Most of the time, people criticize others because they are less advantaged where they are advantaged. These categories of people will not see that the weak in some areas have capacity in certain areas and the strong in some areas have weak points in certain areas. This is what Jesus Christ showed in this lesson His love is for everybody irrespective of who the person is or who is not and what he has or does not have. We are in the best position to help others so that we can complement one another.
The story of Zacchaeus is transformative, exciting, and didactic. The crowds despised him for his deceit, power, and his wealth as a chief tax collector. Yet out of the group swarming around Jesus, with each one vying for his attention, Jesus boldly chooses Zaccheus. Of all people, why choose him? The following are the lessons to learn.
1. Overcome excuses to stand out – Luke 19:1-4
Just imagine for a moment how this story played out in real life. There’s a notoriously known CHIEF tax collector that no doubt the whole town despised. As a crowd forms around Jesus, Zacchaeus is too short to see him through the group. He’s ambitious to get a glimpse of the Lord and knows that because he isn’t in good favor with the townspeople, they won’t let him through. Zacchaeus acts, and he runs ahead and climbs up a sycamore-fig tree, this lesson should prompt us to ask ourselves, “What excuses do I make for seeking Jesus?”
A question to answer: What are some of the excuses people give that stop them from getting ahead in life?
2. Break social norms to get to your desire – Luke 19:4
It was not proper for an adult man to run in that culture. You may have learned this in the story “The Prodigal Son”, where the father’s act of running to his son was an outrageous display of love. For a man to run, he would have to tie up his long tunic and show his legs. This was both humiliating and shameful in that culture for a grown man. Now not only did Zacchaeus run, but he also even climbed a tree! I can only imagine that climbing a tree would be as well if running was looked down upon, even more so!
A question to answer: What are some social expectations that tie us down that we must break out from?
3. Don’t travel with the crowd –Luke 19: 3-4
You will get what the public receives if you go with the crowd. If you want something unique and extraordinary, you must do what the ordinary won’t do. Another way to think of this with Zacchaeus is that the whole crowd rushed horizontally to see Jesus. Zacchaeus went vertically and climbed a tree.
Yet, another example of breaking away from the crowd is found in Luke 18: 35-43, which is right before this story of Zacchaeus. As usual, a vast group was gathering around Jesus. Alongside, the road was a blind beggar who, when he heard that Jesus was passing by, so he yelled out to Him. The people told him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, country to the wishes of those around him. The man’s desperate act of crying out gets Jesus’ attention and Jesus stops healing him. So, whether it’s the blind beggar or Zacchaeus, Jesus was attracted to a man who stood out in the crowd.
A question to ask: What are some practical ways to break through the crowd’s norms to reach life’s goals?
4. Accept people the way they are – Luke 19: 5
It was very unpopular to associate with tax collectors during this story, let alone be a guest in their homes. Tax collectors were Jewish men who were seen as traitors to their people because they worked for Rome. They also exploited the people by increasing the amount due and pocketing the extra money. Zacchaeus was the “Chief” tax collector.
Knowing this full well, Jesus willingly calls Zacchaeus out of the crowd to be a guest in his home at the expense of offending the public. To even further this point, the city of Jericho, where this story takes place, was home to many priests. This means that Jesus overlooked all the religious ones in the group and chose the despised tax collector.
As mentioned above before, tax collectors were an ostracised group. The tension in the crowd must have been palatable when Jesus called out to Zacchaeus. “I must be a guest in your home today”.
Likewise, how can we accept and welcome the unwanted and unaccepted? Imagine being with a group of friends and seeing someone, not in your friends group that’s outcast or dejected. You reach out a welcoming hand of acceptance, and it changes their whole world. It’s like inviting the unpopular kid to the lunch table. It’s an action that says, “You matter, I see you, and I accept you”.
The questions to ask: What are some of the things we practice in our churches that prevent us from coming to God the way we are? How can we overcome “the bad press” around someone to show them the love of God?
5. Your response to Jesus says a lot about you.
A response that doesn’t delay – in Zacchaeus is the urgency in which we respond to Jesus’ call. When Jesus called Zacchaeus, he said, Come down” Zecchaeus, quickly climbed down (Luke 19: 5-6)
A response of generosity – Jesus’ words melted the sinful and greedy heart of Zacchaeus so much that he declared to give away half his will and payback for times he cheated.
A response full of joy and incredible excitement! Read and meditate on (Luke 19: 6) We shall all have a positive response to receiving Jesus into the home of our hearts.
The questions to ask: Which type of persons can we classify as Zacchaeus today? How do we treat such groups of persons in our society? As believers, what must be our approach to such persons?
We have discussed the interaction between Zacchaeus and Jesus Christ. We have equally learned some lessons from the interactions. The lessons from our actions, attitudes, characters, behaviors, and steps toward one another have been learned. This story has opened our eyes to see that there is no one we cannot help and place into the right position instead of destroying criticism and condemnations. Zacchaeus was not a pretender; he chose to see Jesus and he saw Jesus. Jesus was not a rejecter; he accepted Zacchaeus as he was and helped him to a normal life. God bless you as you have learned one or two things here!