Zacchaeus was wealthy and famous. Although he was a Jew, he enjoyed power and prestige in the society of the Romans because he was a rich tax collector. Zacchaeus’, the name means, “pure and clean” in Hebrew, but ironically, in the eyes of his contemporaries, he was considered “dirty,” dirty as the lepers and harlots. However, deep within him, he had a hunger for a forgiving God. Upon hearing that Jesus was passing through his town, he ventured out and climbed up a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of him.
People who are wealthy and famous do not climb trees to see something; they usually have reserved seats. Can you imagine senators, congressmen, mayors, showbiz celebrities, priests, and bishops climbing trees to see the Pope pass by in an armored vehicle? Like Zacchaeus, some might risk their dignity to see someone they really want to see, but not many.
Since Zacchaeus was determined, he sought the Lord actively and did everything he could to reach his goal. Zacchaeus knew he was too short to see over the other people in the crowd, so he put his dignity and pride aside and climbed a tree to see Jesus.
I admire the man's curiosity and deep interest to see the Lord even from a distance. His desire was laudable, but his dedication and commitment to catching a glimpse of the Lord were even more impressive.
Zacchaeus knew he was despised by most Jews, but when he heard them grumble, he took courage and was not intimidated. He knew he had great possessions, some of them acquired dishonestly, but he said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over.”
Zacchaeus deserves praise for demonstrating an efficacious desire that resulted in tangible action.
In Zacchaeus, we learn that when we do our best to experience Jesus, we are rewarded. Jesus responds to us as He did to Zacchaeus with a promise of salvation. But we must initiate a few steps just as Zacchaeus did. Then we realize that Jesus is the greatest possession we can have.
A deep desire for Jesus. It was Zacchaeus’ desire to see who Jesus that made him run ahead of Jesus and get ready to meet him.
A willingness to climb up: Very often we are caught up with the cares and concerns of daily life that we are not willing to climb up above these concerns to meet Jesus.
The courage to stand up: Zacchaeus had the courage to stand up among the people and announce his decision that he values only Jesus, not his possessions, pride or poise. We often lack this courage thinking of the comments and perceptions others would make of us.
When was the last time you did the utmost to see and experience Jesus which meant even risking your possessions, pride, and poise?
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.