Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. Luke 19:1-4
I love the story of Zacchaeus, don't you? Zacchaeus was a tax collector and in those days that was akin to being a thief, even worse, a traitor. The taxes he collected went to Rome, not Israel, and most tax collectors cheated the people and took money for themselves. The Scripture says Zacchaeus was rich. And the only way he could have gotten rich was by cheating his own people. What kind of person does that? A greedy, selfish person with little conscience. But Zacchaeus was fascinated by Jesus. He had probably heard of His miracles, heard He was a great prophet who claimed to know the way to God, to way to eternal life.
Still, Zacchaeus had no intention of actually meeting Jesus. He didn't want to see Him face to face or talk to Him. Zacchaeus was simply curious. He only wanted to see Jesus, so because he was short, he climbed into a tree.
Throughout my live, I've met numerous people who are curious about God. They will listen when I tell them my experience. They may even read the Bible, or go to church. They are what we call "seekers". Like Zacchaeus, they are curious. They want to see a miracle. They want to know if eternal life exists. But they don't want to meet Jesus. Why? Perhaps they feel guilty for the lives they led. Perhaps they are afraid of what others will think. But more often than not, it's because they fear they will have to change. They will have to give up something, their money, their habits, their way of life. And though Jesus looks pretty good to them, they aren't willing to sacrifice anything to know Him. They see Jesus on His ship, Salvation, but they sail at a distance, staring through their telescope but never getting too close.
I will even go as far as to say that many of these people are regular church goers. They may even to to Sunday school or be teachers of the Scriptures. But they truly do not know Jesus.
But Jesus knows them.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. Luke 19:5-6
Jesus calls to them repeatedly throughout their life. He signals them with signal flags. He shouts through the bullhorn across the waves and He says,
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1
Sharing a meal with someone in those days was a very personal thing. It meant you were friends.. that you had a personal relationship. This is what Jesus is asking from Zacchaeus, what He's asking from all of us. "Come, let's share a meal. Let's get to know each other. Come aboard my ship and abide with Me."
Zacchaeus answered "Yes". He climbed down as fast as he could from that tree. It says he "made haste". I can just picture him scrambling down the trunk so fast, he nearly falls. And he received Jesus joyfully.
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:8-10
It only took one "yes" from Zacchaeus and his life was instantly changed. Everything that used to be important to him, his money, his job, his reputation.. in light of the Son of God, it meant nothing. Zacchaeus willingly gave it all up. But look what he got in return? Salvation came to Zacchaeus's house. You might say, Big deal, I believe in Jesus, I'm already saved. Perhaps, but what about your household? What about your loved ones, your friends, your co-workers? What about living a life filled with purpose and joy? Affecting others for good? Helping God snatch souls from the depths of hell? You can't do that from a tree!
So, if you're sailing at a distance from Jesus. If you're clinging to something in this world that you don't want to give up, might I recommend you toss it overboard, adjust sails and make your way to Jesus's ship. He's invited you to dinner and you don't want to be late!