Lenten Reader | Day 32


Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

- Luke 19:1-10
Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem and crucifixion. He had not intended to stop in there, but it was apparent that a crowd had gathered. So Jesus was a popular figure – worthy of a crowd. Jesus refused any hospitality that normally would have been offered to an important figure in that culture until he came upon Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector meaning that he held authority over other tax collectors. Normally, a crowd would have made space for such a rich person, but tax collectors were hated because they consorted with the evil Roman oppressors. They collected taxes, payed a pre-arranged sum to the imperial Romans, and pocketed the difference.

Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd, so he ran to a sycamore fig tree and climbed it to get a view. Sycamore figs are a low-growing tree that has large waxy leaves. It would have been easy for Zacchaeus to conceal himself in a sycamore fig growing on the way out of town.

But as Jesus progressed out of town, he and the crowd came upon Zacchaeus in the tree. The crowd fully expected Jesus to rebuke Zacchaeus for his sinfulness. Instead, Jesus did the totally unexpected thing and had compassion on him by telling him that he wanted to stay at his house. In so doing, Jesus risked His reputation with the public by accepting the hospitality of this hated Roman collaborator sinner. This reminds me of a thing that Andrew Day said, “pity is cheap but compassion costs something.”

In studying Jesus’ life, it becomes clearer how Jesus values a person’s humanity, dignity, and self-respect. I am compelled to try to act the way Jesus does toward people and look deeper when I see problems instead of reacting to temporal and obvious circumstances.

My prayer for Lent is to ask the Lord for wisdom to treat people with more consideration – the way Jesus treated Zacchaeus.

-Charlie Frazier