Message Supplement (October 27)

Remember Zacchaeus?  He’s the little man, in terms of physical stature, who wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was fortunate to have Jesus strolling by one day amid a crowd of onlookers. Sadly, the diminutive Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus because of the crush of taller people lining the path. Undaunted, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get that sweet view.

The spectacle of this wealthy but small Zacchaeus climbing a tree prompted Jesus to stop and call him down. “I will stay in your house,” Jesus told Zacchaeus. So the little man slid down the tree trunk (I wonder if he got splinters in some inconvenient places). Meanwhile, observers criticized Jesus’ invitation because Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a despised office in those days (perhaps ours, too).

Knowing that public opinion was against him, Zacchaeus declared his piety to challenge his critics. “I will give half of my possessions to the poor, and I will pay any defrauded persons four times more than I defrauded them.”  What a commitment! If anything would silence his critics, then this public pledge of honesty would do the trick. Zacchaeus wanted to demonstrate that despite his occupation as tax collector, he was pledged to acts of love.

Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus was equally remarkable. “Today salvation has come to this house,” he told the crowd, “because he [Zacchaeus] too is a son of Abraham.” There we have it, a rare congratulatory comment from Jesus. Zacchaeus’ determination to live an honest, faithful life led Jesus to claim that salvation had come even to Zacchaeus’ family. The “little big man,” Zacchaeus, received an assurance of God’s favor for those persons in his household. From the perspective of public opinion, Zacchaeus had been dismissed as largely a hopeless case, but Jesus announced publicly how he had been sought ought and declared righteous. It is precisely this type of irony that gets peoples’ attention and makes the Bible such a source of lively inspiration.

The story of Zacchaeus provides hope that we can overcome challenges as we seek God. Whatever we do in life, our reputation need not smother us. The line of work we do does not need to become the final word about our effectiveness as Christians. Neither physical limitation nor spiritual deprivation can separate us from God if we are faithful to the divine presence. Indeed, Zacchaeus’ case reminds us that even among soured public opinion we can cling to the savior and overcome peoples’ low expectations.

Are you looking for a clear view of God? What is the “tree” that you feel you need to climb to get a better view of God? It’s worth a bit of hassle to do what we can to obtain a better perspective. Whatever your struggle, know that your determination can make the crucial difference (yes, even if you risk splinters!).


-–Reverend Larry Hoxey