Zacchaeus Joy (Luke 19:1-10)
As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was loathed and despised by his fellow Israelites. Viewed as a traitor, he was employed by the occupying Romans to extract taxes from his own people. Tax collectors were not paid a set wage, instead, they were allowed to keep whatever they could extract above and beyond what Rome demanded. He was a wealthy tax collector, so clearly, he was gifted at his extortion.
Zacchaeus could not have been a man with a conscience. His success depended on not caring about the consequence of his actions. Whether a father would default on a debt and be sent to prison, or a widow denied her last meal, his only concern was to collect the money. He was a Wound in Humanity.
Successful and at the top of his game, Zacchaeus was drawn to the “Rock Star” status of this Jesus that was coming to town. He climbed that sycamore tree because he was curious. He wanted to see what this Jesus looked like. He did not want to miss out on the entertainment.
When Jesus stopped beneath him and looked up, it was not Zacchaeus who first spoke. It was Jesus who sought him out, who was calling his name. This was a Miraculous Moment of Mercy. In the time it took Jesus to call Zacchaeus down from that tree, the entire world of Zacchaeus The Tax Collector was fundamentally transformed.
In this Miraculous Moment of Mercy, Jesus heals a lifetime of sin. When the eyes of Jesus found the eyes of Zacchaeus, an Eternal Love was unleashed, an unfathomable forgiveness was communicated, a soul without a conscience was made whole. Zacchaeus climbed down that tree filled with Joy.
With this Joy, he welcomes Jesus into his home, gives half of all he possesses to the poor, and vows to repay fourfold, all he has extorted. His tax collector colleagues in the crowd would have been dumbfounded. Their sense of reality would have experienced a head-on collision with Love and Mercy.
I as well, grapple with what happened in that tree. Like Zacchaeus, Jesus found me caught up in a life of sin. And like Zacchaeus, after encountering Jesus, I invited him into my life. But unlike Zacchaeus, my life, my values and priorities changed slowly, and only after I had repented of my ways.
That Zacchaeus’ life transformation was instantaneous and preceded repentance, can only be miraculous. My life transformation has been incremental and charts along the same time-line as the letting go of things incongruent with Christ’s love. This may appear more logical, but it is in no way, less miraculous. Both Zacchaeus and I, did not first love God. God first loved us. -“For the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
Lord, I am forever grateful that you did not give up on your dream for me. Thank you for seeking me out, for saving me from my sins. Thank you for your gentle patience, mercy, and unconditional love. May the Joy of you finding me be ever new.