Made it! The end of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge for 2015 has dawned and I’m going to leave this challenge with a story about Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector who lived in Jericho. He was despised and mistrusted by his own people because his job meant that he was working for the Roman Empire not the local people, and tax collectors had a reputation – probably well deserved – for swindling people, short-changing them and charging unfair taxes. At the time, Jericho was the trade centre for balsam which was a very lucrative commodity and attracted high revenues in taxes; Zacchaeus’ wealth was built on his involvement with it.
Zacchaeus’ story appears in only one of the Gospels in the Bible, and it is told in only a few short sentences by Luke. The story is that when Jesus and his Disciples were travelling to Jerusalem they passed through Jericho on their way. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but being a bit short, he climbed a sycamore tree in order to see over the crowds who had gathered. Jesus stopped under the tree and called out to him, addressing him by name. He asked Zacchaeus to take him back to his house and the crowd were astonished that someone like Jesus would not only speak to someone like Zacchaeus, but would visit him in his house too. It was unthinkable!
In his home, Zacchaeus’ response was to immediately give away half of his wealth to the poor, and he made a promise to repay those whom he had short-changed in the past four-fold the amount.
This story is important to Christians because it shows us that with the salvation of Jesus, repentance and transformation can be achieved even by those where there is seemingly no hope.
Personally, the thing that stands out for me is that at the start of the encounter Jesus called out to Zacchaeus by name, and Zacchaeus responded to that call by inviting Jesus into his home. That was all it took – a personal call from Jesus and a personal invitation by Zacchaeus for his life to be turned around.
The name ‘Zacchaeus’ means ‘pure’, and some Christian teachers use his story to illustrate the saying of Jesus:
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew, 5:8)
On first reading, this saying is a bit daunting. Who can honestly say they are pure of heart? Certainly not me, but when we look at the story of Zacchaeus it offers us hope that even the unpure heart can be cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ.