Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn't see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.
When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home."
Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, "What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?"
Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, "Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I'm caught cheating, I pay four times the damages."
Jesus said, "Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost."
Zacchaeus reminds us that to follow Jesus results in a changed life. The resultant actions of the one changed is to actually live life differently. The story of Zacchaeus also reminds us that there is no use hiding from Jesus.
The Message here is a bit ambiguous in its reading of Zacchaeus’ response. It almost reads like he was already giving away from half his income and paying back damages. But, when you turn to the NIV or NRSV, it is clear that this was his response to being invited into relationship with Jesus.
Table fellowship in the first century was a really big deal. Jesus sitting down at the table of Zacchaeus was him declaring that they were in a close, personal, almost familial relationship. This simple act by Jesus was restoring Zacchaeus to his community. We learn at the end of the story that Zacchaeus was Jewish. So, he was definitely understood to be a traitor by his own people. He was probably on the outside looking in at much of the life in Jericho. Most likely he was not welcome at Synagogue or anywhere else.
Yet, Jesus sits and eats with him. Zacchaeus in response gives to the poor and makes restitution to those he’s cheated. Do you notice that Zacchaeus doesn’t even try to cover up the fact that he had cheated people? He acknowledges readily and says, “Let me make this right.”
I think of all the things in the passage perhaps that is the one that strikes me most deeply, when we come into the presence of Jesus we are laid bare. There is no hiding. There is no faking. All of who we are is brought into the light. Perhaps that is why so many of us try to domesticate Jesus into our own image? Perhaps that is why many of us have turned Christianity into an intellectual game?
How am I trying to hide from Jesus? How are you trying to hide? Guess what, we can’t hide. He is the best finder and he will restore us.
Trying to hide from Jesus is like when you play hide and seek with a baby. They simply hide by closing their eyes or covering their face with their hands. “You can’t see me!” They declare. Yet, we can see them. No matter how hard they squeeze their eyes or press their hands over their face, it doesn’t change the fact that we can see them.
When we attempt to hide ourselves from Jesus we are like that little child. Instead, let us be like Zacchaeus, totally exposed and leaning on the grace of Christ as we lived changed lives.