One of the things I most enjoyed about the recent BBC drama Bodyguard was how the character David Budd was constantly looking up and around when on duty – scanning rooftops and high places and scrutinising places that others didn’t seem to notice.
When I read in Luke’s gospel the story of Zacchaeus – the despised tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus and yet remained unseen, I think of Jesus looking up and around like David Budd.
The story of Zacchaeus is a wonderful story and tells us so much about Jesus and why God sent him.
What the story of Zacchaeus tells us about Jesus
First, Jesus is constantly on the look out for the lost. No one else notices Zacchaeus high up in the tree – well above eye level – but Jesus does.
Secondly, Jesus knows the names of the lost. He doesn’t need to ask Zacchaeus who he is.
Thirdly, Jesus calls to the lost; he speaks to them. He says to Zacchaeus, ‘Hurry. Come down from the tree.’
Fourthly, Jesus wants to be with the lost. He tells Zacchaeus he wants to come to his house to eat. Offering to eat with someone in Jesus’ time and culture meant asking them to be your friend. Jesus wants to be with the lost so that they are no longer lost: they are found. And when people are found, when they are with Jesus, their lives are changed. And we certainly see that with Zacchaeus.
Just in case that’s not absolutely clear, the storyteller – Luke – says ‘For the Son of Man [Jesus] came to seek out and save the lost.’
What the story of Zacchaeus tells us about us
From Zacchaeus’s point of view, we see first that we can never hide from Jesus when we are lost. He will always be seeking us, scanning the scene for us, trying to locate us.
Secondly, Jesus knows us by name when we are lost. We may be lost but we are never forgotten. God has our names on his ‘Missing’ list.
Thirdly, Jesus doesn’t just want to say Hi to us, he wants to share his life with us. Every bit of our lives.
Fourthly, when we open the door to Jesus, when we open up our hearts to him, he comes in and brings us joy. Luke says that Zacchaeus was happy to welcome Jesus. Even though - when Jesus comes into his life - Zacchaeus has to give half of all his possessions to the poor and more to people he has cheated – Zacchaeus is still full of joy.
We are all lost. We are all like sheep who have gone astray. So don’t hide from Jesus. Hear him call your name. Accept his desire to share his life with you. See the crazy things this will make you do. And experience what true joy is all about.