The story of Zacchaeus is a popular biblical discourse that bible students never easily forget because "he was short in stature." The story of Zacchaeus is always interesting to read. I often ask myself why Zacchaeus had to give half his possessions to the poor or promise to repay four times all those he had extorted. I often ask myself why a man of great wealth could dispose of it for no just reason. Was he excited by meeting Jesus? Finding answers to these questions to know the state of mind of Zacchaeus may be difficult. But reflecting on the story reveals that he desired a better life. The gospel tells us that he was from Jericho, and he was the chief tax collector of that town. By knowing his profession, we can say that he was familiar with cash flows. I can imagine how much money he extorted from the citizens on behalf of the Romans.
From reading biblical commentaries, I know that tax collectors increased percentages on amounts they collected in order to cover their administrative costs. As the chief tax collector, I imagine that Zacchaeus had a staff that was large and aggressive in collecting taxes. This job gave him fame and made him infamous for two reasons. While the Roman authorities pressured Zacchaeus to collect taxes for the numerous projects of the empire, he, in turn, pressured the citizens to pay or be locked up. Some unlucky citizens were even sold to cover their taxes. The Romans considered tax evasion a criminal offense. So, imagine Zacchaeus in the middle of these two sides: always receiving and always giving.
The encounter Zacchaeus had with Jesus is an opportunity he did not want to miss. He climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus and scurry some attention. Indeed, he got what he wanted. Jesus approached him and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." I imagine that this man was experiencing occupational hazards from many ends and needed an escape. Jesus offered him not an escape but a saving grace.
It takes wisdom to seek help when indeed there is a dark cloud hanging over your life. Wisdom is the ability to apply human knowledge whenever it is most needed. The first reading tells us that God overlooks people's sins when they show repentance. God rebukes offenders in gradual ways and reminds them of the sins they commit. If they abandon their wickedness, the Lord will be merciful to them in all ways. Zacchaeus enjoyed God's mercy in all ways. He experienced a new life with Jesus in his house and so decided to shake-off his past with exciting proclamations for the future. He knew in his heart that he extorted money from people while collecting taxes for the Romans. He knew that he built his wealth based on crooked means. Therefore, it was not hard to offer half his possessions to the poor or repay each person four times over. But all these proclamations do not make the difference in this story. What makes sense is the willingness of Zacchaeus to establish a new chapter with God and live a decent life.
The salvation which God offers is for all peoples in every age and nation. God does not segregate people based on their economic standards. He visits them with his love and invites them to his heart. Jesus found Zacchaeus, and he accepted the invitation to be a new person. He left his old ways and promised to live as a changed man. In later life, St. Paul would do the same. He found Jesus and changed his crooked ways. He wrote to the people of Thessaloniki to embrace work as a means of livelihood without extorting others due to the Lord's second's coming. The coming of the Lord is far off, and Christians today should also be working hard to win souls for Jesus no matter who they are, or where they are, on the face of the earth. Keep praying!BACK TO LIST