If you had any experience in church as a child, you likely sang a catchy little song about Zacchaeus.
Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.
But the short-statured semite had a bigly idea: He wanted to see Jesus.
4 So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, since He was about to pass that way.
One of my (petite) mother’s favorite songs when I was a child was “Short People Got No Reason to Live” by Randy Newman. “They got little hands and little eyes, and they walk around tellin' great big lies,” quips Newman. Such was likely the attitude toward Zaccheus, though not necessarily because of his stature. He was probably head of the local taxation department. Zacchaeus would employ others in the actual collecting of the taxes, while he passed on what the Romans required. Jericho must have been a good spot for a tax man, and it is no surprise that Zacchaeus was rich. In this spot, with this occupation, he could scarcely be anything else. But he must have been unpopular and would have had little social life. This, combined with his diminutive stature, created a problem for a man who wanted to see Jesus: access couldn’t come easily, and no one sympathized with such an unpopular guy.
Yet these were no obstacle for a man eager to catch a glimpse of this man called Jesus. He managed to climb a tree (apparently one with low-hanging branches) and got a great view of Jesus. What a bigly idea for a wee man. Biglier than he knew, actually.
5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. 7 All who saw it began to complain, “He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!”
Whatever disapproval that some in the crowd had toward Zacchaeus was now matched by their displeasure toward Jesus. It’s one thing to be socially unacceptable, but it’s quite another to befriend someone who is socially unacceptable.
For his part, Zaccheus embraced the grace, and it’s impact was clear.
8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much!” 9 “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus told him, “because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus, and Jesus sought Zacchaeus, a man who was certainly among the lost. And Jesus did not leave him there. He saved him. In his commentary on Luke, R. C. Sproul notes that while Scripture is silent about the future of Zaccheus, church history is not. “The Bishop of Alexandria … mentions in one of his homilies that Zaccheus continued faithfully in the growth and nurture of the Lord, and served Christ to the end of his life with distinction, being elevated ultimately to the role of bishop of Caesarea.”
Apparently, God had bigly plans for this wee man. Biglier than he knew.