And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
What is it about Jesus that draws us to Him?
When He walked through the world, crowds followed Him and people crushed in around Him because they wanted to be near Him, to see Him, to touch Him, and to hear Him speak. They couldn’t get enough of Him.
I’d suggest it’s because there was a winsome quality about Him that was unlike the rigidity and line-towing condemnation of the religious elite, the Pharisees and Sadducees. He cared about people and they could feel it. Where the religious elite focused on the rules, Jesus focused on grace and unconditional love.
And often, he sought out the lost, the lonely, the misfits and the miscreants.
For example, when he walked through Jericho one time, Jesus befriended one of his culture’s lowest sinners: a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Though the crowd was thick around Jesus, Zacchaeus, who was much shorter than the majority of the crowd, was intensely interested in getting a glimpse of this man called Jesus.
We don’t know his motivation but we know Zacchaeus put a lot of effort into seeing Jesus that day on the road, including running ahead of the crowd and climbing up into a sycamore tree. Clearly, like everyone else, Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus, so perhaps it was nothing more than wanting to catch a glimpse of celebrity.
But I’d suggest it was something more.
I’d suggest Zacchaeus had a deep longing to be included, to be a part of something that mattered. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector and that put him at the top of the lowest sinners and outcasts. Tax collectors were known for cheating people and getting rich by taking more than what was theirs. Perhaps, for Zacchaeus, his money and his things filled in for the connection to and relationship with people for which he truly yearned.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt like Zacchaeus at times, felt like I don’t belong, felt like I’m not sure how I fit in or if I fit in or where I fit in. And, like Zacchaeus, I’ve filled the hole where relationships belong with other things: busyness, Netflix binges, FaceBook scrolling, eating.
And, then, Jesus.
Jesus entered his town and Zacchaeus needed to see this man for himself and to be a part of this moment along with everyone else; the everyone else who typically shunned him and ignored him and judged him. When he couldn’t get through the crowd or see over the crowd, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree as Jesus neared the spot.
Like Zacchaeus, I’ve needed to find Jesus, to see Him, to hear from Him, to be in His presence. And so I’ve climbed my own version of a sycamore tree, desperate to see this Jesus: an early morning prayer time, a late-night seeking from the dark bedroom of my 8 year old who can’t fall back to sleep, a teaching sermon on a podcast.
And, then, Jesus.
When Jesus comes to that sycamore tree, he stops and looks up and sees Zacchaeus. Because when we look for Jesus, He find us. And not only does Jesus see Zacchaeus, He calls out to him. There, in front of the crowd, Jesus chooses Zacchaeus, singling him out: “hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
Jesus doesn’t say I’d like to stay at your house or I was wondering if I could stay at your house; He says I must stay at your house. Jesus feels compelled to join Zacchaeus in his home and Zacchaeus receives him joyfully even as the crowd grumbles and rolls their eyes that Jesus would choose such an awful sinner to visit.
And, then, Jesus.
Jesus says the same to us in the same winsome way: I must stay at your house. I see you and I am delighted that you are looking for me. Here I am. Let’s spend some time together.
Will Zacchaeus be received better by his neighbors now? Will Zacchaeus now be included instead of excluded? We don’t know but I would suggest that at least he will find a place among others who were found by Jesus and His winsome, amazing grace.
I once was lost, but now am found,