No Small Miracle

Dr. Doug Posey  

Zaccheus was “small in stature” according to Luke 19:3. That might have been the least of Zaccheus’ problems. (Not that being short is a problem, but it became a problem for Zaccheus when it came to seeing over the crowd. Trust me, being 6-foot-7 like me can be a problem too, especially when it comes to buying clothes and cars. So, the height discrimination issue works both ways. Sorry about the run-on parenthetical disclaimer). He may have been discriminated against because of being “vertically challenged,” but his fellow countrymen had plenty besides that to hold against him.

Zaccheus was also a… (sinister music here) …tax collector! It wasn’t like tax-collecting today where the legal code, if stacked on end, would make me look diminutive. The only rule for the tax collector was to give the Roman government its due and keep whatever else he could collect. This led to widespread and consistent corruption on the part of tax collectors. It made the skilled ones wealthy. They couldn’t resist the temptation to rip people off—and all with the government’s blessing.

So the puny publican had few friends and no shortage of enemies. Imagine the shock of the crowd when Jesus announced that He was going to be a guest in the home of this contemptible crook, by all standards, an enemy. In that culture, to be a guest in someone’s home indicated a friendship with, and acceptance of, the other party. How could Jesus possibly have fellowship with this little larcenist? Well, Jesus knew that something was about to change in the heart of the soon-to-be former fleecer.

In contrast to the “Rich Young Ruler” in the previous chapter of Luke, Zaccheus did not let his wealth get in the way of a relationship with Christ. Perhaps that was because of his guilt, compared to the young ruler’s self-righteousness. Maybe it was due to the shock over the fact that Jesus would pay special attention to him, while a “ruler” is accustomed to special attention. Whatever it was, Zaccheus’ heart changed and he exhibited all the appropriate fruit that such a change should produce.

First, there was relationship. Jesus offers to be a guest in the home of Zaccheus, and Zaccheus obviously accepts. In the same way, Jesus offers to enter into the heart of each individual who is willing to make Him his or her guest. But this is only the beginning.

Second, there was recognition. It is amazing how a true encounter with Jesus exposes our sin. Can you think of things you did prior to your relationship with Christ that you thought little of, until you looked into the eyes of Christ for the first time? I can, and I cringe. Zaccheus recognized that his former practices were no longer acceptable.

Third, he exhibits repentance. Zaccheus turned from the corruption that had provided him with great wealth. He immediately acknowledges his wrongdoing, identifying it as God would—repenting from having “defrauded,” swindled or cheated anyone.

Fourth, he experiences a release. Again, in contrast to the rich young ruler, who held his riches so tightly that he couldn’t let go, Zaccheus immediately offers to give half of his possessions to the poor. In repentance, we let go of our sin. The true release comes when we are willing to let go of something we really wanted to keep.

Fifth, we see restitution. It is one thing to have “head knowledge” about our sin; it is another thing to do something tangible about it. Not only does this contrite con man vow to change his ways, he offers to repay the victims of his dishonesty. Have you ever considered such a thing? Did your sin damage someone else before you repented? Have you made excuses for your previous mistreatment of others? You might even have convinced yourself that “they deserved it.” Don’t forget: What Zaccheus did as he bilked big bucks was perfectly legal. Perhaps it’s time to offer restitution and even restoration of a broken relationship, or a broken trust.

God befriended you when you were His enemy. Now He expects you to act like it. If a scam artist like Zaccheus can change his ways, can you? Only with God’s help. If it seems impossible, just remember what Christ has done for you and for the little guy in the tree.

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—” 

Living Oaks