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New Thoughts on the Familiar Story of Zacchaeus

alec vanderboom

My little five year old came home talking about Zacchaeus and his big tree after Sunday School this week. I took sometime to reread it in Luke on Monday. Wow! Is this a powerful story about prayer.

Luke 19:1-10

"He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going past that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lor, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

Some brief thoughts I had during my prayer of Lectio Divinio (a fancy Carmelite way of saying praying the Bible very slowly and asking God for help in applying it to your life).

--Jesus was just "passing through" town. He actually changes his plans after he sees Zacchaeus' actions

--Imagine Zacchaeus for a moment. He's rich. He's in fine clothes. He's got a dignity and stature about him. Yet he climbs up a tree! A childish action if there ever was one. He doesn't worry about getting his nice clothes dirty. He doesn't worry about people making fun of him. He impulsively climbs up a tree simply to "get a glimpse of Jesus!"

--Jesus rewards this "foolish, childlike action" with a dinner invitation

--Zacchaeus "hurries down" and is "happy to welcome him." (That's how Jesus wants us to respond to his invitations)

--people around him start to complain. They are jealous. They wanted Jesus to come to their house to dine. They complain that Zacchaeus is unworthy to have such a great guest in his house. (He's a sinner!)

--Yet, notice that Zacchaeus is no longer a sinner. Zacchaeus is instantly converted. "I will give half my possessions to the poor.."

-Jesus then rebukes the grumbling townfolk. He gives the unpopular Zacchaeus back his human dignity. He asserts "this is my true mission--" "For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost."

Wow!  A gold mine of stuff for contemplation.

Prayer: Lord, help me foolishly climb tall trees in order to see you better!

Also, it reasserts my belief that Young Children should spend time hearing the actual word of God.  Try out the New Revised Standard Version--it's highly accurate, written in plain English and retains so many beautiful images. Children's Bibles and stories are great for pictures of "add ons"--but truly the actual passage in Luke is so vivid. I don't the water down picture book my daughter read in Sunday School contained nearly the power of this accurate translation of Luke's original words.