“Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…’” (Luke 19:8-9)
The Romans would hire Jews to collect taxes from their own people. The Romans thought these tax collectors were pawns and tools, and the Jews despised them as traitors and scoundrels.
When Jesus meets the tax collector Zacchaeus, he’s in a tree. Being short in stature, he had to climb above the crowd in order to see and hear Jesus.
When Jesus spots him, He invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for dinner. Even before the dessert course, Zacchaeus promised to give half of his income to the poor and to make full restitution to those he had cheated.
For a long time, I’ve wondered what Jesus said to Zacchaeus that could’ve caused this tax collector to change his whole life. I’ve come to believe that Jesus may not have had to say one word. Maybe what changed Zacchaeus was simply being in Jesus’ company.
While with Jesus, I imagine Zacchaeus painfully realized he must stop being used by the Romans to gouge his own people. While with Jesus, maybe he saw that even though he had a pile of money, he was totally impoverished. While with Jesus, maybe he understood that the more he gave away, the richer and freer he would become.
Simply being in the presence of Jesus can bring both great comfort and a great challenge. The comfort is that He knows us and loves us. The challenge is the same.
While being with Jesus, we can receive glimpses of how He sees us and wants us to live. At those moments, all of our reasons and excuses not to change, grow up, or expand our hearts, seem foolish and lame.
I encourage us to remember that even before we invite Jesus into our lives, Jesus has, like Zacchaeus, already been asking us to invite Him in. His invitation to be invited into our lives always precedes our actually doing so.
Being with Jesus changed everything for the tax collector. Being with Jesus can do the same for us.
- Like Zacchaeus, have you ever had a moment with Jesus when you wanted to change your life?
- Being with Jesus can be both comforting and challenging. When has being with Him been comforting for you? When has it been challenging?
- Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. How has Jesus invited Himself into your life?