Do you see Zaccaheus?

034: Do You See Zacchaeus?


Shownotes: Do You See Zacchaeus?

Do you see Zaccaheus?It’s Easy to Miss People

Have you ever returned from an event only to find out that someone you knew and wanted to see had been there, but you’d missed them? You were going to beat yourself up for missing them then you remembered—there was a crowd. That’s why you didn’t see them.

Then there’s the other situation where you’re so busy looking at something that you don’t see someone until they come and stand right in front of you.

It’s easy to miss people, when you think of it, especially when there’s a crowd, especially when you have a particular focus. Of course, sometimes we miss people simply because, well, if we are honest with ourselves, they didn’t belong to our group or to the people with whom we normally associate. It can be hard to notice some people.

Jesus Noticed

Now Jesus . . . It was a funny thing with Jesus. He had a way of noticing people in the strangest ways and places, like Zacchaeus. Let’s take a look at the story again in Luke 19:1–10.

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 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.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Luke 19:1–10).

Poor Zacchaeus. Well, not so poor in material terms. We could say rich Zacchaeus, corrupt Zacchaeus, powerful Zacchaeus, but . . . he didn’t belong in that crowd. In any case, it seemed that he was late to the party, that he got there after the crowd had formed and because he was short he could not see from the back. He climbed up into a tree.

But, you know what, at the end of the day it really didn’t matter whether or not Zacchaeus. What mattered was that Jesus did see Zacchaeus . . . against all odds.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus was too enamored with the crowds that came to see him to notice one short guy up in a tree. You could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus would be too busy with them. You could be forgiven for thinking that there were so many needs among those in the crowd that he didn’t notice the man up in the tree.

Indeed, the people in the crowd saw themselves as Jesus’ kind of people. To them, Zacchaeus was not. Yet, Jesus saw him. Do you see Zacchaeus?

Zacchaeus Is Still in the Tree

You see Zacchaeus is still here. Zacchaeus still has to contend with the crowd and is still climbing up in a tree to see Jesus, waiting for us to show him Jesus as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Do you see him?

Well, if you ask, who is Zacchaeus, that makes sense. If you are going to see him, you must be able to recognize him. You must know that he is

  • the one who does not fit into the crowd,
  • the one whom the crowd would serve as a barrier between you and him,
  • that person who the crowd sees as horrible, maybe you do as well.

Zacchaeus is the one who doesn’t have something that gives him a competitive edge

  • to get to the front of the crowd
  • to get the best job,
  • get into the best college,
  • even to keep a job, or
  • get a job that pays;
  • the edge that gives them access to health care,
  • or a salary that keeps a roof over their head;
  • even access to mental health care or therapy or long-term care to kick that substance abuse habit;
  • access to the latest technologies, to a decent education.

They are also the people in our churches who are consigned to the periphery because they don’t have the obvious talents or finances to make them noteworthy.

Yet, Zacchaeus could be wealthy. However, he is crude by our standards, not well education, and out and out robber baron, one who enlarges his wealth at the expense of the poor. Take your pick. Hey, Zacchaeus is all around you. Do you see Zaccheus?

The main characteristics of Zacchaeus’ is that they want to see Jesus but they don’t fit the crowd that has already gathered to see Jesus. There is some shortcoming that keeps them from being able to get past the crowd. And so they are ignored and/or pushed aside metaphorically and figuratively because they don’t fit the spaces where we tell people about Jesus. They come up short and are ignored.

Moreover, Zacchaeus is anyone who can’t get past the crowd but still wants to see Jesus and will go to lengths to find some advantage to see in hopes of . . . When they go above and beyond, when they act out, when they stick out like a sore thumb will you see Zacchaeus or will you be transfixed by the crowd?

Identifying the Crowd

Which brings us to the crowd. The crowd is very important for we have to know the things that would keep us from seeing Zacchaeus.

The crowd comprises the well-intentioned people in our lives, in our ministries, in our churches. They care about you, about your reputation, about your judgment. They will manage this for you if you let them.

In addition, these well-intentioned people show up because it is the right thing to do. They show up because they feel that they love God. They will even take part in outreach, but there is a limit.

What is the limit?

