Another attempt at a bit of more of a story-type approach to writing here . . .
How am I going to see Him over these crowds? There's no way I can get to the front of the crowd in time to see Jesus before He's gone past. Maybe if I get ahead of Him, I'll be able to get to where I can se Him.
As I ran, I saw a tree that would give me a great view up ahead. It was perfect for climbing and then I could see Him for sure. I climbed the tree in time. I could see Jesus coming now.
Wait! Why is He stopping here? And now He noticed me and is looking up at me.
"Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."
He said my name. Is He really talking to me? Does He know who I am? Why would He want to stay at my home?
But He is still standing there, waiting for my response. I climbed down from the tree and welcomed Him. This was so much more than I ever imagined. I had just wanted to see Him and now He was coming to stay at my house - He had noticed me.
Jesus doesn't seem to be concerned about the whispers of the others around us either. He's focussed on me, as if I'm the only person there.
Something about Him is different than anyone else I've ever encountered. I can't stay the same after this. It's just not possible.
I have to make right all the wrong I've done. I'll give half my possessions to the poor. I'll pay back all those I have wronged - more than I took from them. That's the only response to His love for me and compassion on me.
The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector, found in Luke 19:1-10.
I heard this story often in Sunday school as a kid. We even had a song we sang about this story. And in the familiarity of, I've always missed the significance of it.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. A Jew who worked for the Romans who were oppressing them. He was seen as a traitor to his people. He made his money by collecting more from his fellow Jews than he had to. Other Jews, especially religious leaders, wanted nothing to do with him.
But Jesus chose Zacchaeus out of the crowds of more socially and religiously acceptable people around him. Zacchaeus had just been looking for a way to see Jesus. He hadn't been expecting Jesus to single him out and ask to stay at his place.
But Jesus' ministry was all about breaking the religious and social walls down. Jesus saw beyond the outward appearance and actions, to the heart of Zacchaeus. And Jesus knew it was open to change.
That's what Jesus is all about . . . heart change. He's not after our actions and appearances looking right if our heart isn't also changed.