Jesus and Zacchaeus

When we pray, most of us take our problems to our Lord Jesus, but what about our sin?

The account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus recorded in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 19 teaches us two lessons on repentance and renewal. Zacchaeus heard of Jesus coming by his neighbourhood in Jericho. He had seen that his wealth was inadequate to organise a special meeting with Jesus. However, he did not want to miss a good thing in at least seeing Jesus as He passed by. The people surrounding Jesus would not think Jesus would have anything to do with him. How could he hope to get a face to face encounter with the Lord? As a tax collector he was despised for being a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman oppressors. From the taxes he earned a commission from the taxes collected and these taxes for the Romans were used to repress the Jews. Despite the awareness of the negative sentiments against him, he felt compelled, drawn to see Jesus for himself. The desire was strong enough to make him even climb up a sycamore-fig tree. Though thronged by the crowd, he was not crowded out. Jesus called out to him – by name. We remember a person’s misdeeds and character flaws, but Jesus sees what the person, by His Presence, can be transformed into.

As Jesus turned his steps towards Zacchaeus’ house, the people’s mumbling could be heard. Clearly, they felt he was unqualified for this encounter with Jesus. They thought they were better than him. When they heard his action plan of redemption after the meeting, they found it even more incredulous. His repentance, publicly declared to Jesus, referred nothing about carrying out the sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple to meet the religious requirements for repentance. Religious repentance only serves to make one want to gain back favour from a displeased God, as in turning God around. Repentance in Jesus is the desire to come to Him and unreservedly turning self away from sin. Yielding to Jesus, Zacchaeus was ready. It was not easy to say that he was going to give up a lot of money, the very security (his wealth) he had lived on all his life. (The certain ruler in Luke 18:23 could not.) He acknowledged that his desire for Jesus was pressing enough to just trust Jesus more than his treasury funds. Jesus called Zacchaeus ‘Abraham’s son’, for one who stepped out in faith and lived by faith, trusting God more than property or monetary security.

In this account we read that, thereafter, Jesus headed towards Jerusalem from Jericho. If after his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus decided “not now, another time”, what a missed opportunity, probably a gone forever one, it would have been. Opportunity to come to Jesus is now. If you need to, will you not set aright what may be years of longing for Jesus today? When Jesus encountered Zacchaeus, the action by Zacchaeus was a “Here and now” one. When Jesus encounters you today, will your response be similarly “Here and now” too!