What do you suppose made Zaccheus climb up into the tree? Aside from his short stature, of course. I mean, I am not a particularly tall man at 5’7” (okay, maybe a bit less than that) and I have certainly spent plenty of time in crowds, trying to make myself taller to see over the heads of others but I have never climbed a tree to accomplish that task. Why did Zaccheus seek to see Jesus that day? We have the clear indication that he had not been a Christ-follower prior to that day and, while he was Jewish, the fact that he was working for the Romans seems to indicate that he was not the most committed of all Jews. He had obviously heard of this miracle-worker and parable-teller and wanted to know more. Was it guilt that drove him to come that day? Did refuge in a tree mean that he was seeking a better view but also trying to hide from Jesus’ view? Do we ever do that? Don’t I sometimes seek to see God’s work but yet avoid being seen by God? Watching others carry out His work but then looking at the floor when He is seeking folks to be His hands and feet? Or could Zaccheus have been trying to shed his old ways and really be seen that day – “Hey, Jesus, look at me, the goofball tax collector up here in the tree! I need you!” Did Zaccheus have a premonition that God was out to get hold of him that day? Was Zaccheus seeking something more for his life than the big fancy house he owned? Did he have inherent ethics and a desire for morality? In Luke 19, Jesus calls out to Zaccheus by name even though they’d surely never met before. Obviously, some divine planning had gone into this. It wasn’t a case of just any wee little man climbing a tree. The gospels don’t tell us a lot of what happened after Zaccheus was called out of the tree and Jesus invited himself over for dinner. The implication is that Zaccheus gave it all up fairly quickly, giving away half of what he had to the poor and offering quadruple restitution to anyone he had cheated. Obviously, he was going to lose his job over this as well. So, you have to wonder what went on to happen to Zaccheus after his conversion. Did he even get out of it all alive or was he targeted by the Romans? How did Zaccheus feel about Jesus coming over to his house? How would we feel about that? Jesus already knows all the “stuff” we have and the importance we place on it but do we really want to face that moment of being seen living in the midst of all of our “stuff”? The point where we know that He knows? Isn’t brokenness about hitting that point? Was Zaccheus one of the first truly broken people to embrace Christ? And it all happened because he climbed a tree? There’s certainly no coincidence there in my mind.
I remember the only time I was in Vacation Bible School as a child. I think I was about six or seven years old. As part of our final program for our parents, we acted out the story of Zaccheus. Oh, how I wanted to be that wee little man who was allowed to climb the ladder in our play! But, I wasn’t chosen and I don’t remember now who was. It’s probably just as well that I wasn't chosen. I think I would have peed my pants if I’d have had to climb the ladder that was pretending to be a sycamore. It’s something I still sometimes do when Jesus calls my name.