Just like Zacchaeus of long ago, Jesus invites us to come and join him. Every time you open the Bible… every time you come to worship… you should be able to hear that invitation… come on down… I want to be with you today. Now Zacchaeus could have refused, he could have looked around and say who me? He could have run away, but instead Zacchaeus accepts the offer of relationship. He hurries down from the tree and welcomed Jesus gladly.
Zacchaeus then makes a commitment to change the old path and go on the new path that is offered to you. In Zacchaeus’ case he announces that would give fifty percent of his wealth to his church’s relief fund, and he resolves to pay back fourfold every merchant he has ever defrauded. When he encountered Jesus, he was so filled with joy and gratitude that he realized that he needed to turn over a new leaf, that he could not go back to his old ways. Jesus announces that because of his actions, he has been restored. Not just to his God, but also with his neighbors. He has been restored as a full son of Abraham. His connection to the Lord began with Jesus’ desire to stay at his house and with Zacchaeus’ enthusiastic welcome; his connection to his fellow townspeople began with his promise to reform his cheating ways.