And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was…And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him — Luk_19:2-4
Jesus and Modern Man
The eighteenth chapter of Luke closed with Jesus giving sight to a blind man; Luk_19:1-48 opens with the priceless story of Zacchaeus. And that swift passage from the blind beggar to this high official well illustrates the rapid changes that meet us in the life of Jesus Christ. We are prone sometimes to think of the lot of Jesus as a very limited and circumscribed one. We think there was little in it of that movement and variety that characterize our life in modern times. And so (almost unconsciously) many have grown to feel that Jesus is standing far away from them. As a matter of fact, I question if there ever was a life so rich in its variety as Christ’s. It is amazing how swiftly the scenes change; how constantly the environment is shifting. This rapid transition from the roadside pauper to the home of one of the richest men in Jericho is typical of the experience of Jesus.
There Is an Interest in Christ in Most Unlikely Quarters
If there was one man who might have seemed deadened to religion, it was this receiver-general of Jericho. He had had such treatment from the priests of Jericho (and Jericho was a very priestly city), as might have thoroughly disgusted him with religion. He had grown rich, too, in very questionable ways—and had not this Jesus spoken tremendous words about the perils even of clean riches? And yet Zacchaeus was aflame with eagerness to get into close touch with Jesus Christ. Why he was so, maybe we cannot tell. We do not know what he had heard from his collectors. We cannot tell what his home was in his childhood. We have no hint of the ministries of God in keeping his conscience alive through all the years. Ail we can say is that this was the most unlikely of all quarters, yet here was a hidden interest in Christ. Now I wish all parents and teachers to remember that. It will give them new heart and hope for certain children. Who knows what little boy may not be interested, when we recall the interest of this little man?
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
Jesus was at the height of His popularity. Wherever He moved the narrow streets were crowded. It would have taken a Saul to have seen Him well; there seemed no hope for a small man like Zacchaeus; and had Zacchaeus had a small heart in his bosom, he would have gone home and said it was impossible. But Zacchaeus had had a great will to grow rich, and he had found there was a way to that. And now he had a great will to see Jesus, and he was not the sort of person to be stopped. He quite forgot himself, says Matthew Henry. He climbed the sycamore like a schoolboy. Perhaps he had heard that except we become as children we cannot see the kingdom of heaven—or the King. At any rate he was earnestly bent on seeing Jesus, and as a result he saw Him and was seen. All of which has been written down to teach us that the whole-hearted search for God is always crowned. What texts lay stress on that? “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “Those that seek me early shall find me.”
It Often Calls for Courage to Be Kind
Did you ever think how brave it was of Jesus to speak in this frank and friendly way to Zacchaeus? Had Jesus been intent on being popular, He would never have cast His eyes upon the sycamore. No class was more hated in Jewry than these tax-gatherers, and the richer they were the more they were detested. Yet Jesus, in the strength of His great purpose, deliberately set that hatred at defiance; He made no effort to conceal from the crowd that the man they loathed was going to be His friend. Immediately they began to murmur at Him (Luk_19:7)—it was the hoarse cry of a deep-seated anger. It was the breaking of the waves upon Him, which were soon, in floods, to go over His head. But calmly and very sweetly Jesus prosecuted the friendship; it called for wonderful courage to be kind. Would you have dared to act so, do you think? Have you ever tried it in your own small way? Zacchaeus forgot himself, says Matthew Henry. But that was nothing to the self-forgetfulness of Jesus.
The Moral Influence of Gospel Joy
We are told that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully; you can picture the tides of gladness in his heart. He had only hoped to get a glimpse of Jesus, and now he was going to be His host. And it was just the joy of it ail, I take it, filling his poor soul, and sweeping up into the empty creeks, that inspired him to the noble sacrifices of verse eight. I dare say the priests had often preached at him to go and give half his fortune to the poor. But somehow that had only closed his heart; they had never touched the spring of sacrifice. Now comes Jesus and fills him with great joy, and he cannot do enough for such a Lord—the joy of the Lord had indeed become his strength. Do you see the moral power of Gospel joy? Do you recognize the ethical worth of it? Even Jesus for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.
How Various are the Tokens of the New Life
How did it show itself in the Philippian jailer? It showed itself first by his faith. And how in the woman who anointed Christ’s feet. First, by her much love. And what were its clearest tokens in Zacchaeus? Repentance and earnest effort to amend. One life, yet showing itself in diverse fruits. One spirit, yet working outward in various ways. In which way is the hidden life of Christ revealing itself in those who read this page?