Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man

When I was a child we would often sing a song in Sunday School about Zacchaeus- a man we meet in the gospel of Luke (19:1-10), a place where I was reading just this week. The song went, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, he climbed up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see…” Luke’s gospel tells us the whole story of Zacchaeus, a man small in size who climbed the tree to get a good look at Jesus as he was passing by. I must admit that if all I ever knew about Zacchaeus was the song, I would go away thinking that I was intended to learn the lesson that if you’re short you should go find a tree or a ladder to see over crowds.

There’s so much more to the story of Zacchaeus than a Sunday School song. It’s a story of joyful repentance. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. They were despised in their day. They were often Jews who were basically practicing extortion on behalf of the Roman empire. They were given permission to collect taxes for Rome and give themselves a cut along the way. Zacchaeus had made quite a living from his greed- Luke tells us he was rich.

But Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Being short, he did need that tree in order to see over the crowds. Jesus calls to him in verse 5, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” I love Zacchaeus’ response in verse 6, “So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.”

This was joyful repentance. I wonder how often we consider that there is joy to be found in our sorrow over sin? Zacchaeus was overjoyed that the Savior would welcome him and share a table with him. Zacchaeus, in his joyful repentance, even promises to restore what he had stolen fourfold- though the law required far, far less. For this reason, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is s son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (vv.9-10).

Zacchaeus’ generosity was evidence of his genuine repentance. He was overjoyed to be forgiven and to be in relationship with Jesus who sought him out and called him out of that tree. May God give us the joy of repentance and reconciliation with a Savior who welcomes us into fellowship with himself.