Scripture: Luke 19: 1-10
By Shannon Endicott
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see…”
When I think of the story of Zacchaeus, the first thing that comes to mind is this song I used to sing in Sunday School. As a kid I knew very few things about Zacchaeus. He was short. He climbed a tree. He met Jesus. The end.
But upon reading the actual text, I found out a few more details. He was a chief tax collector. He was wealthy. There was a crowd. Jesus called him out by name. Others weren’t too happy about this. Zacchaeus vows to give away a lot of his wealth. Jesus names salvation as having come to Zacchaeus’ house.
That’s a lot! And it sure is more than I ever gathered from the children’s song!
In this story, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he couldn’t. Now most of the time this is simply attributed to the fact that he is short. But there is so much more hindering his view of Jesus…the crowd. Zacchaeus had to find another way to see Jesus. He had to go around and ahead of the crowd.
As the chief tax collector, I can imagine that people weren’t too keen to make room for the man who not only collected their taxes but who also became wealthy off of them. The crowd wasn’t concerned if Zacchaeus saw Jesus or not. But Zacchaeus thought outside of the box. He didn’t let his circumstances stop him. He had his height, the crowd, and even the disdain of others all working against him, but he still found a way.
As he climbed that tree he must’ve looked like a fool. What reputable man RUNS ahead of a crowd and then CLIMBS a tree? (Both actions would’ve been completely out of character for a person in his day and age.) And yet this is what he does! He not only wants to see Jesus, but he is willing to make a complete fool out of himself to do so.
As I was studying this story, I came across a quote by one of my most favorite theologians, N.T. Wright. (Look him up if you aren’t familiar with him!) He says, “It is our task to plant more sycamore trees”. You see, I wonder if sometimes we are the crowd. We are so consumed with seeing Jesus for ourselves that we forget to make space for others. Or even worse, we think that being in the crowd is the only way to see Jesus. Thank goodness Zacchaeus didn’t let a crowd of people stop him from seeing Jesus. And thank goodness for sycamore trees. Because of that tree, Zacchaeus came face to face with Jesus. Jesus called him by name and even goes to his house!
Sometimes we encounter Jesus through a crowd, a big experience filled with lots of people and hype. But sometimes we encounter Jesus in odd ways. Ways that seem unusual to others or cause us to look like fools. No matter how we seek to encounter Jesus, may we always be people who remember, “It is our task to plant more sycamore trees.”
Have there been times when you’ve been part of the crowd? Times when you’ve been outside of the crowd? What about on Sunday morning…who’s getting lost in the crowd?
How are you pursuing Jesus? What kind of trees (if you will) are you climbing to get closer to Christ?
People come to Jesus in many different ways. In what ways can we be planting sycamore trees?
Wesley’s Challenge Questions for the Week:
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?