Devotion: Who He Called Us to Be

May 11, 2020

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. (Luke 19:1-6)

The crowd was not so happy about this. They grumbled. They were envious of this undeserving, greedy man and indignant. Of all the people in that crowd that Jesus could have chosen to eat with, this was the one he picked. He was a sinner, for heaven’s sake!

Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was. Was he just curious to see the latest celebrity? What did he know about Jesus – that he was a healer? Was there a part of him that wanted to turn from his selfish, cheating ways where he collected not only people’s taxes but a little more for his own pockets? Our motives are usually mixed; his were probably also.  What we do know was that he was so determined to see Jesus, he cast aside his dignity, scrambled up a sycamore tree and peered down from its limbs.

Jesus noticed this hated man and Jesus knew something about him. He knew his heart was twisted with piggishness. Jesus also knew that this lost man was precisely whom he was called to save and that Zacchaeus was seeking something beyond himself. When Jesus invited himself to his house, we are told that he was “happy to welcome him.”  Not just happy that he was coming- happy to welcome him. This was a transformative moment for him, for when Jesus entered his home, Zacchaeus, undoubtedly humbled that Jesus would choose him, immediately told him that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back all the money he defrauded four times as much.

Who are we in this story?  Are we the crowd that grumbles that Jesus would choose to eat with this sinner?  Are we an indifferent bystander, looking on but not caring about with whom Jesus eats? Or are we Zacchaeus a sinner who is transformed by Jesus’ mercy? No doubt most of us have been like the crowd or the bystander at some point.  But once we have acknowledged that we are like Zacchaeus, ones who have at some time been lost in our own self-centered ways – once we have acknowledged this, then we can no longer be like the crowd or the bystander because our hearts have been transformed by the deepest mercy.  Then our only response can be like Zacchaeus’, gratitude that leads to turning from our ways and seeking to restore our relationships with those whom we have harmed.

Prayer: Merciful God, it is in you that we live and move and have our being.  We thank you for your abundance grace that frees us from our sin to be who you have called us to be.   Amen.