This Gospel account of Jesus and Zacchaeus is one that is so familiar to us that we can lose sight of the depth of the message that the incidents contains. There are three things in this encounter that describe well the purpose of Jesus’ coming into our world and his mission: 1. Jesus attracted sinners; 2. Jesus was present to sinners; and 3. Jesus accompanied sinners on the road to conversion.
Throughout the Gospels we hear accounts of people who went out of their way to be in the presence of Jesus. There were the crowds that came to hear his preaching, to be touched by his healing power, and experience the beauty of his presence. There were also the scribes and Pharisees who came looking for something that they could use against him. Regardless of the reason, people were attracted to him. Such was the case with Zacchaeus who desired so much to see him that he climbed a tree to get a glimpse. We are left to wonder what attracted him to want to see Jesus. In many ways we are not much different, there is something about Jesus that attracts us to him. Private prayer, Communal prayer and Adoration are just a few ways in which we are drawn to Jesus, or the need for forgiveness.
Jesus sew Zacchaeus up in the tree and called him by name. Immediately Jesus gave Zacchaeus a sense of being important for he knew him by name. With the call Jesus announced to him in front of the crowds that he was inviting himself to his house for dinner. Their meeting was not to be in secret, but Jesus let the whole town know that he was going to the home of this tax collector for a meal. It was as though there was no crowd, just Zacchaeus who wanted to see Jesus, and Jesus who wanted to see Zacchaeus. He was present to him in a way that Zacchaeus probably never expected. Jesus noticed him, called him by name, and desired to go to house for supper. Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist, in our prayers and in others. He says elsewhere that he knows us so personally that every hair on our heads is counted. There may be times in our lives when we feel like we are out on a limb trying to find Jesus. At these times we should keep in mind that Jesus does not hide from us, but notices us and calls us by name.
Zacchaeus was a known sinner; a tax collector and someone who cheated the people. This did not prevent Jesus spending time with him, and Zacchaeus had a conversion. By the end of the meal he makes the announcement that he is going to repay those he cheated. His life was changed by Jesus’ presence with him. We might have struggles that we are either unaware of, or don’t truly desire to honestly deal with. Jesus is with us in these struggles, helping to bring them to light, and for us to see them and face them knowing that He is with us.
In John 3:16 he are told that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This act of love ultimately took place on the cross, and on the way to the cross Jesus’ presence attracted sinners, he was present to sinners, and accompanied sinners on their road to conversion. Jesus continues to do this for each one of us; he draws us to him where he is present to us and ministers to us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Zacchaeus by Niels Larsen Stevns.