Seeing From A Sycamore
by Malinda Fugate
The crowd was gathering and excitement was bubbling over. They’d heard all the stories, but now had the chance to see the miracle-worker with their own eyes. He was passing through their town today! No one wanted to miss him, so they filled the street as soon as they could, eagerly keeping an eye down the road to spy the first glimpse of this man and his companions.
Zacchaeus, though just as anxious to see the visitor, had a problem. He had tolerated his short stature his entire life, and now it prevented him from getting any view of the street. Attempts at slipping between his taller neighbors failed as the crowd grew thicker. “Excuse me,” he requested- at first meekly and then with increasing frustration at being obviously ignored. And could he blame them? These were the people who avoided him every day, dreading their turn for tax collection. When the time came, it was Zacchaeus who had the power to take great sums from them, devastating their ability to feed their families. He might have been short-changed by height, but he made up for it in the ability to gain wealth and exert some amount of power over the townspeople. They saw his life of luxury while they struggled to meet basic needs and they despised him for it. But now, in this small way, the tables had turned. There was no law that said they must acknowledge him here. If he missed seeing the miracle-worker, the teacher who some said was the Son of God, well, that was what Zacchaeus deserved.
But Zacchaeus didn’t achieve his career goals by passively waiting for life to hand him wealth and success. He was a quick-thinker, a go-getter. Inspired, he ran up the street to the waiting shade of a sycamore. The sturdy branches were in reach, allowing Zacchaeus to practice a skill he hadn’t used since childhood. The scramble into the tree rewarded him with a much better view than anyone could find on the ground. And just in time! Over the heads of his loudly chattering neighbors, Zacchaeus saw the small group of men walking his way! So this was the miracle-worker at last! His name, Jesus, was on the lips of many crying out greetings and requests for help or signs from God.
As Jesus walked closer to the tree perch, he abruptly stopped. The crowd hushed, hoping to see something amazing. Zacchaeus nearly fell from his branch when Jesus looked up, straight at him! How was he visible among the leaves? How foolish must he look, sitting like a bird in a nest! Then Jesus spoke kindly, “Zacchaeus, come down from there. I must stay at your house today.”
And so began a transformation in Zacchaeus’ life. His encounter with Jesus changed everything and did not end with that moment on the street or the afternoon at home. No amount of wealth or power mattered compared to the kingdom of God, and Zacchaeus whole-heartedly wanted to right the wrongs he committed against his fellow man. And no amount of sin could keep Him from God’s love. The Son of God did not treat Zacchaeus with the scorn, contempt, or revenge he often received from the townspeople. Instead, Jesus honored Zacchaeus by sharing a meal, and then showed him acceptance and love.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10 NIV)
When we draw near to the Lord, He will not ignore or reject us. He does not require a checklist of qualifications before we can approach Him. His love is not conditional, nor do our shortcomings, failures, flaws, or sins disqualify us from His salvation. He will welcome us into His kingdom with the same compassion He welcomed Zacchaeus. Though we might feel like we don’t fit in with our community, there is a place for us at God’s table.
Dear friend, do not allow self-doubt to keep you from closeness with your Savior. Seek Him, take one more step towards His open arms, and find His unconditional love and He draws you closer to His heart.