The Story of Zacchaeus

11-03-2019(Being) Catholic MattersDavid Lins

Luke 19:1-10 was my favorite story in the entire Bible as a young boy because Zacchaeus climbed a tree. That was it. That was the extent of my deep and profound theological reasoning.

It remains one of my favorite readings to this day, but for different reasons entirely. (Well - almost entirely. I still think it is pretty fantastic that he climbed a tree in pursuit of Jesus.

It teaches us two beautiful lessons.

The first lesson: God rewards those who are willing to be undignified in their pursuit of Him. Zacchaeus was an important person. He was a chief tax collector. He was certainly well-known and very unpopular. Yet people would be careful how they spoke to him. In that time, virtually all tax collectors were corrupt and would raise taxes on whomever they wished and keep the excess for themselves. This feared and powerful man climbed a tree in order to draw near to the Lord!

Who is the most powerful person you’ve ever met? For what would they climb a tree?

When Zacchaeus made a fool of himself to draw near to the Lord, the Lord drew near to him. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

The second lesson: God is less interested in your past than the present. While the story of the Prodigal Son gets all the headlines when it comes to this lesson, this situation clearly demonstrates that while much of Jesus’ teachings condemn the rich who hoard their fortunes and look away from those in need as if they have more wisdom than the Lord, He immediately forgive those who turn back to him in humility.

Zacchaeus says, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” He repented deeply. He didn’t say ten percent. He knew how evil his life had been. He said fifty percent. He didn’t say he’d “square up” with those he’d ripped off. He would pay them back four times over!

But what did he gain? “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

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