Living Life in a Sycamore Tree: Learning from Zaccheus
Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
“At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. (When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." But Zacchaeus stood there and 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."(More than what the Law required)And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." St. Luke 9:1-10
In the last chapter of the Gospel of St John we read these words: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” St John 21:25
This verse underscores the importance of the stories that are actually recorded in the Gospels. They have been selected among many, many others for a Divine purpose. Every character we meet on the pages of the sacred texts is more than just a player in a nice story. They are a door into eternal truth, meant to teach, inform and transform our lives. They put us more in touch with the Lord, ourselves and the very purpose of our lives. Upon prayer and reflection, they become an invitation to each of us to be converted, to change our lives, through our ongoing encounters with Jesus Christ.
So, it is with this story of this little tax collector named Zacheus.
What can we learn from Zacheus today?
Let’s take a look.
In the days when the Lord walked in our midst, Israel was under Roman occupation. An unfair tax was extracted by people, like Zacheus, Jews who worked for the oppressor. They earned their living by adding an extra surcharge for themselves. These Jews were hated by the Jewish people. They were considered traitors, “sell outs’, “compromisers”…. However, they were still Jews. They were sons of the Covenant. They were children of Abraham. They knew the law and they were God’s special people.
In a sense, Zacheus was not unlike many of us who are Christians. We have been baptized into Christ. We know the faith. Perhaps however, we have conveniently separated “what we do” from “who we are”. “After all” we tell ourselves, “we are simply trying to make a living.” The parallel continues. For many of us, we even feel these days like we are living in what increasingly feels like occupied country. Have we “sold out”, actually working for the occupier.
Somewhere deeply within Zacheus he hungered for the Living God more than anything else. He wanted to see Jesus more than he wanted to maintain his economic comfort. Jesus knew that. He had come to Jericho that day seeking to save the lost. He knew Zacheus like He knows each one of us. The “crowds” around Zacheus may have deemed him as unworthy of the encounter that was about to occur but God did not see him this way. Jesus saw Zacheus’ heart and he drew him to Himself.
Each one of us should find great hope in this story because, literally or figuratively, we have compromised in our lives; perhaps in our work -by failing to live fully the implications of our faith. Perhaps in our family- by failing to love in the way that we know we ought, sacrificially, perhaps in our so called “free time”- by giving in to pursuits that we know actually lead to bondage. The “Good News” is that, no matter what has happened in our past, Jesus walks into the dusty streets of our own lives, this day. He comes for us.
Let us come to a fuller understanding of the reality of the Lords action in our own lives, the way in which these encounters still occur, by learning some lessons from Zacheus about life in a Sycamore tree.
1) Remember that God is already there
Jesus already knew that Zacheus was in Jericho. He had called him, knit him together in his mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13-16) and knew everything about him. In fact, the Lord came to Jericho for Zacheus. He did not need to get the Lord’s attention and neither do we. Jesus comes into each one of our lives, searching for us, because He still comes to “…seek and save what was lost.”
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