When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”Luke 19:5 NIV
The story of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, is a familiar one. And it was made into a song I can still remember from children’s Sunday school. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but was too short. So he climbed up into a tree. When Jesus passed by, he called on him to come down and then invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for a visit. Zacchaeus responded with a changed heart, pledging to give away much of his wealth and repay anyone he had cheated.
Zacchaeus was an outcast in his community. As a collaborator with Rome who made a living off his cut of the taxes he collected, he was not popular. And the crowd questioned Jesus’ association with him. But I have to wonder; was it not Jesus’ willingness to spend time with him that led to his repentance? If Jesus had just passed by, ignoring him like the rest of the crowd, I suspect it is likely that Zacchaeus would have returned home. With his curiosity satisfied, but his heart unchanged.
And I wonder how many people in our world today are just like Zacchaeus. They may be wealthy or poor. Gainfully employed or homeless and living on the street. Separated from the life of God, but curious. And all it might take to bring them to Christ is a kind word or action on our part. We can never tell what impact we might have by demonstrating kindness to others around us. It sure made a difference in Zacchaeus’ life.