David showed us how the story of Zacchaeus is important for two reasons. First, it is the last time Jesus encounters an individual before He reaches His destination, Jerusalem. Second, here Jesus reveals His personal mission statement:
Why did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus?
There are some hints in the text. “Zacchaeus” means “pure”, “innocent” or “righteous one”. He may have had a religious upbringing. Possibly he was now open to discover more about this man who some were suggesting might be the Saviour of Israel. This can still happen today. Some, though brought up in a godly home, may disregard their spiritual health for a time but become more open later in life, maybe through dissatisfaction or a crisis.
Perhaps the ostracising that came with his job was the reason. As a chief tax collector, known to extort people, he would have been universally disliked. Yet it was known that this Jesus was a friend of tax collectors. Even one of His disciples had been in this profession. When you have virtually no friends, the prospect of meeting someone willing to be your friend is very appealing.
Again, the same can happen today, when many feel isolated and excluded. Having discovered that Jesus loves people just as they are, and longs to bring them into His family, they may be very keen to see Him.
Finally, he may have wanted to see Jesus because of a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Though wealthy and secure, Zacchaeus may have known there was something missing. Once again, this still happens. People who are rich, successful, famous, and powerful may yet recognise an internal void.
Whatever the reason, Zacchaeus did see Jesus and his life was changed for ever.
Do you want to see Him?
Zacchaeus was short,
Now, adults in that culture, particularly those in authority, did not run and certainly did not climb trees; the sight of him doing this would have shocked and amused a lot of people. Yet Zacchaeus was willing to swallow his pride and risk ridicule in order to see Jesus. He was prepared to become like a little child.
Truly to see Jesus requires humility, self-denial, and child-like faith. The tax-collector demonstrated all of these and saw Jesus. Do you want to see Jesus? You might need to demonstrate these too. It might mean walking up to someone and asking for help to see Jesus.
What’s more, Jesus saw him. He sees him, calls him by name, and says,
Their encounter is not by chance. Jesus has been looking for Zacchaeus. He was chosen by God before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). The crossing of their lives is a work of sovereign grace.
If you do want to see Jesus, it could be that God is already at work in your life.
However, there is another example of seeing in this story (v.7).
Jesus was fulfilling His mission. He came to save lost sinners like this chief tax collector.
At some point, Zacchaeus stands and speaks to the Lord, promising to give half his goods to the poor and return four times the amount he had extorted from anyone. He has changed internally and the evidence is his new, radical generosity. Jesus confirms it:
Jesus really did come to seek and save lost people, like you and me. He is still seeking and saving them.
David concluded by passionately inviting anyone who wants to see Jesus to be ready to:
- deal with pride
- risk ridicule and
- embrace child-like faith.
Then you may discover He has been looking for you all along.