A Big Day for a Short Man
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus.
Luke 19:2 ESV
In 1977, Randy Newman recorded a song titled, Short People. It was a playful ditty intended to rebuke people who were short tempered, short of vision, and small of heart. Whatever his original intent, Newman utterly failed in this regard. Instead, he appears to poke fun at those who are vertically challenged. He sings about tiny little noses and tiny little eyes. He croons of those who wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet. The chorus rings out with the conclusion that short people, “Got no reason to live.” The song was quite funny, at least to tall people. But I am here to tell you, having married a short person, that they should never be underestimated. Jesus certainly didn’t when He spotted one high up in a sycamore tree.
The story begins with a man named Zacchaeus who lived in Jericho. And as the children’s song goes, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” Being short of stature Zacchaeus must have elbowed his way through the crowd to get a look at this miracle working carpenter from Nazareth. Hopping up and down, he, no doubt, looked for a group of children to join to get a good vantage point. Refusing to give up, he climbed a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus waited till Jesus passed by, and when He did, the Master looked up at a man who was determined to see Him. His reward was to receive Jesus as a house guest that very day.
But Zacchaeus had to overcome something more than his height restriction to be honored with hosting Jesus in his house. He was a Tax Collector, and thus, hated by the people of Jericho. Wherever Jesus went, he caused a ruckus, and in this case, rather than visiting a dignitary from the city, we chose to be entertained by a house full of societal outcasts. The only friends Zacchaeus had were sinners and tax collectors just like himself. The acceptance and love that the Tax Collector of Jericho experienced that day changed his life. With the raising of his glass, he promised to repay any he had wrong and to give away half of his wealth to the poor.
Zacchaeus’ life was not changed by following the rules of men nor the dictates of the Jewish religion. He was altered deeply when he encountered the son of God. Jesus’ mercy, love, and grace caused Zacchaeus to throw down his rebel arms and gladly surrender to the Master. The society of Samaria, in their pious bigotry, had rejected Zacchaeus. They evaluated him on his externals and found him unworthy of their love and acceptance. In contrast to the looks of judgment by his fellow man, Jesus reached out His arms and embraced the Tax Collector. He does no less for any of us. After Zacchaeus met Jesus, he had plenty of reason to live.