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
Great, another tax collector! And not just any old tax collector, but a CHIEF tax collector. And a rich one. Luke’s really raising the stakes here. Must be because Jesus is going to let loose with something really big! Oh, and this time, the tax collector has a name: Zacchaeus. (Good luck pronouncing that one!) Well, at least he has a name, unlike many people in the bible. Today were going to examine just one line of the text and not the the whole story so let me tell you what the lesson is so we can move on: No matter how big of a sinner we are, God will save us. (And being a big ol’ Universalist, I’m going to venture that even if we don’t admit our shortcomings and make amends like the tax collector, that we’ll still be saved.) OK, we’ve got that out there so let’s get to the line that caught my attention:
He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
Now, even though it says the guy was height challenged it’s not about how tall he was; it’s just a metaphor, OK? Luke tells us that this guy was trying to get a look at Jesus, but because so many people were in his way he couldn’t see him. At any time in your life have you ever gotten so worn out from trying to do things on your own that you just fell apart? And then while lying there in a heap realized that you needed God in your life (or back in your life), so you then started running around trying to find God—trying to see God–but all you succeeded in doing was to raise a cloud of dust and wear yourself out? I know I have.
In reflecting on this I can think of three possible reasons why we can’t see God:
1. We’re too busy looking where we think God is supposed to be. We look in the holy places, the pious places, or we seek out holy and pious people, all the time not realizing that God is present everywhere and within everyone, but especially in those places where we wouldn’t think to look or within those people who seem like poor prospects in the spiritual department. Well, we don’t have to go anywhere. All we need to do is stand right where we are and look at what and who is around us;
2. We have obstacles in our lives that block our vision. I don’t know about you, but I can make myself real busy doing stuff, and buying stuff, and taking care of the stuff I buy, and running here and running there so I then don’t have time to seek God because I’m focused on all those things. I get involved in so many activities and with so many people that I don’t have the energy or wherewithal to just stop and look at what and who is around me which just might be where God is hanging out;
3. God is within us. Well, there’s a thought. Maybe all those mystics and saints were onto something! That instead of trying to see God outside of ourselves we are to look inside. And how is that done? By sitting comfortably, becoming aware of the breath, and allowing God to come to us from within ourselves. It’s that simple.
Well, Zacchaeus didn’t have it in him to stand there and wait. He wanted–needed–to see Jesus because he knew his life would change if he did. So he ran and climbed that sycamore tree and you know what? He saw God and God saw him, too.
May we all climb that tree!