LUKE 19:2-6 (NIV)
"A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly."
Read Luke 19:1-10 in its entirety.
Why does everybody seem to be in such a hurry in this story? Jesus is only “passing through” Jericho. Zacchaeus “hurries” up the tree, and Jesus tells him to hurry and come back down immediately. The judgmental crowd of bystanders rushes to grumble and complain, naturally. Jesus not only invites himself over but insists it has to be “today”. And then Zacchaeus, barely containing his enthusiasm to make things right, stands up — mid-meal, no doubt — and announces his repentance.
For all the words of hurry and timeliness used in the short space of this story, it is Jesus’ rush to show love — even before Zacchaeus’ repentance — that stands out most to me. Am I as eager to lovingly extend myself to the people around me as Jesus is? What about showing love before someone has even tried to correct their wrongs? Am I willing, like Jesus, to interrupt my plans of “passing through” in order to extend myself to the unloved and despised?
Jesus loved enough to stop, interrupt his journey, look up in the tree into the eyes of Zacchaeus, and extend an invitation. It is a double step: Zacchaeus, you come down from that tree, and I will come over to your house. My guess would be that the seeds of salvation are sown in this short man’s heart before his feet even touch the ground. Jesus is inviting me to be with him!
It takes an act of courage — loving optimism, even — to invite yourself into the home of a man with a bad reputation. But Jesus is not distracted by the naysayers. He is divinely focused on the significance of today. Today, we must get together at your house. Today, salvation has come to this home. There is an urgency here which pierces our sleepy tendencies to plod our way through disciple making. Jesus invites himself over for dinner and pronounces salvation before the dessert is brought out.
It all makes you kind of wonder, doesn’t it? Who exactly is doing the seeking in this story? At first, we are told that Zacchaeus was “seeking to see who Jesus was”. That is how we end up in the tree with him in the first place: curiosity enhanced by a better view. But Jesus punctuates the story at the end to make it crystal clear: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” There is that double step again. We think we are the curious ones, but it turns out he was after us all along.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Reflect on the love Jesus has shown you in your own life. What trees has he invited you to climb down out of in a hurry?
- Who are the people in your life right now who seem ready — eager, even — for a loving encounter with Jesus?
- If Jesus spent an afternoon as a guest in your home, what areas of your life might you find yourself wanting to make right?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Darren Prince lives in London, UK with his wife, Pam, and their three increasingly British-sounding children. They live in Tower Hamlets, serving among those on the margins in Spitalfields and Shadwell. Darren also serves as the general director of InnerCHANGE, CRM’s Christian order among the poor.