Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. 2 A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.
7 Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.
This week we are focusing on Jesus’ interactions with people who are marginalized.
There is a fond Sunday school memory that I have regarding singing a song about Zacchaeus. Perhaps you recall singing about this biblical story. Here are just two of the verses:
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
And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree
And said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!’Traditional
As I have this silly ditty stuck in my brain, I am also thinking of sycamore trees. Did you know that the sycamore is a common name of several different species of trees? One such is the Sycamore Maple that is very common in New Jersey. That is the maple that often grows to about 40 feet tall with bark that sheds to show a lighter, multicolored trunk beneath. You can see them planted in many neighborhoods, near sidewalks and street corners.
But like most things right in front of us, the sycamore may go unnoticed. Paying attention to this tree is so typical that our attention drifts elsewhere. Yet the sycamore is the tree that Zacchaeus climbed and Jesus noticed him. The Savior called to Zacchaeus and paid him attention, even when others belittled his very presence.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man that society left unnoticed. He was a tax-collector, and thus a suspected cheat or a colluder with the Roman government. Therefore he was disregarded and marginalized for his physical size, as well as what he did for a living. His presence was not only likely ignored but he was regarded as unworthy. To most, Zacchaeus was unseen, but not to Jesus.
Perhaps the story and song of Zacchaeus is remembered fondly because it reminds us of how we are all seen by Our Lord. We may be hidden from view or ignored by the rest of life. We may even be in plain sight, yet still unseen or unknown by others. But Jesus sees us. Jesus knows our hearts. Jesus knows the troubles of our past and our foibles in the present. He knows that while others discount us, we are worthy and forgivable.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
How does the story of Zacchaeus make you think of people who go unseen but are right in plain view?
Prayer: Loving Savior, you see me when others do not. You know me and love me even when I feel discounted within this world. Help me to also see those who are discounted each and every day. Amen.