How much can you learn from a kid’s song? Take for example, Zacchaeus: the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Let's walk through the story together, then talk about a few life-applications.
Zacchaeus seeks Jesus
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:1-4
Putting the kid’s song aside, Zacchaeus has a lot to teach us. Even though he lived a life of cheating and stolen wealth as a tax collector, he sought Jesus well. Probably, he climbed the tree out of curiosity. But maybe there was a yearning in his soul too, a sense that this Teacher was better than any of his own wealth and power.
Jesus pursues Zacchaeus
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. Luke 19:5-6
Jesus saw this sinner, awkwardly perched in a tree, and knew at once everything about him. Yes, he saw his background, his reputation, and all the wrong he had done. But what mattered more was that even through all the yuck, he saw a lost man seeking him.
So he called to Zacchaeus, inviting him down. If I was Zacchaeus, I’d have been shocked. It would be like pushing your way to the front of a concert to get a glimpse of a celebrity, only to have him call you by name in front of everyone and invite himself to your house. It would be exciting, but also outrageous.
A joyful change
I love Zacchaeus’s reaction, though. He responded to the invitation with gladness, jumping down from the tree and welcoming Jesus.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:6-10
This encounter with Jesus caused Zacchaeus to turn his lifestyle around promptly. Jesus recognized this as a true change of heart and declared that salvation had come to him. It’s Jesus’ mission, after all, to save those who are lost: not those who are self-righteous.
Remember to rejoice
In the busyness and sometimes drudgery of a week, I forget to be glad. Zacchaeus’s attitude opened my eyes to that. I want to seek Jesus excitedly. I want to find evidences of God’s heart and will for me. I want to promptly follow his lead and his character. There is much joy in life, especially a life lived in surrender to him. We can more easily find beauty when we’re not living to please and promote ourselves. So, I want to be glad!
Real life change
I also want to follow Zacchaeus’s example of sacrifice. Before he met Jesus, his lifestyle of padded pockets, a fancy house, and buying anything he wanted to was probably quite fun. But the minute he encountered Jesus, the color faded from these illusions. He saw that knowing Jesus was more valuable than any sin or comfort he had on earth.
His response directly contrasts with the ‘rich young ruler’s’ in the preceding chapter of Luke, who saw Jesus and yet with a sad heart chose his possessions over him. (Here’s a link to that story). In the end, Zacchaeus found joy and freedom from his sin and possessions, while the rich young ruler remained chained to his earthly loves.
How about you?
So I want to ask, what could Jesus be inviting you to give up? Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from knowing or experiencing him fully? It could be sin, a skewed mindset, something you fixate on too much, an unhealthy relationship, or any number of things.
Personally, one thing Jesus has been asking me to give up is control. I like to have my days and my future and even my meals planned out. I want to know what’s coming up next. But my love of control can become quite ugly when it causes me to prioritize myself over others, obsess over the future, or ignore God’s plan. And like I said, control is just one thing he’s been showing me lately. It’s not a one-time thing. We’ve gotta get good at recognizing chains and gladly casting them off, because they are persistent and many.
Please understand, though, that Jesus is not shaking his finger at you with furrowed brows. Rather, he is reaching out to you, calling you by name: inviting you into the intense joy that is found in throwing aside chains (both the pretty ones and the ugly ones) and running to your Father.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!