Appropriateness. Everyone, everything in their appropriate places. You see, there are times when a bit of self-righteousness creeps in and when left unchecked leads to a them and us, and who is worthy and who is not. Thus, there is the invisible barrier between the crowd, the well-intentioned people and those whom they serve.

Now, you are one of them. You are not supposed to cross that barrier, their barrier.

It is a barrier of respectability, a barrier of goodness. Of course it is a facade, a mirage as it were. Zacchaeus exposes this by his response to Jesus’ visit. He was this terrible person and yet he gladly received Jesus and showed what John the Baptist would have called “Fruit worthy of repentance.” Yes. In Jesus’ presence he was convicted and decided to make restitution—that’s a change of heart and mind, in other words, repentance.

But, if Jesus had stayed with the crowd, he would have missed it. Zacchaeus would have remained a tax-collector, a rich, corrupt guy without redemption. He would still have come up short.

Do you see Zacchaeus or is the crowd a screen blocking you from Zacchaeus with its notions of appropriateness and respectability.

The thing with assumed respectability and goodness is that it keeps us from reaching the lost. We spend our time focused on those who are pointing fingers, who have decided how wonderful the are and who end up with a sense of entitlement. God owes them because, after all, they are the good ones. God must attend to them and ignore those . . . You know, those .The ones we mentioned earlier and more like them who come up short, who don’t have certain advantages but still want to see Jesus.

Your challenge, my challenge is to go beyond the crowd. To go beyond the entitlement that God owes them, you owe them because they show up and put in their time and money. You see, expectations are like the leaves on the tree that Zacchaeus climbed. These leave could form the screen shutting out the person who has climbed up, just wanting to see, see the one in whom there is life, healing and hope. Perhaps he or she too would receive life, healing and hope like Zacchaeus did.

Those Tree Leaves

  • But those tree leaves, man. They are messing with your view:
  • Don’t go to that side of town.
  • Watch your reputation.
  • Do you know who they are? If you knew . . .
  • What about me? What about us? We’re paying you.
  • We didn’t hire you to . . .
  • We hired you to fill the pews, bring in more money.

Those expectations, I tell you, they will bury you under their weight and leave Zacchaeus dead by neglect. Because Zaccaheus was there with all those resources locked up like a stagnant stream. There was a lack of expectations where he was concerned.

In the eyes of the crowd, it wasn’t only that this sinner was not a part of them, was not worthy of Jesus’ attention. They could not see how he could not add to who they were for he had come up short. You see, if they thought he could have added, they would not have had a problem with Jesus going to him. Think about it.

What has changed? Too often, the crowd looks at someone and makes a quick calculation that determines whether or not the person is worthy of attention. Do they have children to bring to the church? We need young ones. How much will they be able to put in the offering plate? Do they look like they will stay long enough to be added in our reports at the end of the year? Will they add to our standing? What value . . . What value is a soul?

Can you see Zacchaeus if you are calculating worth by thosestandards?

Little did they know that all that Zacchaeus had to give and would give after an encounter with Jesus would enrich many.

The people in the crowd demand so much of you because of their expectations that there is no time to look up at the tree and Zacchaeus remains lost, unless and until . . .

You look up.

What is the tree?

The tree represents the length to which people will go to see Jesus. Do you see Zacchaeus?

  • What would happen if you started by looking at the tree instead of seeing the crowd?
  • What would happen if you started by asking, who comes up short here?
  • Who is the crowd blocking?
  • Whom has God placed in my path that is coming up short but has gone to gain visibility in a silent cry that says, “I want to see Jesus?”

What needs to happen in you for you to see Zacchaeus in the tree?

  • Don’t be so enthralled, boosted, sidetracked and obligated to the crowd that you miss the person in the tree.
  • Buck the tide.
  • Look beyond the obvious.
  • Have a different starting point and ask different questions.
  • Remember who called you.
  • Get your strength to go past the crowd and leaves by living from God’s center.

Photo credit sarangib /   Pixabay.Com

Connect with Dr Smith



About this Podcast

Click here to find out more.

Bible Version

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Music:A True Friend” by Josh Molen

Podcast Guest Resources

Click here to access the resources podcast guests have given to help you live from God’s center.

Scroll to Top