I’ve been thinking a lot about Zacchaeus lately. I’ve always related to the story of his encounter with Jesus, knowing that I too would have had to climb a tree to have the slightest hope of seeing Jesus over a crowd! It’s a great story for kids – that’s when I remember first hearing it. I loved to climb trees, and I could just imagine climbing up a tree, and looking down to find Jesus looking up at me.
It’s a bit of an upside-down situation. We usually look up into the skies to find Jesus. Even though we know Heaven isn’t in the clouds, and the presence of Jesus is much more complex (or simple) than up or down, the orientation in our minds is Jesus above, ourselves below. But Zacchaeus, in all of his shortness, and in all of his determination to see Jesus, to figure out who he was, did something that usually only children do. He climbed a tree, to see over the crowds, to look down and see the face of Jesus for himself.
The real surprise in the story comes when Jesus – cutting through the crowd – hones in on Zacchaeus. He calls him down from the tree. He wants to be a guest at Zacchaeus’ house. And Zacchaeus is utterly transformed by the attention, by Jesus’ desire, by the brief encounter with the man passing through Jericho.
You can bet Zacchaeus scrambled down from that tree. I don’t know how tall Jesus was, but when they stood together under the sycamore tree, they looked at one another, eye to eye. And salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:9).