Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Say hello to Zacchaeus, the Danny DeVito of the Gospels. Big house, plenty of money, other rich friends and despised by the people. Why, because he is the exact opposite of Robin Hood. Zacchaeus is a tax collector which means he squeezes the money out of the people, gives some of it to the Romans, but keeps a big cut for himself.
On the day that Jesus comes to Jericho, Zacchaeus is at the back of the queue. He struggles to peer over shoulders and so climbs a tree. This is a classic ‘Children’s Bible’ picture, crowds of people all in bright colours, Jesus teaching and healing, everyone happy. All preachers, leaders and evangelists love crowds, we love being listened to by lots of people. We all have a bit of a rock star complex. But not Jesus.
He is more into people than popularity,
More righteousness than reputation,
More concerned with others than his own ego.
When it comes to numerical growth, his favourite number is one.
So Jesus looks above the heads of the crowd and spots a single lone individual. Then he does what no populist preacher/celebrity ever does. He walks away from the multitude and pours himself into one ignored, disliked and back of the queue person called Zacchaeus.
Jesus, Saviour of the whole world and yet at the same time Saviour of one lost isolated Zacchaeus. This is just one of the many rich things that makes me want to be like Jesus. His special love for individuals, his willingness to spend time with and to listen to the one person sitting in the corner. Why is this so special to me, because I am not part of the crowd, a number. I am me, unique, one-off.
I am not a number,
Not part of a crowd,
And the other people like me,
They’re all quite different.
I have my own issues, problems,
And things that I wish I had never done.
I have also got my hopes, my dreams,
And some stuff that I am proud of.
I don’t just want to sit in a big hall and listen to Jesus.
I want him to walk over, smile and talk to me.
The ever present spirituality of U2 gets close to it:
You got to do what you should,
With each other,
Sisters and my brothers,
But we’re not the same,
We get to carry each other,
Carry each other.
But it is not just about Jesus and his one on one love for me. It is also about how I become like him and operate in his name. When I first became a Christian, I wanted to tell lots of people. When I became involved with youth work, the desire to speak to lots of young people grew.
It grew even more when I became a vicar and positively mushroomed in my early days of evangelism.
Quite a few years passed before I fully realised that Jesus loved to touch people one at a time, and that he wanted me to do the same.
A big question then for me and for you, ‘Who is the one key individual who I already know and who may be interested in my faith, my relationship to Jesus and who may well want to find out more?’
Where, or rather, who is the Zacchaeus in my life?
Slow me down, that I might remember him.
Help me to recall her voice, his face,
Help me to notice him, to visit her.