I’ve always liked Zacchaeus. Whenever I was in Sunday School singing about Zacchaeus being a wee little man, I could relate, being the smallest guy in the class. I imagine his mother said things that my mother used to say, “Don’t worry, there’s another growth spurt right around the corner!” My mom doesn’t say that anymore.
Of course, focusing only on Zacchaeus’ lack of stature is an adventure in missing the point. It’s neat to think of this little guy who had once climbed the ladder of business and politics to now be climbing up a tree to get a good look at Jesus. But that’s not all that’s going on.
Instead, this story is mainly about seekers – one who seems obvious, and another who is the true seeker in the story.
The small seeker
In Luke 19, we notice Zacchaeus, but in that moment not many other people do. In fact, the only person who seems to see him at this point is the narrator.
Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was a small, but wealthy tax collector who was curious about who Jesus was. But his height kept him from standing by the road to see Jesus.
The crowds don’t notice Zacchaeus. Maybe the reason they don’t let him through is because he doesn’t fit their idea of someone who should be a seeker in the first place. Maybe they were thinking: Oh, why is he trying to get through? He doesn’t fit the bill. He’s certainly not a seeker. He doesn’t deserve to get through!
Instead of giving up and going home, content with his lavish life, Zacchaeus ran ahead and found a sycamore tree that would overlook Jesus’ path.
The true Seeker
But then Jesus called his name. Jesus looked past the crowd. Jesus looked past the indignity of a man who’s up in a tree. He looked past the sinful reputation of this wee little man, and He said, “Come down because I’m going to stay with you.”
Zacchaeus didn’t invite Jesus over. Jesus invited Himself. He took the initiative.
The story starts with a small s – seeker: Zacchaeus. But it becomes clear that there’s another dynamic in play. The seeker has become the sought.
There’s a capital S Seeker – the Savior. The story isn’t focused primarily on Zacchaeus as the seeker, but Jesus. That’s why Luke ends this section with words about Jesus: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” He is the real Seeker.
Pointing seekers to the Seeker
If we’re going to be on mission the way God has called us to be, we’ve got to look for the seeker, look past their sins, but even more than that, we’ve got to look to the Savior. He is the only One who can change a sinner’s heart.
The transformation of Zacchaeus is a testimony to the power of Jesus to save. When you are meeting with seekers who want God, don’t get in the way of the capital S Seeker who seeks and saves the lost. He is the One who can transform a heart.
Pray to Him. Ask Him to put you in the right place at the right time. Do whatever it takes to introduce people to Him. Don’t make seekers climb trees to get around you in order to see Jesus.
The Savior goes to stay with sinners, but too often we separate from sinners. Instead of helping those far from Christ come near to Him, we act as if hanging out with people who don’t know God will cause us to contract a sin disease.
But sin isn’t a disease you can catch. Sin is a sign of death that only the Savior can defeat and overcome with new life.
That’s why we should seek opportunities to spend time with people who don’t know God. Get out in the neighborhood. Ride the bus. Witness to your coworkers. Open your home and your life to the lost. Get your hands dirty with the homeless and the disadvantaged people in your town. Seekers are everywhere. Stop seeing only their sins and start seeing the people themselves.
When was the last time someone could say of you, “He’s in the home of a sinner. He’s in the home of a lost person.” When was the last time someone could say you were hosting a lost person in your home?
I admit I need to work on this too. I haven’t always been as intentional as I should be. I’m the first to confess that I haven’t got all this figured out. But one of the things God is teaching me is to keep my eyes open.
We must learn to look past sin and see the seeker – to point the seeker see the real Seeker. We can all do that, whether we are a wee little man or not.