Christian Articles Archive

Zacchaeus Revisited
- Thoughts on Seeking and Saving

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

James J. Tissot, detail from "Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus" (1886-1896), watercolor, Brooklyn Museum, New York. Full image.

Since I was a boy, I've been fascinated by the story of the most hated man in town climbing up the sycamore tree so he could see Jesus. Below, everybody is jostling the Holy Man trying to get his autograph. But instead of tending to them, Jesus looks up into the tree.

"Zacchaeus," he calls to the meticulously dressed but tiny man perched on a branch above him, "I'd like to stay at your house while I'm in town."

It's humorous when you think about it  --  even funnier when you picture little Zacchaeus trying to scramble down with his dignity intact.

What I didn't notice as a boy was the reaction of Jesus' critics  --  "all the people" in the town who despised the tax collector, having doubtless been cheated by him: "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'"

Zacchaeus was known for the parties he held and the undesirables he invited. All those scummy people would come to drink late and loud, ruining property values and upsetting the neighborhood.

The townspeople were appalled Jesus' choice of friends  --  that he wanted to spend time with a sinner instead of with them.

But Jesus ignored them and so did Zacchaeus, who was busy repenting of his sins and pledging to pay back those he had wronged. Then Jesus declared "Today salvation has come to this house for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

The "nice" people were offended, but Jesus told them the real reason he had come  --  "to seek and to save the lost."

We "church people" tend to think that church is about our comfort and our ease, about caring for our needs as church members. But I'm willing to bet that if Jesus came to our city on a Sunday morning he wouldn't be as concerned about the people inside our church, as the people outside.

He'd be having coffee at the local hangout or engaging in conversation with everyone from skateboarders in sagging britches to aging boomers who have never found Christ's peace. He'd be talking to the single moms at the laundromat, and the widows shopping at the grocery store with coupons clutched in their fingers, struggling to make a pension check last until the end of the month. He'd be visiting the unemployed and hopeless. He'd be next door getting acquainted with the neighbor that you don't know very well at all. Jesus would be out seeking and saving the lost.

Dear friends, Jesus' ministry in our city isn't about us, it's about them, about the wanderers and strugglers whom Jesus loves. It isn't the righteous that he came for, you know, but those who feel miles away from God. It isn't the healthy, but the sick ones whom the Physician came to heal.

The familiar story of Zacchaeus leaves us with one burning question: Do my priorities and yours come even close to Jesus' driving passion  --  "to seek and to save the lost"? If not, why not?

Based on the Bible account in Luke 19:1-10.


Copyright © 2018, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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