This Sunday, the readings invite us to see Jesus, but even more than that, to be seen by Jesus. In the gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus is described as rich, a chief tax collector, yet one who is an outcast among his own people. He has no social standing in society whatsoever because of his relationship with the Roman empire. In the eyes of the crowd, Zacchaeus has turned his back on his own people, he is a sinner. In his own eyes, Zacchaeus feels small in stature, but also lost, lonely, and rejected. However, in the eyes of Jesus, Zacchaeus is a Son of Abraham. Zacchaeus is sought, seen, and saved by his relationship with Jesus. The lost one has now been found.
Zacchaeus refuses to be lost in the crowd. He refuses to remain hidden. He refuses to run away from whom God is now calling him to be. Instead, he runs ahead of the crowd and climbs a sycamore tree. Everyone could see what he was doing. The gospel of Luke explains that he did that so he could see Jesus.
But here’s what I wonder. What if he climbed that tree because he wanted to be seen by Jesus? What if that was how he faced the truth and reality of his own life? What if he wasn’t just climbing a tree but was climbing the cross of being lost, lonely, and rejected? What if Zacchaeus was offering all that he was and all that he had to Jesus? What if that was him crying out, “Here I am. This is my broken life. Look at me, claim and recognize me too, as a Son of Abraham?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He stopped and “looked up” at Zacchaeus. I can’t help but wonder if that might not have been the first time anyone had ever really looked up to Zacchaeus. Jesus looked up to him with love and acceptance. Jesus looked up and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home and into his life. He saw more than a chief tax collector, a rich man, and a man short in stature. He saw what Zacchaeus couldn’t see for himself. He saw one of his own. That’s what Zacchaeus learns in today’s gospel. We all want to know that Jesus sees more in us than we see in ourselves. We want to be recognized and called by name by the God who created us. We want to know that despite whatever may have become of our life, we too, are a child of Abraham.
We want Jesus to call us out of our own tree and into a new life. I think that’s what we all want. It’s what Zacchaeus wanted. If that is true then today is our lucky day because that’s the promise the gospel holds for each one of us. Whatever it is that has made us short in stature and run us up a tree, that’s the place where Jesus stops, looks up with love and acceptance, and calls us back down into a new life. Let’s not turn away from that place. Let’s not turn away from the face of Christ. Zacchaeus name really means “pure,” “clean,” and “innocent.” That’s his greater truth. That’s what Jesus saw in Zacchaeus. It’s what he sees in you and me, even when we don’t see it in ourselves or each other. He looks up and calls us back to our truest selves. “Zacchaeus,” Jesus says to us, “you come down here right now. That’s not who you are. That’s not your place. You come down and walk with me.
O Lord, help me to lose my fear of stepping outside my place, of doing things differently, of seeking Christ in my life. Christ’s invitation awaits me to start anew, to make amends, to live in Christ’s way. God of change and renewal, I give thanks for your love that makes this possible for me and each one of us. In Jesus’ name Amen.What is your Zacchaeus story? When have you felt like Zacchaeus? How have you experienced being short in stature? It happens in all sort of ways: Has life ever cut you down to size by another person or life circumstance?Have you ever felt small and insignificant, ignored and of little importance? Have you ever felt as if you just don’t measure up, that you’re not enough? Do you sometimes feel as if you’re always on the outside, never an insider? Does it seem as if you can’t outgrow your past or the opinions of others? Are you constantly trying to prove yourself, not just to others but to yourself, or even to God?Does it seem as if your life is not growing, maturing, or deepening, and that your growth has become stunted? Do you ever wonder if Jesus even notices you, knows who you are, knows your name?Have you ever felt powerless and overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life?Does it sometimes seem as if your value, worth, and dignity have been defined by your past actions and choices, what you have done and left undone? Have you ever experienced being lost and anonymous in the crowds of life? Have you ever felt as if you just weren’t up to what life was asking of you?