Meditation on Zacchaeus, Luke 19
Here is the image of this man, Zacchaeus. While physically short, the fathers also view this as one who is lacking in faith and virtue, spiritually short of stature as well. As he hears of Jesus’ arrival, being crowded by the multitude of all of these sins and earthly pursuits, he finds himself initially unable to see the Messiah come. All of these sins, these earthly pursuits and desires, these passions, block his vision of the Lord. So strongly, however, does he desire to finally be free from all of this, that he removes these tethers that are tying him to this world, ascending a tree, removed from the earthly level of carnal desires. The moment that he is able to sever those ties, he can see above all of the temptation and find the vision that he seeks, that of the Lord. At that very moment, freed from those things which had trapped him here, had kept him blinded, Jesus beckons him to come join Him.
How unfortunate that, so often, we allow ourselves to remain blinded by these same concerns. Jesus is ever-present, always willing to come to any who are willing to bring themselves to believe and repent. But to do so, we must, as Zacchaeus, be willing to sever those ties which have bound us to this life. Our possessions, our careers, our passions and pleasures; we too must be willing to cast off these chains and “climb the tree.”
When Jesus beckons, we see Zacchaeus immediately respond. He restores that which he had acquired unjustly, thus fulfilling the Law. Beyond that, though, he also freely gives half of all that he has to help the poor, thus displaying the love of the Gospel. And, the chronology of this is important to notice as well. Notice that he doesn’t compensate those from whom he had stolen and then give half of the remainder to the poor; rather, he gives half of all that he has to the poor and then compensates what is owed fourfold to those from whom he had stolen. It’s important to notice that, because, as he was a man driven by greed, to then leave himself basically penniless was the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate ascetic action. It shows that he recognizes that anything that he has on this earth that he loves more than the Lord means nothing, thus he is truly fulfilling the commandment to “deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Him.” Church tradition maintains that Zacchaeus went on to become a bishop of the Church.
This all serves to teach us a very valuable lesson. See, Zacchaeus, who was motivated by a love of money, sacrificed that very thing which would have stood between him and the Lord. So often in our lives, we choose those things that we are willing to sacrifice to walk in the faith, but then cling to those things which we are not willing to sacrifice. This becomes a problem when those things are things which are held in a higher esteem than the Lord. And they aren’t always necessarily bad things. Sometimes it’s a sin which we are clinging to, something which we enjoy which we see as “not that big of a deal;” sometimes it’s a lifestyle which we cling to, whether it’s affluence or the like; sometimes it’s something as simple as a hobby. It’s playing music, and we find ourselves dedicating the time that we should be using to commune with the Lord to write music instead. And sometimes it’s something which is basically good, it’s family, or a job. We need to evaluate our lives and determine if there is anything which we hold in higher esteem than the Lord. Remember, anything that we place before the Lord becomes an idol in our lives, and we need to pray to the Lord that He would grant us the grace to remove those idols from our lives. Sometimes, by granting that we could remove it completely from our lives and remove it’s power over us, such as with sinfulness; and other times by guiding us through His grace to place them in their right place in our hearts, such as family, employment, wealth.
Zacchaeus was a man who willingly sacrificed the one thing in his heart that would stand in the way of walking with the Lord, may we also be willing to do the same. May we seek Him, His kingdom, His righteousness with our whole hearts and ask Him to help us remove anything which would stand between us and Him.
May the grace of the Lord be with you, my beloved brothers and sisters.