A Surprise Visitor for Zacchaeus
Taking on Higher Ground
In school, it was easy to find me. I was one of the ‘top five kids’. In a queue, I’d be one of the five kids standing in the front. In the class, I’d be in the first row of chairs. I felt privileged. It was no big deal. When I moved to Sydney, I’d have young people in their teens offering to help me reach for that bottle of jam in the top shelf. I got used to having a sore neck after lengthy conversations with work mates. Once I was horrified as I stared at the reflection on the office window. Looking at me and my work friends was like looking at my hand. We all looked like fingers. My work mates were the four fingers and I was the thumb. Well, it isn’t as bad as another workmate who would stand on a chair to read and use the controls on the photocopier.
In this Sunday’s gospel story, we read about the story of a man who was physically short in stature. Zacchaeus manages the tax collection in his town of Jericho. That time in Jericho there was a lot of fuss outside Zacchaeus office. Jesus was in town. Zacchaeus heard about Jesus and would like to see Jesus himself. Zacchaeus can hear Jesus’ voice amidst the crowd. It sounded far but was coming nearer. The crowd was now building up. Zacchaeus stepped out of his office and joined the crowd. Since he was short in stature, it was not easy. He tiptoed and squeezed between shoulders to see Jesus but it was useless. He still couldn’t see even the hair of this Jesus. Zacchaeus stood on a rock beside the road. But it was too far to even matter. He saw some trees and attempted to climb them. Too high... too low... Finally, he saw a sycamore tree that was just the right size and was strong enough to hold him. He quickly made his way up the sycamore tree. Jesus’ voice and the crowd were closer now. Among the tree branches he saw an excellent cool spot from where he can see Jesus. Jesus was actually heading his direction. He was excited and stayed as quiet as he can so that he can hear Jesus. Jesus it seems has just healed a man. It looked like the man he healed was in fact his neighbor - the blind boy who grew up and played games with him. Now his blind neighbor can see! Wow, how good is that! This is far out! No wonder everyone was excited. Jesus was now moving on. He walked with this group of men following him around. Look, there is Levi; he is also a tax collector who talked much about Jesus lately. Let’s see, who else is with Jesus? “Zacchaeus”... “Zacchaeus”... Someone was calling out his name. Zacchaeus looked in the direction of the sound. The sound came from Jesus! Jesus looked up at him straight from the crowd and called his name. Zacchaeus was surprised that Jesus would even know his name. Jesus continues, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, because today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. Jesus said with a smile, “Well, Zacchaeus please hurry and do come down, because today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus did exactly as that. He quickly came down the sycamore tree and welcomed Jesus in his house. He was so moved that Jesus knew him so well and so caringly that he wanted to be a better tax collector. He felt bad that he has been cheating people with the tax collections and now wanted to make things right. He promised Jesus to return them to those whom he have wrong, even giving them back four times as much.
The story of Zacchaeus is also our story. We all have our own weaknesses. When we come to be aware and accept our weaknesses, we overcome them as best as we can. Jesus knows about our situation and appreciates our efforts. Sometimes, Jesus even uses these circumstances so that we can get closer to him. This is what happened to Zacchaeus. And this is what can happen to us if we allow Jesus. It is in our smallness that God can reveal His greatness. All we need to do is to welcome Him in our hearts and let His Spirit lead us. Note: The sycamore tree is a sturdy timber tree scientifically called Acer pseudoplatanus. It can grow as large as or larger than a two level house (18 to 30 meters).