The story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is perhaps one of the best known stories for anyone who has been to Sunday School. Zacchaeus was part of the Jewish community in Jericho but he was an outcast because he worked for the occupying Roman authorities. He collected taxes from his own people and, after taking a cut for himself, passed them on to the Romans. He thus became very rich, but would have had few friends.
Zacchaeus also struggled physically. He was ‘vertically challenged’ so, when Jesus arrived in Jericho, he had no chance of seeing him over the crowd. Determined to see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, and when Jesus looked up into the tree and saw him, he invited himself back to Zacchaeus’ place to stay. And so the tables were turned: the outsider became part of the in-crowd, and the crowd became outsiders through their hostile attitude to Zacchaeus.
Like Zacchaeus, there may be things in our lives that prevent us from getting a good view of Jesus. It may be that we feel like an outsider: ‘God wouldn’t be interested in me if he knew what I’d done’. Or it may be that we let things get in the way: upbringing, health, busyness, lifestyle.
What is there in our lives that prevents us from getting a clear view of Jesus? Is there anything we can do, a tree that we can climb, in order to get a better view?
The story of Zacchaeus tells us that Jesus has got time for each one of us, whoever we are, that he is looking for us and if we look for him we will hear him say to us, ‘I must come and stay with you’. The story also tells us that when we come to Jesus he gives us the space to sort out our lives, to right the wrongs and to make a fresh start.
Jesus continues to search for the outsiders, the lost, today. And he asks the insiders to join him in his search for the lost, and not to get offended by the love and the acceptance that he shows to them.
Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!